A 75-Year-Old Japanese House Was Transformed Into a Zen Weekend Hideaway | Architectural Digest

For Giselle and Philippe, much of the home’s allure lay in its patina. It was, after all, built by American postwar photojournalist Horace Bristol (who had worked on John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and was a photographer for Life, Time, and National Geographic in the 1950s), and had quite a history. “It was a challenge to keep as much of the past while equipping it with the modern comforts that are more suited to our current lifestyle,” Philippe reflects. “The house is also situated in a protected location in an area overseen by the local temple. We worked very closely with them to ensure that we were meeting all regulations.” The couple kept as much as they could from the original shell, including the wood beams, ceiling, and shoji screens. What they couldn’t salvage, like the original wood floors or the wood-burning stove, they replaced using the same materials to preserve the integrity of the original house.

“The kitchen is where Philippe spends most of his time because he loves to cook,” Giselle says, adding that it used to be much smaller, sharing space with the old bathroom. “We redid the layout to remove the bathroom and make it bigger. It’s positioned at the heart of the home with side doors that lead to the garden, where we have lunch on sunny days.”

One thing the house lacked, the couple admits, was sunlight. And so, together with Motosuke, they planned for a seamless indoor-outdoor layout that would embrace the surrounding landscape. “One of the things Mandai-san did was put floor-to-ceiling windows in the traditional ranma (wall panels), creating the illusion of a floating roof and inviting in natural light.”