Century-old Japanese dwelling transformed into minimalist guesthouse

Living room inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori

Japanese architect Uoya Shigenori stripped back and reconfigured this 100-year-old townhouse in Kyoto to create moody and tranquil interiors for Maana Kamo guesthouse.

Located in the historic Higashiyama District, the hotel was designed by Shigenori for Maana Homes, the owner of a collection of luxury retreats hidden within some of the Japanese city’s old streets.

Living room inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
The main living room inside Maana Kamo guesthouse

The goal of the renovation was to preserve and expose the dwelling’s original structure while creating a minimalist retreat for quiet contemplation.

It has been shortlisted for the hotel and short stay interior of the year at the Dezeen Awards 2020.

The guestroom inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
Its guestroom can be adapted into a yoga space

“Preserving and highlighting the house’s imperfectly aged beauty is the backbone of our design philosophy,” said Maana Homes.

“The beauty and soul of a traditional Japanese townhome is in its structural elements.”

Kitchen inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
The kitchen has a central island covered with layers of Urushi

Prior to the renovation, Maana Kamo was in a poor condition with unsightly vinyl wall coverings, tile ceilings and broken floorboards.

These finishes were all removed, exposing the old house’s rough, wooden structure and original walls that are made from clay.

The double vanity inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
A double vanity features in the new moody bathroom

These original details have been teamed with dark, moody furnishings and subdued lighting, alongside new timber walls and floors lined with traditional straw tatami mats.

Ornament is kept to a minimum throughout, while storage spaces for the hotel staff are disguised within the walls.

The lack of ornament is to ensure Maana Kamo guesthouse is “visually quiet” and free from distraction, providing occupants with space to slow down and reflect.

It also allows rooms to be easily adapted, for example, a guest room on the second floor can be quickly converted into a space for yoga and meditation.

Kitchen details from inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
The decoration is limited to a few handcrafted ornaments

One of the biggest changes Shigenori made to the dwelling was the repositioning of the kitchen from a narrow space at the rear of the dwelling to a larger area at the front.

This made space for a large kitchen island that is covered with layers of Urushi – a traditional Japanese lacquer made of tree sap that is water-resistant –and a wall of wooden cabinetry and shelves filled with local, handcrafted kitchenware.

The hallway of Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
The building’s original structure clay walls are exposed throughout

Where the old kitchen once stood, Shigenori has inserted a double-vanity bathroom with a shower that overlooks a private garden at the rear of the dwelling.

The guesthouse is complete with an oversized Japanese-style bathtub that is accessed from the living room. It has a view out to the private garden and is intended to evoke the feeling of bathing in an onsen – a Japanese bathing facility positioned around a hot spring.

Original structural details inside Maana Kamo guesthouse by Uoya Shigenori
Its old and dark wooden structure has also been revealed throughout

In 2016, Shigenori collaborated with Masashi Koyama on the restoration of a century-old machiya house in Kyoto to create an events space. Similarly to Maana Kamo, the goal of the design was to celebrate the architecture and history of the space.

Other projects up for short stay interior of the year at the Dezeen Awards 2020 include the small Escondido Oaxaca Hotel in Mexico by Decada and Carlos Couturier and OHLAB’s extension of a rural hotel in Mallorca.

Photos are courtesy of Maana Homes.

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