Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chapter 6: Lights, Colors, Gardens: It’s Showtime

Still tons of details to go over, but at this point we have 3 challenges which we are trying to educate ourselves on.


I know next to nothing about lighting brands, so if Sakomoto-san says ODELIC is good quality and value, then I trust him. But I still need to verify. Thankfully the showroom is only 15 minutes away but we should book ahead for a consultation with them. We had a great experience at INAX and it’s an opportunity to get good free advice. At the moment we favor a lot of down lights, and lots of tracks for flexibility in the future.


I can’t stand the new modern Japanese white look. You can read about my feelings on this topic here. We plan on adding lots of accent colors on the wall wherever it makes sense. But there are so many combinations to choose from, and one needs to take into consideration the color of furnishings as well….Maybe the reason people choose white is because it’s one less thing to worry about in the overall design. I must say, I’d love to pass over this one and get some semblance of Balance back in my life again. Thankfully, I manage to grab a few recent American and British Home Decor magazines, and they use paint very tastefully to provide accents and warmth without being overpowering.


Assorted Greenery
My partner is running point on this one, since anything green tends wilt around me. Luckily, we have a nice maple on the property which we can salvage. Another good find are the big rock slabs for the walk way. Thank you we’ll take those too. Grass is hard to grow in Tokyo. I've seen many attempts but it all seems like a lot of upkeep. We’ve read that a mix of grass and clover helps provide a nice green cover that is easier to maintain. Sakamoto-san will introduce us to one of his friends with whom he worked with on the Good Design Award project. We have some flexibility on this, as we move in in January, but would still want something presentable as it’s not really a home without a garden and some trees.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kichijoji C-House – Chapter 5 – Meeting Notes from the Underground…

Totally shattering week where work, family, home building pressures all meld into one. Bring it on. But I’m not going to very prosaic in this post. Too tired.

We met Sakamoto-san again this Wednesday for our Third Design review and the amount of paper plans he brought keeps increasing with each visit. We had a full agenda and meeting lasted about 3.5 hours. But we got a lot done.

So bullet point style for this entry. Meeting notes blow by blow.

  • Beam fittings: KURETEC?
    Yes and add 50man. No, you see this cross beam below on the high ceiling areas.
    We can live with this.


  • Details of the exterior wall treatment- design, color, materials
    I bring some finish sample and image.
    Jolycoat: Hand finish = most expensive
    Joly pat: Machine spray mat finish, easier to clean = mid range.
    SK Kakken : sandy feel machine sprayed = most value.
    It’s toss up between sandy and mat. But we’re set on color as below.


  • Insulation:
    Aqua foam is about 2200/sqm
    Fiberglass 50mm is 700/sqm
    You can get the same insulation and sound proofing with 100mm Fiberglass. Done. Plus no one is really sure how long the foam will last and it’s harder to replace later on.
  • Bicycle + Storage Shed:
    Location behind the car park. Showed my design. We’ll paint it ourselves. Details can wait for now. Land
  • Landscaping:
    Have time for that later.
  • Front Entry:
    No gate needed. Want that door that opens with a remote key that our friends rave about. Pick out S-Cube door from Tostem that won the Good Design award.
  • Interior Finish:
    Nihon Paint - Eco Flat 60 with low VOC.
    Design Wall paper for MBR for accents.
    Home work is to print PDF and play with color coordination.
    Window frames and interior door colors. We’re going to need to draw some samples to be sure.
  • Skylight:
    Remote to open or close is neat but expensive and may not be water proof in the long run. Plus they’re not located at highest points in the room so the air won’t exhaust out that way anyhow. Going with fixed for now.
  • Kitchen:
    INAX plans have come in with estimates. I’m expecting 55% OFF the MSRP. Decide on the depth of service counters which will be mix of 45cm and 60cm for the built-in oven. Found out that builder and build the cabinets custom if necessary by buying the same cabinet panels.
    Follow-up: need to confirm the IH Cooker from Miele.


  • Lighting:
    4 pages with arrows all over the places for fixtures and switches.
    Odelic is recommended for quality and value. Plus the showroom is not too far. (yes another one)…But more homework.
  • Electrical and Networking
    More plans to study for later.
  • Bathroom:
    Storage for hamper detailed.
    Lots of places for hook and towel rack requested.
    Plug for delonghi heater to heat towels in the winter.
  • Heating Ventilation Cooling:
    Daikin 4 way ventilation. Will need 6 units.
  • Storage:
    All bedroom closets should be as tall as possible with 2 shelves over the steel rod. Most optimal and flexible.
    All dead spaces corners in the loft to have sliding panels for extra storage for heaters, fans, futons and bedding.

Follow-up Actions:
Decide on day to visit the property.
Check Miele IH cooker.
Get Woodone Samples
Review Odelic website, visit showroom
Review lighting, electrical and storage plans.
Print Sketch PDFs and colour in.
Review Flower Box models.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New (Blog) Design

I know. I know. Another template change. And you're wondering if I keep changing house designs too. I find this format allows for a larger pictures.

