The Nonchalant Family House: A No. 555 Design in Utazu, Japan

Tokyo architectural firm No. 555 celebrates everyday life by building in an enchanting casualness. Their domestic designs are explorations of ease and practicality—always approached using humble, commercial building materials in ways that call for double takes. See, for instance, the Vertical Alley, their live/work tower for a couple in Tokyo, and their Wabi-Sabi Surf Shack built from insulation blocks and tarps.

Known internally as Cell (Nut), this unassuming house was commissioned by a couple—a businessman and a kindergarten teacher—with three kids who were returning to Utazu, their hometown in Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, to be close to both sets of grandparents. The single-story, bunker-like main structure opens to a grid of linked rooms designed to create a communal spirit and to easily evolve as the family’s needs change (scroll to the end to see a floor plan). Out back, there’s a two-story folly of sorts: a tower that provides storage, work space, and an additional place to play. Not coincidentally, the numbers 555 signify change and new beginnings of a decidedly positive sort.

Photography courtesy of No. 555.

located in utazu’s old town within walking distance of all the gran 9
Above: Located in Utazu’s old town within walking distance of all the grandparents, the structure is finished in Belgian cement board and harmonizes height-wise with the neighboring traditional houses. Its entry and the interior passageways, principal architect Takaya Tsuchida explains, are abstracted versions of torii, the gates fronting Japanese temples and shrines that mark the transition from the mundane to the sacred. Utazu is filled with historic monuments and Tsuchida says they took these gates—and visions of children frolicking around them—as inspiration.

the all over open shelving of waxed larch plywood is admittedly not for neatnik 10
Above: The all-over open shelving of waxed larch plywood is admittedly not for neatniks, but provides convenient landing places for plants, toys, books, and sunglasses. The wide central entry, Tsuchida says, is designed to make visitors “feel free to enter the space easily.” The grandparents, he adds, look after the youngest children, “so the sense of atmosphere was imporant and we wanted to find it in our plan.”