A Second Home in the Mountains

At a retreat surrounded by nature, take time to think.


WordsChisa Sato PhotographySeiji Tonomura

A second home surrounded by greenery, with the northern mountains behind and opening out onto the southern valley. Seven different spaces separated by eight walls.

Ashigarakami District, Kanagawa Prefecture—

A modern, white design nestled at the foot of the Tanzawa Mountains, where the peaceful spirit of satoyama rural landscapes remains. Greenery stretches as far as the eye can see, and you are overwhelmed by plants overflowing with vitality. This is a second home designed by architect Gen Inoue for himself.
‘This is where my grandfather was born and raised. The motive for starting the design was my grandfather having said that it would be good to have a house here where the family could gather, as my grandmother’s grave is nearby.’
‘At the planning stage, what I imagined was a place in nature, where you could get in touch with yourself.’ Mr. Inoue envisioned a second home that acted as a retreat from the city.
‘Because of my day-to-day work I can’t find quite enough time, but I wanted to cherish the most important things in design and think a bit about the future. This is not just about me. I felt that my wife and children also needed time to escape from their everyday lives; time for themselves.’

Left: A 4.8m high window frames the greenery outside beautifully. The roof overhangs the terrace, so you can play outside or have a barbeque even when it’s raining. / Right: The room on the second floor has a low ceiling and is like a secret base – it is one of the children’s favourite places. By closing the blinds, you can quickly transform it into a sleeping space.

Firstly, to make the most of the rich natural environment, both the south-facing side, with its wide-open view, and the north-facing side, which approaches the mountains, were fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows. Furthermore, so that those who come here can spend some relaxing time by themselves, the building is not one large room, but is split into seven long spaces. By changing the height and width of the ceiling, as well as the finish of the floors and ceilings, a variety of living spaces are created; such as a bright, open dining room and a calm living room.
When the family comes to this house each person will head straight for their favourite place – the children to the terrace and the garden where they can play outside, and Inoue’s wife to the reading space. Inoue himself likes to read a book or look at the scenery while feeling the presence of his family. Also, instead of setting up fixed furniture such as beds, there are foldable mattresses and each person sleeps where they like. The chairs can also be moved and used both outdoors and indoors so you can actively choose the place you find most comfortable. This is a key point in the style of the house.

A spacious open-plan kitchen-diner. Furniture that can also be used outdoors is set out and each person can move it to their favourite places and relax.

This house is not only used as a holiday home for Inoue’s family, but also as a satellite office for his design company. Business is usually conducted at an office in Yokohama, but when brainstorming and developing ideas he implements a varied work style, often bringing staff to this second home. At the moment Inoue comes here with family twice a month and with staff to use it as a workplace once a month.
‘The three uses of second home, home and workplace were established, and it became clear how the space should be used for each of these purposes. As an architect, I want to design my own way of working and my own way of living.’
In order to achieve this, Inoue says that it is important to be aware of what you want. He wanted to create an environment where his children could interact with nature and cultivate their instincts. This environment has been realised in a place where he himself used to lose himself in play.

Left: Rooms with different floor and ceiling finishes are linked casually. You can feel each other’s presence while spending time as you please. / Right: A staircase leading to a room on the second floor. There is a PC space nearby. It is designed using skeleton stairs, so that light and air can travel through.

There is a bathroom that provides a sense of liberation as it can be accessed directly from outside the building, so the children can go straight in there after playing in the river.

The building exterior as seen from the mountain side. The leftmost building is detached; the ground floor is used for storage and the first floor is used as a guest room.

Suitable for: families (up to three families staying) / Year of completion: 2017 / Total floor area: 139.99m2 / Lot area: 395.71m2 / Design: GEN INOUE