Friday, July 16, 2010

Chapter 9 – Stairway to ….

…Heaven of course. But just when you think you’ve got things pretty nailed down here comes another detail that makes you rethink your whole design. The drama for this week is the staircase to the loft area which will be Home Theater.

Challenge #1 – Steepness
My main concern was that the steep angle (a touch over 50 degrees) would get annoying after a while and could create problems of safety. Research told me that anything between 30 to 50 degrees was doable but I was a bit far off the optimum range of 30~35.


So my solution here was to shift the stairs a little further out and create a bit of a landing platform to get less incline. Above was my little doodle to explain to Sakamoto-san over email. Not very pretty.

Thankfully, the dude can sketch in his sleep.


Below is the extended platform side view with some recessed lighting.
It’s great seeing your designs and vision so concretely and I think it’s more effective than just 3D CAD imaging. Sketches have soul man! :)


And since we were extending the platform for the stairs, we figured we’d stretch it out all along the east side patio doors. This has a nice transitional effect between inside and the outdoors and vice versa. Another benefit is that it can act as make shit seating area and adds another level of dimension to the living room. Yes, we will lose living space, but it will be cozier.


Challenge #2 – Stairs in front on patio door.
And just when I was feeling I had notched up a little victory, the crushing blow: “I don’t like it.” she said. Not “How about this?” or “How about that?”. Just “It doesn’t sit right with me. That’s just how I feel.” Major frustration, disappointment. Dude! What are going to do? After licking my wounds, and some sulking on my part, we went over the various options but it wasn’t until we looked at the sketch below that we agreed that there was no better solution. Actually, it’s still a pretty darn nice living room. Again sketches are great.


Here’s leaving you with a classic.


  1. ahem. Designing a house together is tons of fun, but also can bring up differences. Glad we agree on most things though, like overall style and feel.

  2. Pete and I have been pondering your stairway design challenge.
    Harmony is a guiding principle. Harmony, or the lack thereof, affects everything.
    Also remember the builder's wisdom: "Measure twice and cut once." You still have time to make choices, and changes.
    This process is particularly challenging because it is emotional. It is difficult to be detached. The five steps of consultation can help.
    Every time you walk into the living room, do you want to see the stairs in front of the windows?
    Consult with others, get their feedback. How do they react when they see the stairs in front of the windows?
    There is a solution, it just needs to be discovered... Combine this stairway with the stairway from the first floor? Spiral stairway?
    We encourage you to look for a design that keeps the room, and widows, open and the energy flow moving freely and harmoniously.

  3. Kichijoji Dude,

    Thanks for sharing. I stumbled across your site today while searching for a good Italian restaurant in Kichijoji.

    I wish there was a site like this when we built our place in Kichijoji 2 years ago! Looking back, I feel a bit guilty that I didn't put nearly as much research into it (My wife did most of the work), but were working with a really good architect and team at Sumitomo Ringyo that made the process a whole lot easier, and were very happy with the outcome.

    The web-site you mentioned in one of your earlier posts ( was very useful, since I've been looking for a site like this for awhile. Kichijoji is a great place to live, so I never thought land values would go down that much after "Lehman Shock," but it was encouraging to see that according to the site our land value is up 26% from last year? That does sound a bit extreme, so will make sure to double check it later.

    Happy Building!


  4. Hi Judy,
    It is an emotional process indeed. I'm sure we'll find a solution. I wanted to share the emotional roller coaster with everyone this project can create. But I'm sure it will all be worth it.

  5. Hi Ben,

    Hmmm Italian. Can't say I've found the right place in Kichijoji. There's that upscale place by Inokashira Park but it's been years since I was last there.

    About land value, I may be bursting your bubble but the default values they show are not the actual market prices but the appraised value by the City. Hmmm. It means that your taxes will go up....
    is just market prices and most places are on the down side.

    Thanks for the good wishes.

  6. Kichijoji Dude,

    OK, that's what I figured. I should send that link to the Shiyakukusho when my tax bill comes!

    They are expanding the park next to Ghibli, and a bunch of new stores (H&M, Lounge-One, Miuraya, etc) are rumoured to be moving into Isetan soon, which should have a positive effect on the area.

    If you are talking about the Italian place in the basement next to the shoe store, we tried to go there as our second choice but it was fully booked, and ended up going to a place called bistro epices, which had a good steak and reasonable wine selection.

    The loft in our place has one of those detachable ladders, which you can hang on the adjacent wall when not in use, which is good if you are worried about kids falling off the ladder or preventing them to go up there, and gives you the option to have more space if needed.