A Harmonious Approach to Modernizing a 100-Year-Old Home

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The historic city of Kyoto in Japan is known for its deep-rooted traditions and rich cultural heritage. Despite the encroachment of modern conveniences, the city has managed to preserve its traditional charm. One such example is the century-old KYOTO HOUSE, which recently received a thoughtful update by Ukrainian studio, MAKHNO Studio.

MAKHNO Studio specializes in contemporary architecture, interior design, and ceramics. Its task was to add a touch of Ukrainian color to the Japanese context while respecting the enduring spirit of ancient Japanese culture. The house, owned by a family with children, still maintains its traditional elements such as textured clay wall surfaces, tatami mats, shoji screens, and a floor plan optimized for furniture closer to the ground. The family uses this section of the house for traditional tea ceremonies and accommodating overnight guests. The challenge for MAKHNO Studio was to restore the house without compromising its historic ambience.

In a surprising juxtaposition, Wassily Chairs by Marcel Breuer for Knoll were placed strategically as visual bookends. The sleek tubular frame and black leather blend seamlessly into the traditional Japanese elements, adding a hint of modernity to the space.

The interior of the house features “shoin-zukuri” or “study style” detailing, inspired by the dwellings of Zen monks and samurai from the 15th to 16th centuries. Rice paper partitions and shoji sliding doors are incorporated into the rooms, adding to the traditional Japanese ambiance.

MAKHNO Studio introduced elements of Ukrainian aesthetics to interplay with the original features. Ukrainian zoomorphic ceramics, plates, and earthenware by Slavko Odarchenko, a member of the studio, were added. Paintings by artist Oleksandr Babak, as well as traditional and modern Japanese graphics, were also included. These additions were subtle but had a significant impact on the overall space, making it feel like a usable and present-day environment rather than a museum.

To welcome guests, a small tea garden called “roji” was created. It features poetic landscaping adorned with Japanese ritual stones and Ukrainian DIDO art sculptures from the MAKHNO workshop. These small sculptures act as protective totems, shielding the occupants from negative energies and unwanted guests.

The KYOTO HOUSE beautifully showcases the harmonious convergence of two distinct cultures. It invites individuals to immerse themselves in the serene simplicity of savoring tea, connecting with their senses, and appreciating Japanese heritage. As Serhii Makhno, the founder of MAKHNO Studio, succinctly puts it, “This is a home for tea and life.”

Photography by Naoki Miyashita captures the essence of this unique fusion of Ukrainian and Japanese cultures in the century-old KYOTO HOUSE.

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