In Japan, there is a phrase which describes the beauty of the simple, natural, imperfect; ‘Wabi Sabi’. It recognises the delight in organic and hand-crafted forms, which are seldom regular, organised and perfect. It is an appreciation of the subtle details, such as the textured grain on charred timber or the maker’s mark on a pot.

Charred Timber Temples

Until the New Print art movement in Japan, any architectural images were of the grand temples. Ornate in design and decoration, they are impressive structures which drew the attention of artists and art buyers.

Many of these temples, including Hōryū-ji in the Kansai region, were constructed from local timber that was preserved using the Yakisugi charring process. This particular temple is the world’s oldest wooden building, with research identifying that the timbers were felled in 594AD. At around 1300 years old, it is testament to the longevity of charred timber buildings.

This temple includes many features which are recognised as part of Japanese architecture. There is a tiered pagoda, grand gates to enter the grounds and a tiled, gabled roof decorated with carved ‘chigi’ and ‘katsuogi’ logs. There is no doubt that they are stunningly beautiful architecture, but they were far from the simplistic beauty of Wabi Sabi.

Even on these grand temples, the craftmanship is left on display. The joinery was not covered up, so the construction methods can be viewed and appreciated. This left quite an impression on European architects, especially in the Art & Crafts Movement, where Japan influenced design.

Koto Cabin with Shou Sugi Ban® Charred Timber Cladding next to river

The Elegant Beauty of Humble Simplicity

Whilst temples are impressive, most of the Japanese population lived in far more humble accommodation. In the early 20th Century, one of the prominent artists of the ‘Shin-hanga’ (New Prints) art movement, Kawase Hasui, was influenced by a different type of architecture. He focused on charred timber buildings of a different kind.

He saw beauty in ordinary buildings, which were located off the beaten track. His prints focus on simple geometric forms and he showcases function over decorative detailing. There are no impressive rooflines, yet the charred timber buildings still prove a worthy subject matter. These building epitomised the Wabi Sabi concept.

Charred Timber Home Offices

Wabi Sabi was also an inspiration for Koto Cabins. The team worked in collaboration with the New Art Centre to design and create modern workspaces. The brief was to produce a range of ultimate home office; functional buildings with an artistic aesthetic.

The first design is a geometric form, with an expansive glazed window on one side. This can be positioned to optimise the natural light and views from the home office. This wall of light promotes an appreciation of changes in the light, seasonal shifts or simply a bird flying by.

The buildings are constructed using charred timbers. Perfectly fitting the brief, charred timber cladding is both functional and artistic. There is a delight in the natural grain and the strong, contemporary appearance. There is the hand-crafted element of the charring process and assembly. Finally, preserving the timbers in this traditional and practical way promotes longevity.

Although British designers, the Koto team were inspired by the simplicity and connection to nature that is a focus of Scandinavian and Japanese design. Their cabins are renowned for being energy neutral, elegant and desirable. If the reality of working from home has got you hunting for the ultimate home office, check out the Koto Cabin options. There are a range of architect designs in differing dimensions and to suit various budgets

Plants in front of charred cladding on cabin

Charred Timber Cladding Supplier

Exterior Solutions are delighted to be the charred timber cladding supplier for Koto Cabins. Our Shou Sugi Ban® range is the quality product that meets the exacting requirement of this design team.

If charred timbers could provide the perfect finishing touch for your architecture project, you can view the Shou Sugi Ban® brochure on our website. Call our team on 01494 711800 for further information, a quote and samples.