Muji, the famed Japanese retailer of “no-brand” home goods—and over the last 15 years, entire small homes—has released its fourth, and latest, prefabricated abode in Japan. Dubbed Yō no le (Plain House), the dwelling is a noted departure from the retailer’s previous venture into prefab housing, a slim and decidedly stair-intensive abode geared for impossibly tight urban lots named Tate no le (Vertical House) launched in 2010. While Yō no le is predictably compact and ultra-unfussy in keeping with Muji’s pared-down aesthetic, it’s the first prefab home offering from the company to be entirely stair-free and geared more toward rural environs than cramped Japanese cities where there’s not much room to go aside from up. Sporting 800 square feet of interior living space with a generously sized deck with room for container gardening out back, Yō no le’s flexible single-floor, single-bedroom layout is geared to appeal to homeowners who want to settle down and stay put in the same space for the long haul. A particular target market is seniors and empty nesters looking to live a more minimalist—and low-maintenance—lifestyle. Boasting clean lines, light wood, and loads of natural light, the highly customizable home (Muji also makes pretty much everything under the sun one would want to customize the home with) was described by the company as being designed to “accommodate wide range of generations and provide more choices for places to live, thus supporting a variety of lifestyles.” Although Muji has a healthy retail presence across the globe including over a dozen stateside stores mainly in New York and California, Yō no le, like the company’s other prefab homes, is only available for sale in Japan at an affordable $160,000. Of course, Muji isn’t the only purveyor of home furnishings to delve into the production of simply designed and assembled homes catering specifically to baby boomers and beyond. In 2019, IKEA announced a partnership with Swedish construction behemoth Skanska to erect a series of modular homes in the Stockholm suburbs for elderly inhabitants living with dementia.
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The China House Vision is an architectural exhibition that images in the future of urban living for Beijing Design Week 2018. On view through November 4 at the Herzog and de Meuron–designed stadium in Beijing’s Olympic Park, the exhibit includes the work of ten internationally acclaimed designers whose work has been heavily influenced by topics concerning communication, energy consumption, artificial intelligence, and the sharing economy. Among the “dwellings of the future” is a prototypical living space for MUJI employees, the result of the collaborative work between MUJI, a Japanese retail company distinguished for its emphasis on minimalism and environmental design, and Japanese architect Go Hasegawa. MUJI gained inspiration for the project from the top floors of residential buildings in Shanghai, where 13-foot-tall spaces are taller than single-story dwellings require, yet too small for duplex apartments. MUJI sought to transform an awkward and uncooperative space in the stadium into a jungle of micro-apartments, particularly for staff members working at MUJI. The scheme, like MUJI, is both modern and minimalist with its use of fine lines, pure geometry, and colorless walls and ceilings. However, it also evokes historic sentiments through its use of a centrally positioned, three-dimensional unit reminiscent of the “canopy beds” found in traditional Chinese dwellings. The central unit, along with a series of thin wooden partitions, divides the various shared and private compartments of the home. A modest staircase leads to the private bedrooms, which are both austere and claustrophobic, each containing only built-in storage racks and a small bed. The lower level of the scheme functions as a shared space with an open and flexible floor plan. Shared household appliances such as air conditioning units, refrigerators, and washing machines are strategically and efficiently built into the walls of the compound. MUJI’s “no-frills” furniture is found throughout the scheme, adding to the dwelling’s already minimalist aesthetic. Through the scheme’s disentangled layout, colorless scenery, and placid décor, Go Hasegawa's prototypical dwelling of the future presents viewers with a glimpse of what it is like to live in an environment where hyper-functionalism and shared resources are commonplace.
Minimalist masters Muji are offering up the chance for a two-year stay in their new, fully-furnished "Window House" for free. Located in Kamakura, roughly 31 miles south of Tokyo, the house—in keeping with its name—features windows on all four sides. In the living room, large windows facilitate expansive views onto the garden. A skylight allows further light in from above. With its typical minimalist white interior and open floor plan, this light is reflected throughout the space. Small eaves attached to the top of these windows reduce solar gain in the summer, stopping excess heating. The Window House is the largest from Muji so far. Last year they unveiled the Vertical House as well as an assortment of much smaller residences. Applicants who want a free stay in the house don't have to be Japanese, though will have to be able to read and speak it. This due to the fact that Muji is eager to collect feedback on the house and the experiences of its long-term inhabitants. During this process, the residents will report back regularly to Muji's designers and research team. As an added bonus, once the two-year stint is over the former residents will receive Muji furniture for life. Applications are currently open and close at the end of the month. You can sign up here.
Japanese retailer MUJI teamed up with well-known designers Naoto Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison, and Konstantin Grcic to create Muji Hut, a collection of three prefab homes. The minimalistic-inspired homes made their debut during Tokyo Design Week, which took place October 24 to November 3. Muji Hut consists of three cozy, lightweight, and innovative huts: Jasper Morrison’s Hut of Cork, Konstantin Grcic’s Hut of Aluminum, and Naoto Fukasawa’s Hut of Wood. All three huts include a combination of both traditional Japanese elements and modern design aspects. Hut of Cork has designated areas for cooking, eating, resting, and bathing. The hut embraces the great outdoors by including just a shower for bathing, hinting that residents make use of the communal bathhouse or hot spring located nearby. The hut’s exterior is clad of sound-absorbing cork panels, and the interior consists of an array of tatami mats. Hut of Aluminum is comprised of an all-wood interior, which is accessible by sliding shoji-style doors. The hut features retractable aluminum awnings as well as a loft that houses a small sleeping area. Hut of Wood resembles a traditional log cabin and includes timber wood, a pitched roof, a dining table and chairs, a kitchenette, scenic views, natural light, and floor-to-ceiling glazed sliding doors. The hut is also outfitted with a traditional Japanese bath, cot, and wood-burning stove. MUJI has yet to announce if the collection will be brought to market.