Tokyo Design Week 2016: A Tiny Home in Tokyo

Ever wondered what a tiny home in Tokyo might look like?

I have.

I'm not talking about standard apartments in Tokyo, which are actually tiny, as well, by American standards; I'm talking about the space that's created when new-age design meets a small space meets an open-minded resident.

I think this is actually a really relevant design discussion for people outside of Japan, not just for people in Japan. Why? Because as urban areas all over the globe become more densely populated, we'll need more varied solutions for housing people and making their lives more comfortable. This kind of design could be adopted anywhere.

According to the Japanese designers of this tiny home, the space was created in order to accommodate changing lifestyles, especially in a city like Tokyo.

They expressed that at one time in the past, people's homes were both "inhabit" and "use" spaces. That is to say that there was as much space to leisurely spend time in the home as space to actively do things like bathing, cooking, or sleeping. Now, more homes are occupied by the equipment that facilitates these "use" activities: bathtubs, toilets, stoves, and beds. Meanwhile, space for purely lounging is harder to come by.

This phenomenon has evolved as a result of urban lifestyles, and urban lifestyles have evolved as a result of this phenomenon. The designers think that a person living in the city in a normal apartment is likely to wake up in their home and head to a park, a cafe, or be out and about for most of the day, coming home only to cook dinner and go to bed. Perhaps this is related to the digital economy; perhaps it's related to the desire to be out in nature or among other people; or perhaps it's related to the limitations of urban design.

On the latter, the designers have addressed these limitations by laying out a two-tiered floor plan. In this plan, all designated "use" spaces are located a few feet below an elevated "inhabit" floor, where socializing, reading, and laying around are encouraged. In designing this way, the tiny space moves from being a largely "use"-oriented space to a mixed "inhabit/use" space. This design is indicative of where the designers believe things will be moving in the future.

I do have a few concerns: the space may not be big enough for people to comfortably gather, so it could become a space in which only one or two people could comfortably hang out. The other concern is that with so much priority on the "inhabit" side of the space, would the residents' desire and need to go outside in nature or visit a local cafe wane to the extent that people become anti-social or depressed? Japan already has a problem with social isolation, that of hikikomori; the problem doesn't need to become worse there or anywhere else. Younger people all over the world are increasingly becoming Netflix-bingeing, app-scrolling anti-social digital drones, much to everyone's dismay. As a holistic designer, I desire to combat such trends through innovation, not encourage.

Nonetheless, I'm encouraged overall by what this tiny Tokyo home indicates. Young people are thinking about improving their quality of life in creative ways. They want their spaces to be more accommodating to all parts of the human experience, and they want to share these spaces with people close to them.

And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

 "Inhabit" space up top on the elevation; "use" space below. Though not visible, underneath the top right blanket and pillows is the bedroom. It's protected and cave-like.

"Inhabit" space up top on the elevation; "use" space below. Though not visible, underneath the top right blanket and pillows is the bedroom. It's protected and cave-like.

 This woman demonstrates my favorite activity in the "inhabit" space: passing out on the floor when you're too damn tired to go to your own bed.

This woman demonstrates my favorite activity in the "inhabit" space: passing out on the floor when you're too damn tired to go to your own bed.

 A "use" space: the kitchen.

A "use" space: the kitchen.

 Another "use" space: the bedroom.

Another "use" space: the bedroom.

 Floor surface view from the "use" space of the study.

Floor surface view from the "use" space of the study.