With the aim to provide a large external space in a small urban residence area of Tokyo, Japanese practice Takuro Yamamoto Architects has designed this Little House with a Big Terrace. Through the process of designing this house, Takuro Yamamoto tried to prove that having rich private external space is important for making crucial difference in the quality of life inside the house, as well as obtaining various possibilities of external activity.

“The first thing we decided was having an open-air space next to the main part of the residence, and connecting them with big opening of windows,” explained the architects. “Big windows – which are necessary for making internal spaces spacious, well lit and airy – are one of the most costly parts of buildings, so we concentrated them to selected places, effective for improving the quality of internal spaces.”


Considering that the client couple’s original request was having a big terrace for doing yoga freely under the sun, connecting the terrace to the living room and the bedroom with big windows was the best way to offer fresh air and daylight to the internal spaces, like having respiratory organ to let the house breathe.


The second floor level of the eastern half of the site was chosen as private open-air space, because that place was facing to the rooftop of the single story garage of a neighboring house on the south. Thanks to the lower height of the garage, this place is exposed to the sunlight in the high density residential area, which is a relatively rare situation in Tokyo.

“By making a big rectangular tube here penetrating north-south, a bright and airy open space can be obtained,” said the team.


The tube was tried to be made as large as possible, because larger external space can catch more sunshine and larger blue sky. However, having large external space in the limited site area means reduction of the internal space of the house. To make up for the loss of the floor area, an attic for storage was inserted between the first floor and the second, whose ceiling height is less than 1400 mm.

By this arrangement, this house obtained a sufficient amount of the practicable space while the daylighting of the living room and terrace was improved, because the levels of those spaces were pushed up higher.


As you have already seen, Little House with a Big Terrace creates comfortable internal spaces by connecting them to the unlimited extension of external space. The most effective way to achieve real spaciousness of urban houses in high density residential area is to incorporate unlimited external spaces into design rather than trying to make internal spaces larger, which is inevitably limited by the size of site area.

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all images courtesy of Takuro Yamamoto Architects