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Traditional Kyoto Rowhouses Re-Imagined Into Contemporary Design Suites

June, 2024
Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Master Bedroom | Photo: Ben Richards

Down an unassuming residential alleyway in east Kyoto near the famed Kiyomizu Temple, find Maana Kiyomizu, a boutique design stay that encapsulates the beauty of hidden Japan. 

Part of the Maana Homes group that sees a number of renovation traditional dwellings-turned-accommodation, the magic begins when stepping into a Maana Homes property. Maana Homes co-founders Hana Tsukamoto and Irene Chang have crafted their love of Japanese sensibility informed by their international backgrounds creating a new visual design language, where guests can expect to be transported away to a modern take on traditional Japanese architectural values and contemporary furnishings.

Transformed from a group of traditional nagaya townhouses, Maana Kiyomizu is situated within a short 10 minute drive from Kyoto Station, as a cluster of three individual suites. The property retains it’s timber structure and charming wood-clad inner roof, with each suite reflecting a design-led renovation helmed by Kyoto-based architect Shigenori Uoya. 

Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Master Bedroom | Photo: Joanna Kawecki
Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Master Bedroom | Photo: Monique Kawecki

Maana Kiyomizu’s Suite 2 is a two-storey townhouse that features a main bedroom and bathroom on the second floor, while the extensive ground level features a quiet reading nook, dining table and kitchen, second tatami-floored bedroom and the suite’s main bathroom and shower alongside a small inner garden. Uoya designed the bathroom with full-length glass panels facing the garden, allowing for a flood of natural light, creating a meditative respite for guests to enjoy in the custom-made shigaraki-yaki bathtub.

The subtle changes of light through out the day heighten the sensitive details inside the suite. Find renewed tsuchi-kabe straw and clay-clad walls in a warm earthen tone, wood-block stairs, washi paper-covered bedroom walls, and elegant paper lantern lighting alongside original structural columns and beams that still retain their original tsugite joinery markings. The second floor main bedroom was designed with a frame of takekomai bamboo laths, typically constructed inside clay walls yet here, architect Uoya has celebrated their beautiful lattice to create intimacy and transparency. Downstairs in the second bedroom, washi paper-covered walls crafted Kyoto-based artist Wataru Hatano brings an additional warmth alongside the room’s tatami flooring.

Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Bathroom with Shigaraki-yaki custom bathtub | Photo: Ben Richards

The architect noted his main focus for the suite’s designs was ‘to create depth by altering the position of the walls at the back of each Nagaya, taking advantage of the characteristics of the traditional axis construction method.’ Uoya crafted each space with sophistication with the modern traveller in mind, with small window openings on walls that allow for natural light to interconnect each space. Having renovated over 120 Kyo-machiya (Kyoto’s traditional townhouses), Uoya preserves historical structures yet re-envisions their design with new context. He adds, ‘I think it is important to create an independent spatiality rather than designing solely on the basis of easily understandable rationality.’

Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Reading Nook | Photo: Ben Richards
Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Reading Nook and Living Room | Photo: Ben Richards

Whilst Maana Kiyomizu reflects the nuances of Japanese design, expect modern amenities such as FRAMA x St Paul’s Apothecary Hand Wash and Hand Cream alongside stunning ceramic lighting and ceramic containers and coffee cups crafted by Shiga-based potter Gaku Nakane, drip-coffee bags from local micro-roaster Cité and contemporary Kvadrat textile-clad seating by Karimoku Case Study to a feature pendant light by Paris-based architect-product designer Elsa Foulon.

Guests don’t need to look far for a local bite or souvenir — located right next to the suites is POJ Studio, a retail store showcasing original design objects and wares by Japanese artisans; and cafe Kissa Kishin serving seasonal dishes perfect to start any day with. Maana Homes all-encompassing hospitality will also soon include additional programming as 6-day retreats that include indigo dye and food fermentation workshops to tea and dessert pairings, scheduled to begin from Autumn 2024.

Maana Kiyomizu, Suite 2, Tatami-floor Second Room | Photo: Joanna Kawecki

427-18, Myohoin Maekawacho,
Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0932

Text: Editor-in-Chief Joanna Kawecki
Images: As credited, Maana Homes & Champ Magazine©

For more unique Kyoto destinations, click here.

June, 2024