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Moody all-black house hides a calm courtyard

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We love a good surprise

A black-colored boxy house is surrounded by trees. Masao Nishikawa

This black box of a house in Tokyo is like a present—concealed and nondescript on the outside, with a pleasant surprise on the inside. Japanese firm Apollo Architects and Associates designed the Umber house as a monolithic rectilinear volume clad in steel coated in an aluminum zinc alloy. But on the other side of the dark walls, you’ll find an open, airy courtyard, complete with a touch of nature.

The house unfolds into a C-shaped layout that wraps around the closed-in outdoor space. The two bedrooms bookend the house, connected by an open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen. The equally dark interior spaces create a serene, moody atmosphere, while opening out onto the timber-decked courtyard.

An airy open living room and kitchen with a coffee table, sofa, and dining able, opens to a courtyard, where there is a tree. Masao Nishikawa

The house is compact, but it’s filled with thoughtful touches like hidden storage space in the kitchen and living room and a skylight that runs the length of the kitchen and living room, which casts a slatted pattern onto the back wall. The simple details also extend to the courtyard, where a single copse of trees sprouts from the deck.

The dining area features a pale wood table and curved back seats. In the back is an all-black kitchen with an island and cabinetry. Masao Nishikawa
From the kitchen island, you can see the other side of the house which shows more private living quarters. Masao Nishikawa
A bedroom looking out onto the courtyard and the living spaces behind glass walls on the other side. Masao Nishikawa