This Colombian project, with a peaceful reflecting pool, draws its design from Japanese architecture.

 japanese refuge self build with outdoor reflecting swimming pool - grand designs

Image: Mateo Soto, courtesy of Neolith

As the owner has made many trips to Japan over the years and immersed himself in Japanese culture, it was a no-brainer for this luxurious build located near the city of Medellín, Colombia, to embrace Japanese architecture too.

With this architectural style and the home’s location in secluded, forested hills, the resulting home is a retreat for its owner – an escape from the city and his hectic work life there.

A Japanese Refuge

 japanese refuge self build with outdoor reflecting swimming pool - grand designs

Image: Mateo Soto, courtesy of Neolith

Working with Colombian design firm 5 Sólidos, a brief for the Japanese Refuge was created. However, this home was not to be a pastiche of Japanese architecture - and the designers researched extensively into the materials and shapes that form the minimal design vernacular synonymous with Japan.

After working through a series of designs, the final concept was based on a traditional Japanese house. The property is made of two wings – one made up of private spaces, the other social spaces, connected by a hallway with interior gardens and separated by a traditional Shoji screen.

The gabled roofs sit at different heights to differentiate the two spaces, and include skylights to bring light into the hallway and bathroom spaces.

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Natural connection

japanese refuge self build - timber kitchen - grand designs

Image: Mateo Soto, courtesy of Neolith

The materials used by 5 Sólidos also authentically honour the Japanese design aesthetic. Wood is used throughout the home, including he exterior cladding, which was created using a Japanese wood burning technique called Yakisugi.

To embrace the look of naturally-occurring stone, but also capturing the sleeker and more severe aesthetic of Japanese architecture, Neolith sintered stone was used extensively throughout the home’s bathrooms, kitchens and even outdoor areas - created a durable space that remains eco-friendly.

Read more: Look inside this charred timber self-build in Wiltshire

The reflecting pool 

japanese refuge self build - outdoor reflecting swimming pool - grand designs

Image: Mateo Soto, courtesy of Neolith

The outdoor area is possibly the most impressive space of the entire property, not only for its peaceful tranquility, but also in how its features have been handled to create such an effortless design.

The semi-Olympic size swimming pool, for example, could dominate this plot, but as a reflecting pool with a meditation platform, it’s a sculptural creation which forms the crux of the home’s outside space. Decking also provides space for outdoor entertaining and relaxation, which can continue into the night thanks to a fireplace also created from Neolith sintered stone. 

Calm spaces

japanese refuge self build - neolith stone bathroom - grand designs

Image: Mateo Soto, courtesy of Neolith

Inside the private wing of the home, there are three ensuite bedrooms - each with spa-inspired wet rooms with plenty of natural light and views out onto the forest. Neolith Nero was used on the vanity units. 

In the social wing, the kitchen, dining room and living room all maintain this indoors-outdoors connection, with the natural landscape helping to create the secluded atmosphere the owner so desperately craved. 


For more of the latest architectural self builds from around the world, read Grand Designs magazine digitally for free now by registering your details

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