Corner house in Kitashirakawa (12)

This angular residence was born out of the architect’s desire to create a structure that would respond to the neighborhood. (all photos by Yasushi Ichikawa)

Meet the distinctive Corner House, a residence located in the Kitashirakawa suburb of Kyoto. The property is kitty-corner to a stream, between a local university’s botanical garden, and close to a children’s playground. Architect Satoru Umehara, founder of UME Architects, considered this busy residential block, brainstorming ways to create a space that dialogued with its surroundings.

After considerable thought, it struck him that he could focus the shape of the roof to dialog with neighboring properties. During the creation of the corner house, Umehara had to seek approval from the Kyoto Council, since the design of the roof was such a radical departure from Kyoto’s strict design guidelines.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (FB)

The corner house boasts three levels. The staircase leading from the second level is neatly framed by bookshelves in the study on the third floor.

Dubbed the Corner House, this three-floor home holds an array of nooks, crannies, open-air slats, and let’s not forget all those corners. Sliding glass doors open onto a small terrace overlooking a row of potted plants and a sakura cherry tree, which sheds a snowstorm of delicate pink petals onto the walkway every spring.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (7)

Ingenuous interior design maximizes nooks and crannies, allowing residents to store a variety of books and knick knacks.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (4)

Concrete forms create a sense of order while wooden chairs and stairs add a natural element.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (10)

The study doubles as a children’s play area. Small sky lights and slats opening into the floor below fill the room with light.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (9)

Sizable slats open the third floor so it is visible from the second floor, allowing for ease of visibility and communication. A mother can leave her children to play upstairs and put her mind at ease, knowing that she only needs to glance upwards to check up on them.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (5)

The tiled shower boasts a glass door and there is a shallow wooden tub set on the floor where one can place their clothes.

Corner house in Kitashirakawa (8)

A kitchen island doubles as a serving area. Sloped wooden chairs surround the dining table beneath glass-domed hanging lights.


Sliding doors lead onto a small balcony, filled with potted plants and bathed in warm light. During the day, one might see the hazy contour of the Hieizan mountains in the distance.