Japanese Home Designed Around a Climbable Bookshelf

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are lovely, and can act as a robust focal point in any home. But accessing the high shelves can be a problem. The common side-kick has always been ladders, which can also add character and charm. But for smaller homes like in Japan they can be a nuisance, occupying too much space for not enough usage. But Japanese architect Shinsuke Fujii came up with a simple, yet brilliant solution that solves another problem too: earthquake safety.

the climbable bookshelf occupies the dining room

The “House in Shinyoshida,” as it’s called, named for the neighborhood in Yokohama where it stands, was conceived shortly after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The client, who happened to be an avid book lover, approached Fujii with the task to design a home around a large bookshelf that’s both easily accessible but also one that won’t spill all the books if there’s ever a tremor.

The solution was to slant the entire western-facing façade and create a built-in slanted bookshelf whose shelves also function as a ladder. The slant allowed family members of all ages to climb up and reach books, but also keeps the books from falling should an earthquake ever shake the home. The slanted façade also had the effect of creating an open feeling in the family room, where the home’s high perch allowed for plenty of sunlight to enter through the large windows.


the large stairs the lead to the living room also serve as a reading space

the bookshelf extends into the living room, creating a consistent look and feel

the entire west-facing facade was built on a slant so as to accommodate the climbable bookshelf



  1. It’s a wonderful space but I’m worried about sunlight damaging the books.

    • There shouldn’t be that much direct sunlight since this is the western facing side. That would put the window as North facing.

  2. That is a brilliant idea, I’d love an opportunity live in something like that. Food for thought, that’s for certain.

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