“When we were looking for this apartment, we had just returned from living in London. All the properties we were looking at felt small and cramped compared to what we were used to, especially in terms of ceiling height. So we really wanted something that felt open and spacious, even if it was small”.
Our first episode of NTS Renters takes us to a coastal area just south of Tokyo home to Hige and Watsahi, more famously known as YouTubers, HIGE and ME or (HIGE TO WATASHI in Japanese). Hige and Watashi are a married Japanese couple currently living in Tokyo, Japan who share their daily life in Japan and the places and products they like.
They were attracted to the space by a number of features they thought to be unique, and that they knew they would be able to add their own touches and style to. Triangular, high ceilings created a feeling of openness and the larger-than-usual kitchen was enticing as was the generous storage. The bright accents found on the red stairs and in the yellow kitchen piqued Watashi’s interest in unusual, curious spaces and were offset by the stark, concrete walls. Most importantly, it was a template for a space they knew they could make their own.
Despite being renowned for their style (their YouTube channel is testament to that), the couple declare they don’t chase a particular look,
“I think our style reflects the things we love, our space feels like an Atelier, an artist’s or designer’s studio or workroom.
We both love travelling and collecting interesting items and artworks on our travels. We also love going to vintage markets and coming back with interesting objects that tell a story.
I would say our style is a well-curated mix of interesting personal items collected during our time overseas, art and objects, carefully made DIY furniture and of course many books and plants”.
The plants are of particular significance to the couple, bringing natural elements into the home, and creating a living thriving interior is a vital component of why this rental feels so peaceful and so calm.
Hige says, “when I came back to Japan, I was surprised at the number of plants I hadn’t seen in London. Staghorn ferns were also the reason I got hooked on plants, and I just love them.I really want more, but even if I buy it all at once, it’s difficult to take care of it, so I’d like to increase the variety little by little. I consider plants an essential item. “
The plants aren’t only useful for their calming effect though. In Japan, renters are not allowed to change the structure, or even paint a home, so these were used to partially offset the brightness of the red stairs creating a contrasting, eye-catching feature!
This clever approach to limitations should be an inspiration to renters everywhere with a deeper exploration of the home highlighting the many clever, often subtle approaches taken by the couple.
Many, many shoes have a home at the entrance, a common theme in Japan, where the built-in storage unit allows for vertical stacking of the couple’s footwear. Upon entering, the high ceiling (a rarity in uber-dense Tokyo) creates an immediate sense of space, amplifying the airflow and natural light.
The living room is plant-filled and creates a calming effect, the reclaimed apple boxes are shelves filled with trinkets and treasures, many of them with origins long ago lost to the owners.
The living area has been arranged in an L-shape, deliberately, so that the renters may feel like they are surrounded by books, creating a cosy, library-like atmosphere.
They are easy to move around, so it’s quite easy for Hige and Watsahi to rearrange the space, an important factor given Japan’s strict rental laws (no alterations are allowed to be made to the existing structure).
Hige and Watashi have found ways to adapt to these rules though, still making the space feel like their own with curtains of their own construction hung from metal clips, and a wooden stick applied to the concrete wall creating a space from which to hang objects.
Bean bags take up less space than a sofa and were the furniture of choice for relaxing in the living area. Purchased from Muji, the original bags have been replaced with cotton and dyed in coffee by Watashi to create an organic, homely feel.
A TV, rarely used, is covered in the same dyed material.
The kitchen, large for Tokyo, has been deliberately separated from the dining area, this has been achieved with the creation of a flat pack, veneer and painted kitchen counter.
Separated deliberately, because the dining room is where the couple spends the majority of their time, the dining room table was selected due to being upcycled timber and its ability to double as workbench.
“We both mainly work from home, so our dining table has also become our work desk.
The dining table is from Kanademono, a furniture design store in Tokyo that we love. It is one of the few items we purchased instead of making ourselves. They stopped making this particular product but the top is made from upcycled wood. We love the idea of upcycling things and also the look it creates. Our office chair is from Itoki, we love it because it doesn’t look like an office chair but is ergonomic so helps our remote work a lot.”
The bedroom contains a double bed with storage underneath, the couple, avid campers, keep most of their camping equipment here.
The corridor leading to the bathroom has also been utilised to contain plenty of storage and a washing machine and rack. The bathroom, so often the way in Japanese homes, comes with a bathtub. A good soak is always a priority. The bathroom is small but has in its own way become a gallery for the couple’s love of design. “We like products with nice packaging, so we leave those out on display. Good design makes us happy and satisfied.”
Next to the toilet, the couple made a small shelf with a piece of wooden board, using this to place small objects on the wall to make the space more interesting. The display box is actually a drawer that was found at a vintage market and is perfect for all the small objects they just can’t stop buying.
“In a rental is it important to know your priorities to determine the kind of flat you want to live in
We always consider height when considering furniture or objects because it makes the best use of space
There are many ways to make your space unique to yourself – enjoy the process, be creative, stick to what you like”