Grand Designs Australia

A Queenslander inspired by the aesthetics of Japan

This Grand Designs Australia Home is a Japanese take on the classic Queenslander.

The Brisbane suburb of Hamilton isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a Japanese obsessive. But local, Steve Minon, has always held a special fascination for Japanese culture and the land of the rising sun.

“I think if there's a culture that demonstrates simple clarity it's the Japanese,” says Steve. “I'm really drawn to the aesthetic of Japan as much as anything, not necessarily just the culture. I guess it's the way the Japanese package things up so cleanly and elegantly.”

After many visits to Japan, Steve actually quit his job as an advertising executive to start a gyoza and beer restaurant in Brisbane. Steve’s thoughts soon turned to building a Japanese style house, a journey that led him to Yo Shimada, a pioneering Japanese architect.

Yo Shimada is highly regarded in his home country, specialising in innovative solutions to difficult sites. His minimal style uses a raw, stripped back palette of materials, often expressing structural details that would normally be hidden. It's an approach that's seen him win countless awards in Japan, including for the house that particularly inspired Steve, his Rocco house in Kobe.

The brief for the new home was for a minimalist design for two – Steve and his partner Jonny . The home would also need to fit Jonny’s grand piano.

Undeterred by size, or by the exceptionally steep site where the home would be built, Steve and Jonny set about to create a Japanese style Queenslander home. 

Yo drew heavily from the classic Queenslander, with its raised up form and massive verandas to capture airflow. His biggest challenge was to try and reinvent that style with a Japanese twist.

Rising high above the street to capture the view and breezes from the nearby river, a skeleton steel frame creates support for two slender floors capped off with a more traditional Australian gable roof. The super simple layout of the first floor features little more than the main bedroom, and a small study area.

There is another small bedroom upstairs, but the floor is mostly dominated by the kitchen with only a small lounge area at the end. This is a Japanese inspired layout complete with origami ceiling and seamless transition from inside to out.

In essence the couple asked Yo Shimada to design their life, and he responded with a building that is every bit Steve and Jonny, both considered, and hugely adventurous.

The project only went 10 – 20% over budget, which isn’t bad for such an experimental home. In the end, the AU$1 million mash up between Japan and Australia turned out to be a true architectural hybrid.

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