Feeling Zen: A balance of light, space and nature

The feeling is almost palpable. A pure white blanket of powder buries the world outside, while warmth resonates from within. A family home welcoming its owners back from the hectic nature of life in Hong Kong to the zen of life in Niseko.

Positioned in an area developing as a hip new enclave, Zen occupies a large, private 2000sqm block with just under 500sqm of building peeking out from the forest of Higashiyama to Mt Yotei and over the iconic Milk Kobo dairy farm.

“This holiday home is intended to accommodate the needs of a family who plans to grow into it as their long-term Hokkaido retreat.”

In creating this spacious yet comfortable and cosy home ENDO Architectural Atelier and West Canada Homes have worked together to realise the owners’ vision of clean white space with stylish, modern living areas, comfortable bedrooms and stunning onsen-style bathrooms wrapped in a striking yet welcoming exterior.

Function was always part of the design criteria as well as embracing the seasons of Hokkaido with durable and resilient materials forming the foundation of intelligent design for the local climate. The timber exterior melds beautifully with the landscaped surrounds, bordered on two sides by streams that bubble merrily year round. The textured concrete entrance and large stone pavers are woven around beautiful momiji (Japanese maple) trees and edged by a green lawn in summer, before becoming a perfect white playground in winter.

A traditional post-and-beam construction, Zen is clad with Canadian red cedar and metal and rests atop an exposed concrete foundation. The horizontal parallels of the exterior give clear definition to its multiple levels, and a stepped diagonal roof line breaks form to marry the building to the mountainous surrounds and ridge lines of the Annupuri range running all the way back to the Sea of Japan.

Entering the building is like taking a breath of fresh air. Articulate lines guide your eye from the entrance through to spacious social areas. Clean and light coloured timber dress-es the surfaces and a beautiful hardwood floor embraces your feet with comforting underfloor heating. The chilled tension of a cold winter’s day melts away as the home em-braces and welcomes you into its folds.

The ground floor is spacious and the ergonomic design of a large drying room linking the garage to the rest of the home is perfect for family holidays in the depths of a Niseko winter. In designing a comfortable Niseko home it is critically important to be able to shed your snow-covered layers and leave them to dry before entering the comforts of your sanctuary.

Crossing the large-stone-tiled “genkan” entrance hall takes you into a relaxing downstairs wing; lush carpet floors mark the transition into this part of the home with two large bedrooms, tatami room and two exquisitely appointed bathrooms, one with its own beautiful stone onsen-style bath. The core of this area is a large communal media room with enormous TV and expansive couch where the whole family can casually lounge in their après wear after a day in the snow.

Moving upstairs, a floating timber stepped staircase invites you to the second floor where large vertical windows hold a high ceiling,  capturing the pristine views of the ever-changing landscape outside. In winter a snow-capped Mt Yotei fills the window frames, while in summer a vibrant canopy of leaves provides a natural sanctuary – enveloping the home.

An open kitchen engages an interactive and social oriented dining and living room, centred around a stone-walled fireplace. Adjoining this room is a sliding-glass-walled study and recreation room for the children, ensuring the family is always able to enjoy an interactive environment during their time inside.

Again clean lines and space are evident throughout and details of colour and texture are tastefully delivered with subtle feature walls adorned with patterns of nature bringing a connection from outside into the building. The master bedroom is a sanctuary unto itself, hidden away in a far corner of the home looking out into the forest and over the stream below.

Another en suite guest bedroom and expansive children’s bedroom with eight bunk beds is also tucked away on the second floor, far enough away to allow privacy but connected by an open hallway that brings the home together around the central staircase and void below.

Zen is a grand but carefully planned home offering spacious comfort for its owners while never losing connection with its surroundings. Meticulous attention to quality and an understanding of the Hokkaido seasons are obvious in the design of the home, making it a joy to use. Nature is embraced and welcomed, enhancing the feeling of peace and tranquility in this beautifully secluded corner of Niseko.

This article appeared in Powderlife 2019 / Vol 12 / Issue 52 

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