This Minimalist Japanese Home Pivots Around an Indoor Garden

Satoshi Saito
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An indoor/outdoor courtyard allows tree branches to graze the ceiling of this narrow Osaka residence.

When a young family requested a home in which they could "feel green," Satoshi Saito of SAI Architectural Design Office took the directive to heart.

"A home that feels green is not just a home where you can see the green from anywhere, but a home where the residents actively use the external space and grow together with the green," says Saito. "Taking a nap under a tree, touching a leaf, planting a tree or flowers, spending time directly feeling the wind, and smelling greenery is less common now in urban societies. I thought that I could create an original experience of this rich life that is being forgotten."

Melt House, as the project is known, is located at the foot of a mountain in a residential part of Osaka and set on a narrow site that’s just 18 feet wide. To make the best use of space, Saito boldly brought the garden inside. Placed at the center of the house, the double-height, courtyard-like area acts like a multifunctional room.

The courtyard joins the two wings of the home. One houses a traditional, Japanese room with a double-height living room and second-floor loft. The other contains two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the open kitchen and dining room. "The plan brings plenty of natural light and ventilation into the house, even though it is a long and narrow building," says Saito. "By placing the dry garden between the dining room and the living room, you can use it daily and live with greenery."

Set on a narrow, 18-foot-wide site, Melt House presents a corrugated exterior.

Set on a narrow, 18-foot-wide site, Melt House presents a corrugated exterior.


The home essentially comprises two structures that are unified by a double-height, courtyard-like space with clerestory windows allowing for ample natural light.


The centerpiece of this indoor/outdoor space is a "dry garden," providing some green space in place of an exterior yard. Sliding doors partition the space from the outside.


On the opposite side of the courtyard are the dining room and kitchen.


The second-level loft area glows at night.