Web tour: Azby Brown

Samurai House & Garden image from Just Enough by Azby Brown. (Those samurai really knew how to live.)With his 2005 book The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space Azby Brown made a welcome appearance on my radar. He’s an architect and design theorist originally from New Orleans who’s been living in Japan since the mid ‘80’s. An interest in traditional Japanese wooden architecture initially attracted him to Japan, and the adaptation and reinterpretation of that tradition in contemporary Japanese architecture and design continue to intrigue him today. He’s the director of the Future Design Institute in Tokyo at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology.

His latest book Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan explores how sustainable practices of the Edo period can inform how we shape a sustainable future. For an informative introduction to Brown and Just Enough, check out this interview on Seeds and Fruit. You can also see and hear Brown highlight the book and its mission on this TEDxTokyo video or catch his Pecha-Kucha presentation in Tokyo. Additional information is available on the Just Enough website.

In a recent post by Brown in the Atlantic he shares a more personal example of a Japanese approach to sustainability, which could also inspire sustainable approaches elsewhere. It’s the story of his neighbor’s urban farm in “the middle of Yokohama, a progressive city of 3.6 million”. As with the lessons in Just Enough, Brown appreciates that often successful, Japanese solutions recognize how everything is inter-related. 

It is in many ways common sense, that issues of energy, water, materials, food and population are intertwined, yet sometimes we need to be reminded how a healthy, interdependent, renewable system has worked and can work in order to imagine how it might work in a different time and place.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Backyard retreat web tour, house tour, and garden tour all-in-one

Did you see The New York Times article last week about the garage retreat near Seattle?  It's a fun and sophisticated 250-square-foot getaway.

A small space of one's own, beyond the hustle and bustle of everyday life, can remind us of life's simple pleasures. Such little buildings generally tread lightly on both the environment and our pocketbooks, while recharging our spirits.

The design of small retreats, backyard and beyond would be a great topic for a book, don't you think?  I thought so and was working on such a book a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it fell victim to the publishing industry's downsizing which began in mid-2008. I still believe there's a book there, waiting to be discovered.

You can sample a Katie Hutchison Studio small retreat design by visiting the Manchester Garage/Garden Room page in the KHS architectural portfolio.

I imagine my fascination with the topic started with my childhood backyard retreat and was reinforced by my mother's current, petite summerhouse in her Connecticut village. I wrote about her garden and her little retreat in a House Garden Primer.

Get a peek at her garden summerhouse in this short Flip video.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast