Milk Carton House by Tenhachi Architedt & Interior Design

This tiny two-story house located in Tokyo, Japan, has been designed in 2018 by Tenhachi Architedt & Interior Design.


This is a house for a young couple who have just married. I (architect)am a childhood friend of wife and a member of husband’s lab in graduate school. I am very glad to design their house, and would like to make the house very comfortable for their new marriage life.

The site has narrow property, only 43 square meters. A convenient commute into the city was their top priority, the house is located at a quiet residential area in the center of Tokyo district Japan.

The house volume is maximum size which is subjected to height restrictions by Japanese architectural regulation.

As a result, its owns only three-and-a-half-meter-wide, and flanked on either side by existing residential buildings.

The street facing elevation is clad in light gray galvalume panels in diagonally pattern by workers skillfully work as though they were folding a piece of origami. Diagonal patters create something new face in the city although the galvalume is very common material.
Although the house volume is subjected to height regulation, the couple named their house as “milk carton house” by its figure having the attachment to the house.

The entrance opens into a workspace with an exposed concrete floor with a mortar finish. The ceiling is 3.4m double height, and this height is emphasized by wood large windows, exposed ceiling timber structure beams.
Foldable desk is prepared at window side for flexible use to create more space in the tiny area. To fulfilling the couple’s request of double use as their work space and rental space, wooden frame glass door is installed to separate public space and private space for security while keeping the open feeling to the stair.

At the back, white box unit is settled in first-floor level, in which small bed space is above, while the inside is divided into two spaces. The opening in the foreground leads to a guest toilet. The opening at back leads to a private utility space, as well as the master bathroom and pantry.

The natural sunlight from the sky lit above the staircase illuminate not only staircase but also fist floor corridor as it leads to the guests to the second floor.

The upper floor contains dining, living and free loft space. Living room is connected to a sunken kitchen and dining area by double steps. The steps can be work as a chair when guests visit at home party. The kitchen was custom-made from Ikea cabinet, and kitchen counter continue to the living room as for the TV cabinet and steps to the loft stairs.
The large sky lit is above the living room which work for getting natural sun light and ventilation.

The house has different levels on each story and connect to the spaces, with the next area sometimes obviously visible, sometimes subtly hidden from the view. I tried to make the line between furniture and architecture blurred for make the house looks like a useful piece of furniture. This is a very small house, but I tried to design house details to be just perfect for housework, to be just enough storage for them, and to be just comfortable living space for them. Maximizing the useable area through open-plan rooms without set function gives this home flexibility and cosy atmosphere.

Photography by Akihide MISHIMA

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- by Matt Watts

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