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the size of JaPanese rooms has traditionally been
measured by the number of tatami mats needed for the floor. A tea roomwas always four and a half tatami. Rooms were designed with one of many “auspicious” tatami layouts; an “inauspicious” layout had fourtatami mat corners touching – unthinkable! Perhaps understandably, itwasn’t the rigorous custom associated with tatami, but the aesthetic andenvironmental credentials of the material that won over the Seyd family.Tatami imbue a grassy scent and a serene quality to an uncluttered room,and traditionally they’re made with a woven soft rush grass cover over arice straw core – all renewable and biodegradable materials.But when they started building their new home in Chewton, asmall hamlet near Castlemaine in rural Victoria, the Seyds knew they’dbe borrowing more than tatami from the Japanese. They also tookinspiration from other Japanese design sensibilities: house size anddesign function, and, according to building designer Daniel Seyd, the“Japanese sense of style”.Japanese houses have an average floor plan of 94 square metres,which is modest compared with Australia’s world record average of 215square metres. Careful furniture, tone and material choice in traditionalJapanese homes can ensure they remain human scaled, comfortable andwelcoming. Daniel embraced these design philosophies in his Chewtonhome beautifully.Firstly, there’s the size of the home. It comes in under even theJapanese average at 85 square metres, including two bedrooms (one witha double, the other with bunk beds), a toilet, bathroom, and a roomy shared living, dining and kitchen room. It sleeps five comfortably, but itcan stretch to eight.Daniel’s home also features sliding screens, traditionally used inJapanese homes. With sliding screens you can create functional smallerrooms, and they conserve space usually needed for swinging doors.Sliding screens also foster a connection with the outside, which in Japanis usually a gracious manicured courtyard. In a climate appropriateapplication, the sliding screens in this house are custom-made galvanisedsteel. They line the northern facade and can be fully extended, keepingout summer sun from the home. On cooler days they can be drawn aside,letting in winter sun.Like many Japanese homes, there are no underutilised spaces in theSeyds’ house. Daybeds and benches have storage underneath, verticalcupboards make up almost the entire southern wall of the living space,and an external cupboard doubles as the laundry. Benches in the livingroom store futons, so that the raised tatami can serve its customary function as a foundation for bedding.A small home creates intimate spaces, which is ideal when you wanta romantic getaway, but less ideal when the kids are playing up and youneed ten minutes to regroup. Daniel beefed up the acoustic insulationthroughout the internal walls to ensure this small home works harderthan the average at keeping sounds at bay. He also wanted the houseto be able to accommodate many guests, so he designed the bathroomand toilet to be accessible from the outside to cater easily for campingfriends. This appreciation of the need for privacy, as well as intimacy,is key for small space design.The kitchen appears conventional, but upon closer inspection thechoice of appliances makes good Daniel’s desire for a smaller home.There’s a half size fridge, and a half size dishwasher which Daniel says
Daniel chose residential gradecement sheeting for theexterior cladding for its lowmaintenance care and simleaesthetic. He’s not sure howit will wear over the long term.“n hindsight, we should haveitten the ullet and sentextra mone on a commercialgrade cladding: it’s thicker,more durale and has ettererforming joint details, whichimroves the roduct’slongevit.”
Daybeds and benches havestorage underneath, verticalcupboards make up almost theentire southern wall of the livingspace, and an external cupboarddoubles as the laundry.
Slatted steel sliding doors onthe northern facade can edrawn aside to oen thehome and exose the daed, visile in the centre.t night or in extreme sunconditions the doors can eclosed, roviding rivac andretreat from the elements.