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How small is too small? Japanese home is just 3 meters wide


April 1, 2014

The Imai House, by architectural firm Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates (Photo: Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates)

The Imai House, by architectural firm Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates (Photo: Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates)

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When designing a small home for a family, it's only possible to downsize so much. One might fairly guess that a house with a total width of 3 meters (10 ft) would be pushing things too far, but Imai House, by architectural firm Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates, offers a good argument to the contrary. The home is also an example of how apparently too-small inner-city plots can be put to good use.

Imai House is located in the city of Okazaki, Japan, and was completed in 2013. The plot measures just 3 x 21 m (10 x 68 ft), of which the two-story house takes up the entire width, and most of its length. To put that into perspective, the width of the house is roughly equivalent to the length of an average American family car.

The exterior of the home is very simple and when viewed from the front looks rather like the Monolith depicted in Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series – albeit in white.

Some sacrifices were obviously required to make Imai House work, so Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates designed a spartan interior layout that makes the most of the 69 sq m (742 sq ft) of floor space that's on offer. The house features a small bedroom and a really, really small children's bedroom in the loft that's only 1.3 m (4.2 ft) high, but this allows for a comparatively large lounge, kitchen and dining area.

Imai House also features a water closet and separate bathroom, and since there wasn't room on the plot for a typical garden, the firm designed a small indoor gardening space and rooftop terrace. Access to the house is gained by a sliding door and steps.

In time, the biggest drawback to daily life in this surprisingly appealing small home will perhaps prove to be the relative lack of windows, which isn't helped by the fact that those that are installed tend to be either small or placed high up. Well, that and the fact that as the child grows, he will be unable to stand up straight in his own bedroom. Imai house isn't suitable for everyone then, but is certainly a compelling home well-suited to a country that suffers a lack of building space.

Source: Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates via Arch Daily

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

That's not a home...that's a hallway. The picture seem to suggest a family with small children can live there. All it takes is a spilled tub of Lego bricks to cut off entire sections of the "house".


People successfully live in things like tents and cars. RV's are pretty small going by housing standards and they tend to be very livable. Most RV's are 96 inches wide which works out to 2.4 meters, the bigger class A RV's are 102 inches or about 2.6 meters wide and about half the total square footage because they are shorter with just one floor.

A 3 meter wide house is far from unworkable but where they fell short was the floor plan. Anyone who has seen the inside of an RV could tell you they could have done a lot more with a lot less. At 800 square feet its still bigger than a lot of apartments.

This floor plan is for 550 square feet and its pretty standard: http://www.apts-madison.com/units/assets/1034425/Stanton-1b-1b-550sf.jpg

I've lived in dorms that make even a 550 square foot living space look downright luxurious.

I lived in a dorm room that looked a bit like this with 3 people: http://i.imgur.com/CTT0zdg.jpg

There is room for another dresser under the lifted bed and the other bed can be made into a bunk bed and lifted to fit duffle bags under it. A mini fridge with a microwave and George foreman grill stacked on it goes a long way as well.

These guys are at 800 square feet and we got by comfortably with 3 people in about a 150 square foot living space.

I wouldn't want to live in a space that small now but if I were single I would do it to bank money for sure. There are a lot more things that could be done to make use of small spaces for living. I assume like most things that once silicon valley needs to solve that problem they will do it with a bunch of ideas that seemed like they should have been obvious all along and everyone else will copy.


Adam, a Toyota Camry is 4.8 metres long, VW Golf 4.2 metres, VW up! 3.5 metres and a Smart fortwo is 2.7 metres. Which of these looks like "an average American family car"? Three metres is way less than the average car length.

Ten feet (3 metres) is an incredibly small dimension for a living space, and is probably only tolerable because of the considerable length of the building. Even so, the photos give a sense of space, perhaps due to the lack of embellishment and clutter. I'd like to see some shots of the interior when the shelves are full and with some pictures on the walls.


That's really not new. NYC has long had several buildings as narrow or narrower.



looks like sauna


10 ft average car length ? Maybe in Europe. I had a 79 Lincoln Town Car that was 19 feet long - now that was a car.


I fully agree with sk8dad and johanschaller. I think and I strongly sustain that houses are the spaces where people can fully develop their private activities with privacy, liberty and dignity. And for that, space is inexcusable. I am really tired of this trend of calling any toy box a house Pack up a family (or justa couple, or the "house" owner with a bunch of friends) and they will just be packed up, doing everything but living. You can store people in a small a space as you want. Prisons and slave boats prove that. But that is light-years away of a true concept of housing.

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