Good? Bad? Please comment.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kichijoji C-House – Chapter 4 – Portrait of the Artist

We visited Sakamoto-san’s house this weekend but I unfortunately forgot my camera. It was great to view one of his finished designs. The visit also showcased the quality of builder’s work. The style was more Japanese than what we would have gone for, but we really enjoyed the quality of the materials throughout the home. After 4 hours of going through details, we discussed our contract and came to an agreement that was win-win. I’m happy to have the chance to collaborate with this award-winning designer.


In my previous post I mentioned I would profile Sakamoto-san. Here are some of the topics we discussed:

  • What inspired you to become an architect?
    When I was in my early teens our family built a new house and I was curious and interested in the entire process. I have fond memories of the carpenters who helped build our home. Looking back, I remember that I always preferred making homes out of Legos than ships or cars. I also painting and architecture provides me with lots of opportunities to sketch and draw.
  • What Japanese or foreign architects are influences or inspirations?
    Yoshinobu Ashihara and Fumihiko Maki are Japanese Architects which I greatly admire. As for foreign architects, I am inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van de Rohe.
  • You studied overseas at the reputed Pratt Institute in NY. What made you decide to study overseas?
    I wanted to have the experience of a different culture and wanted to experience NY itself. Of course learning architecture from a different perspective was also a goal. Ashihara-san who was my mentor for many years, helped guide me towards that direction.


  • What are the main 2 or 3 differences between Japan and North American Style homes?
    1. Elevated floors: This is needed in Japan for people to take off their shoes when they enter the house.
    2. Walls: Japanese homes have fewer walls but instead use sliding door to create separate spaces.
    3.Multi-function: Traditionally rooms in Japan are multi-purpose. A room can be living room during the day and bedroom at night, whereas American tend to be singular in purpose. There is a growing trend towards this in Japan.

  • What do you think is going to be greatest home design trend in the next 5~10 years?
    The first trend will toward Eco-Friendly homes. More precisely i mean homes that will use natural ventilation and water vapor cooling systems as opposed to the now current Air Conditioning Units. I also mean Solar power and Solar passive heating. But this is general direction and it’s hard to predict mass consumption. Perhaps 30? 40 years?

    The second trend is more socio-economic. Let’s face it, the population is aging. There are less children. Thus the current trend are towards home that are more durable and flexible throughout the various stages of a family’s life.
  • Have you worked with foreigners in the past?
    Yes, though not at my own practice. You are my first foreign client at ISTA.
  • What are your firms area of expertise? Institutional? Resort? Residential?
    Our main areas has been on Office Buildings then Residential homes and finally resort community areas.
  • You were part of a team that won the Good Design Award for 2009. What do you believe is the key point that brought you the award?
    I believe it was the sense of community and the relationship between the interior and exterior as well as the relationship between the homes. We had a great team of builders, architects and landscape artists. It was this great collaboration which created this fantastic result.

    ISTA Web Page

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kichijoji C-House – Chapter 3 - Showrooms

Sakamoto-san suggested we take a look at the some major washroom and bathroom makers to get a sense of grade and quality of bathroom we would like as these are going to be the 2 most expensive rooms in the house. And as a friend suggested , “you only want to build this once”, so best to explore all the options.

TOTO Showroom (Shinjuku): 5/30/2010 1-3pm:
We walk-in and mention we want to do a “kengaku” which basically means we want to walk around and browse and grab all the catalogs. This is usually a 2 floor showroom but unfortunately the floor dedicated to the kitchen is closed for renovations.

Toto is renowned for their toilets and they have an impressive line up. They also have an extensive choice of bathroom storage. The special high-end section is a sight to behold, but well outside our price range.

I was not impressed by the system bath units area . They looked and felt like plastic. There’s a area where you can choose the materials and design a mockup of the bathroom.

Although the main kitchen area was closed, Toto did make available 2 types of system kitchen units. We liked the Cuisa line. What really impressed us was the storage units within the drawers.

INAX Showroom (Shinjuku): 5/30/2010 3-5pm:
This is a much larger and more impressive showroom. The first floor are the kitchens and they hit you with a great range of styles suit all budgets.

Not as comprehensive as TOTO but the price is slightly lower. The SATIS lineup is probably what we are going to go with.

You can tell INAX got it’s start in the tile business because it’s a lot more present in all the models of the system bathrooms. For a similar price to TOTO looks like you get better materials. Another INAX win.

So is this a clean sweep? We were really impressed by how easy it was to choose all the various options and configurations. Both my wife and I considered the Grandpiasse Luxe I-Gate style kitchen to be the best design. You can have a 2.70 meter counter with a seated counter and storage on that same side. I feel in love with this design. So INAX takes the prize here again. I think TOTO needs to rethink their showroom strategy because there was nothing that made me feel attached to any of their products.

YKK AP Showroom (Shinjuku): 5/31/2010 11am-1pm:
Since we went on Monday the place was practically dead and we had the whole place to ourselves. I thought this was going to be the least exciting visit and it turned out to be the most informative in terms of health and energy. First, health because I learned a lot about airflow and how to design for natural wind circulation to prevent “Sick House” Syndrome. Second, energy because double paned windows save lots on heating and cooling bills.

YKK’s main competitor is TOSTEM which we have not yet had the chance to visit yet. However, Sakamoto-san mentioned that the difference is very marginal and YKK tends to be slightly cheaper overall.