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In Tokyo, a Five-Foot-Wide Home is Not Weird at All

The Wall Street Journal has finally caught on to Tokyo's "impossibly skinny houses" phenomenon (Remember that 10-foot-wide "lantern" home? And that 9.8-foot-wide wall house? Plus the thinnest "Flatiron building" ever?) Anyway, in a new piece marveling over these skinny structures, the paper profiles a radical Tokyo house that spreads its main living sections over a three-story volume that's just five feet wide. The house, designed by Japanese architect Osamu Nishida, sits on a plot that measures 12 feet wide by 27 feet deep and technically has another few feet of space in the form of an even narrower volume for staircases. But does that really count if getting to it means having to go across an uncovered walkway every time?

Indeed, for owners Tomoyo and Naomi Sato, navigating each room of their 550-square-foot home means first stepping outside, crossing the "short bridge" to the other interior volume with the stairs (↓), climbing up, and then finally, heading out across the bridge again and back inside. "When there is a rainstorm, we get wet," Mr. Sato tells the WSJ. Imagine getting from the first floor kitchen to the third floor living room in that weather. For such a narrow plot, though, a dramatic move like the bridge gap is needed to bring in some light and air—it's just too bad that it can't be covered because a building rule requires 40 percent of the plot to be left as outdoor space.

↓ The WSJ piece also highlights a Tokyo house by Japanese architect Go Hasegawa. This 650-square-foot home appears to have a more generous width, but it still illustrates some extreme measures that might be taken to make those small spaces more livable. Below, for example, note how the floors of the study are made of wooden slats in order to let in light from the large window on the first floor. You gotta do what you gotta do.

· Tokyo's Skinniest Houses [WSJ]
· All Trend Watch posts [WSJ]