A Platform for Living
A collaboration with Dwell.com
Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi’s weekend retreat, two and a half hours northwest of Tokyo, is “an arresting concept,” photographer Dean Kaufman says, who documented the singular refuge in the Chichibu mountain range. “It’s finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.”
“It’s finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.”
Designed by Shin Ohori of General Design, the structure—Setsumasa bristles at the word “house,” since his desire was for something that “was not a residence”—and its wooded surroundings serve as a testing ground for the Kobayashis, who design outdoor clothing and gear (as well as many other products) for their company, …….Research. The shelter is constructed from locally harvested larch wood and removable fiberplastic walls and is crowned with two yellow dome tents used as year-round bedrooms.
"His desire was for something that 'was not a residence.' "
Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi / Photo by Dean Kaufman
Still, this is no primitive lean-to. There’s electricity, hot water, and a kitchen—not to mention iPads, Internet, and a clawfoot tub. By day, the couple trims trees and chops firewood. At night, they sit around a campfire and eat Japanese curry, listen to Phish, and balance their laptops on their knees. This is what a modern back-to-the-land effort looks like.
One North Face tent sits atop a deck; another caps the main building, which contains a kitchen and dining area.
The long, lean Kobayashi complex includes a bathroom and storage room in the structure on the far right.
Setsumasa and Hideaki toss on the rain fly. The solar panel in the foreground supplies daytime electricity.
A stockpile of wood sheltered from the elements.
Setsumasa's desire was for something that “was not a residence”
Scenes from a weekend in the woods feature many .......Research products, including camping cookware and striped wool blankets.
Translucent fiberglass panel walls form a permeable, fiber-reinforced plastic membrane between indoors and out.
Mami and Ishii Hideaki (a friend and .......Research employee) prepare lunch in the cozy main building. The room is rustic and utilitarian, with a double-decker wood-burning stove, tons of open storage, and a sink fashioned from galvanized buckets. But there’s an underlying high-design ethos: The wire baskets are handmade classics from Korbo, a Swedish company, and what looks like a paper-wrapped box in front of the stove is actually a leather cushion by Japanese artist Nakano.
Food is served in traditional camping cookware.
A view of the surrounding tree canopy.
Inside one of the Kobayashis' North Face tents.
The couple stockpiles wood under the deck.
The rooftop tent can be accessed from the interior via a wooden ladder or—for the more athletic—via a series of wall-mounted climbing holds, made by Vock and carved from persimmon-tinted hardwood.
A view of the mountains from the village of Kawakami, en route to the Kobayashis’ property. △