Maana homes is a modern luxury retreat in an elegantly renovated Japanese house, located in the tranquil neighborhood of Tambaguchi, Kyoto. The home itself is a hundred year old Japanese machiya, a traditional wooden townhouse refurbished and redesigned for today’s traveler. Equipped with both modern amenities and traditional luxuries, the space is a striking meditation on old and new. Maana means “sense,” and in its juxtaposition of contemporary and traditional elements, the home aims to inspire the mind and awaken the five senses, creating an unexpected experience through balance, harmony, and function. Curated Kyoto recently sat down with Maana founders and designers Hana Tsukamoto and Irene Chang to talk about the creation of the home and the inspiration for its unique approach to design.
The Maana Story
In 2016, Hana and Irene were lost in the Spanish city of Córdoba. Wandering, they came across a house – one of those preserved, museum-like homes that require admission, a residential Wunderkammern with nice things to look at inside. Enchanted by the home, the two women shared the same thought: I want to live here.
For certain types of travelers, author Natalia Ginzburg writes, the pleasure of traveling lies in the “pungent, dizzying sensation of imagining their life taking place somewhere other than its usual setting.” This uncanny mixture of contentment and inspiration – that I want to live here feeling – was something Hana and Irene wanted to introduce to the world of hospitality. They sought to develop a collection of boutique rentals that were not only unique, but “comfortable and cozy, like a home should feel.” Maana homes emerged out of this desire to offer a distinctive luxury travel experience that is both unexpected and familiar.
What they want for their guests, Hana shares, is that feeling she and Irene experienced when they stumbled upon that house in Córdoba. Today they have undoubtedly achieved their goal. Travelers who choose Maana for their stay in Kyoto acclaim the home as the absolute highlight of their trip, praising its impeccable design and peaceful location. One guest even commented, “For an entire day, we never left the house.”
The creation of Maana homes began when Irene and Hana came across a listing for a hundred year old Japanese machiya in the design magazine Dezeen. It was also here that they were introduced to their architect Shigenori Uoya. “We knew instantly that he had a deep understanding of volume and space, balancing modern aesthetics with traditional techniques,” they remark. Teaming up with Uoya, the two women sketched their aspirations into reality. They aimed to design a space equipped with modern functionality, but to also honor the home’s century old charm. Luckily, they found the perfect architect for the job: “Uoya sees a lot of beauty within the old and the way to incorporate the new without destroying the natural state. I think that is the hardest part about renovation. What to leave behind. If you compare our house to a lot of newly renovated machiyas done by others, you will definitely notice the differences.”
Indeed, part of what makes this luxury rental distinct is the way in which the natural beauty of the machiya was left intact. During the construction process, Hana and Irene made a conscious effort to avoid what they saw was the number one pitfall of similar renovation projects in Japan. Other architects, they discerned, gutted the homes and started from scratch, replacing the interiors with designs that felt both inevitable and overdone. The result was a kind of Muji-syndrome in which the primary authenticity of the home was completely lost. Without sacrificing modern comfort, they wanted their first home to elide this predictability.
“The overall process was quite organic. For example, when we tore down the laminate on the walls of the bedroom and the area for second floor toilet, we discovered this stunning texture behind and decided to just leave it as is.”
Attention to Detail
The home features some unique moments of traditional craftsmanship – a handcrafted bathtub made by artisans in Shigaraki, for example – as well as some cutting edge contemporary artwork. “As much as we love traditional craftsmanship in Kyoto, we wanted to bring in new talents and push boundaries,” Hana and Irene explain. “After all, Kyoto is full of skilled artists, young and old.” Currently on display in the home’s tokonoma is a piece the two women commissioned from local fabric-dye artist Nakajima Takeshi. Typically in Japanese homes a painting scroll occupies the tokonoma, but Hana and Irene wanted something more thought provoking. While the artist uses traditional textile dyeing methods (hikizome), his graphics mimic brushstrokes in their expressiveness.
The desire to create an inviting and inspirational space guided all their choices, from artwork to furniture. “We didn’t want to be limited by a particular style or theme, the focus was more on achieving balance and harmony to create a comfortable space, quiet and a bit unexpected. From the very beginning we wanted to embrace the local culture and tradition, but we also recognized that it is crucial to incorporate modern functionality,” they reveal today. During the renovation at least three months were spent scouring the local lumber shop for panels of wood for the living room table. Anticipating the needs of today’s guest, Irene and Hana settled on a seamless design large enough to serve as a general workspace. Today the home boasts a full kitchen, a Western style bed, Google Home, yoga mats, and a full range of other modern amenities.
Part of the comfort of Maana homes stems from the virtue of the surrounding neighborhood. The location in residential Tambaguchi neighborhood is a breath of fresh air, “far enough” away from tourist-heavy areas, but conveniently situated on the JR line, one stop from Kyoto Station, and a few stops away from both Nijo Castle and Arashiyama. (“Many tourists don’t realize how small Kyoto city is, so when I say ‘far enough,’ it’s only about a ten minute cab ride from the city center.”) Although the area is not regularly featured in Kyoto guidebooks, Irene and Hana point to some noteworthy qualities of the neighborhood. Right below Tambaguchi station is Japan’s oldest still-operating wholesale market. Nearby also is Shimabara (Western Pleasure Quarter), a lesser-known “geisha district,” similar to Kyoto’s more famous Gion. In Shimabara, “you can actually go inside Sumiya, a beautifully preserved ageya or geisha entertainment house, now opened as a museum. It is one of the last remaining examples of ageya in Japan!”
Finally, Tambaguchi boasts endless food options – “We have two Starbucks across the street from us, one of the highest rated ramen, udon, and seafood joints in Kyoto, Mos Burger, sushi, yakitori, and more.” Truly, Maana homes provides a tranquil getaway without ever sacrificing convenience.
Article contributed by Karen Jensen
You can book your stay at Maana here: http://www.maanahomes.com
Address: 33-6 Chudoji Kitacho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 600-8812