all photos by Nao Takahashi

When people renovate their home it’s often with the objective of creating more space. But the opposite can also be true. Take, for example, this family in Saitama, a suburb just north of Tokyo, who were looking to reduce their overall living area while maintaining the legacy and history of their 50-year old townhouse.

the townhouse, pre-renovation

When children move out and parents are left with a nest larger than they need for themselves, that nest can become a burden. In Japan, many will opt for selling their home and moving into a new condo or apartment complex, leaving the townhouse susceptible to being bulldozed.

But when this family found themselves in a similar position, they decided to hire Ryutaro Saito of architecture firm DOG, who helped the family reduce their living space by a quarter (減築; genchiku or reductive architecture) of what it was while also performing seismic reinforcements. They did this by dismantling the western-facing side of the home — preserving the roof and framework — and turning it into a semi-outdoor rock garden. Although the rock garden feels a little sparse in its current form, it can easily be turned into an enticing little space and is a great alternative for preserving older homes across Japan.

the townhouse, post-renovation