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From Camping Enthusiasts to Homebuilders: Home Designed for Family Togetherness and Outdoor Living

Hello. I am a librarian and a working mom with elementary school-aged daughters. Our family is four, and our pet cat, Mink, also lives here.

Our family loves camping. We started camping when our eldest was about one year old and even did long-term camping in winter. We were such camping enthusiasts. While camping with the two kids, we loved being close to nature, and it made us think, “If we lived in a house with a yard, it would feel like this… Shall we build our house?” That’s how we started to consider it.

Once we decided to build a house, everything from land purchase to design and construction went smoothly. The place we live now is a detached house site that I’ve been contemplating while working at a nearby library. I had always thought that if I ever built a house, I would want to build it there, and that dream has now become a reality. Now, let’s start the story of our home.

1. Exterior

Even though we had a short time living in a house, we’ve gotten so used to a home with a yard that I wonder if we could ever go back to living in an apartment.

It’s been about six months since we started living in this house. We moved in the middle of summer, so we’ve experienced summer, fall, and winter. The yard changes every season, which is fascinating, and now I’m looking forward to seeing it covered in snow.

From the moment we decided to build a house and started looking for land to the first meeting with the director who undertook our house design, the excitement during the design period, the emotion felt when we first started digging, and the memories of living in a one-room with the kids while watching the house being built every day are still fresh in my mind.

Now let’s go inside the house.

2. Foyer

You see a shoe rack and a living room when you enter the foyer. We bought the shoe rack from IKEA and assembled it ourselves. It was initially a wardrobe, but some people used it as a shoe rack, so we went there, configured the interior, and then purchased it. It was hard to assemble, but we could configure it to suit our needs. It was cost-effective, and despite its small size, it has excellent storage capacity, so we’re satisfied.

We wanted to match the sliding door to the overall natural atmosphere of the house, so we finished by attaching the same wooden floor as the floor, and for the glass, we used frosted glass to retain a vintage feeling.

3. Inner of Living Room

When you enter the house, you first see the living room. We have two living rooms. One is this small inner living room, and the other is an outer living room connected to the yard.

Firstly, this inner living room is where we can sit on the window seat or armchair, look at the yard, drink tea, read books, and relax.

We hung a fabric calendar to cover the toad’s house. Clever, right? ^^

We decorated the tree next to the window overlooking the yard to create an end-of-year atmosphere.

4. Bathroom

Across from the inner living room is the first-floor bathroom. As you can see in the photo, the sink is separated from the toilet, which is helpful for quick hand washing, and we alternate between the first and second-floor bathrooms when we all need to use the bathrooms at once.

I hung a curtain under the sink and built shelves for storage. The door next to it is a bathroom, and it’s small, so there is just a tiny toilet and a shower, all of which don’t take up much space.

Our kitchen is across from the bathroom, with a bookshelf in between. From the beginning of the house design, we wanted the overall atmosphere to be white & natural. So we did all the wallpaper in white, and most of the furniture was made of wood. We wanted it to feel warm and cozy when you enter the house.

We chose a wooden floor for the floor and also made the stairs, bookshelves, etc., in an oak tone to unify the atmosphere.

I’ve always wanted to decorate the kitchen with products from IKEA before building the house, and I received planning and installation services to install the wooden top I wanted boldly. Although it’s a wooden top with parts to be careful about, I’m using it well without any problems and satisfied. It also fits well with the atmosphere of our house.

And unlike in an apartment, I wanted a clean kitchen without an upper cabinet. There’s no upper cabinet, but the compact storage capacity of the lower cabinet means all kitchen items fit in, so there’s no problem with storage. Being able to design the kitchen as you want seems to be an immense charm of IKEA.

The bookshelves in front of the dining table separate the living room from the kitchen, but most bookshelves are left empty to create a sense of openness and always to be able to see the kids playing and interacting with them.

We wanted the kitchen to face the yard when we designed it.

I can see my kids playing in the yard.

I wouldn’t say I liked cooking and washing dishes while staring at walls.

I put a rocking chair in front of the sink to sip coffee or tea and watch the yard, and it became my cat’s favorite spot.

5. Family rooms and hideaways

In our first meeting for the design, the director asked us to tell a story about a house we wanted, and we told him all kinds of things. And when he finished listening, his first words were, “This is a place good to play,” and that’s how we named the house “Noh-ol Zip.”

He created many spaces throughout the house where we can sit and talk to each other, the first of which is a family room that connects the living room to the second floor. It has a staircase, so it feels like a stage or a small theater, and we play piano and guitar there, sit on the stairs, read books, and play board games together.

We also use the white walls to connect beams to watch TV or movies. I think hosting an excellent family concert here someday would be great.

6. Hideaway

This is a hideaway in the staircase wall next to the piano. I put dolls and related props on the bookshelves for my daughters, who love to play with dolls. There is a laptop on a low desk where they can do homework or surf online, which makes this small space useful.

7. Turn the stairs into a mini library

Here are the stairs leading to the second floor.

The ceiling height reaches nearly 8m (around 26 feet) from the floor, creating a void space. Thanks to this, the house seems larger than it actually is due to the openness. The high ceiling also amplifies sound, making listening to music from the first floor enjoyable as it softly spreads to the second floor. It’s also convenient to communicate with the kids without going upstairs.

When designing the stairs, I told the director I wanted it to serve as a play area and a mini library. So, we placed a bookshelf at the end of the stairs and left ample space in front where one could sit, lean, or even lie down to read a book.

We wanted to create an atmosphere where one can get close to books throughout the house, and we are trying to keep books within reach.

8. Hallway on the Second Floor

This is the hallway that you see when you go up the stairs. If the first floor is active, the second floor is designed as a relaxing space for the family. The second floor consists of a children’s room, a master bedroom/dressing room, and a room for bath and laundry. The room on the left in the photo is the daughters’ room, and the one straight ahead is the master bedroom.

9. Daughters’ Room

This is the daughters’ room going up to the second floor. In the initial design, we planned to divide the small space into two rooms to make separate rooms for each child.

But upon reflection, we realized that they are sisters, still young, and find it difficult to sleep alone, and they share everything at this age. So, we decided to make one large room to create fun memories of studying together and sleeping in the same bunk bed. If they want to live separately in the future, we will turn the attic into a room for one of them.

The room has a long desk, bookshelf, bunk bed, wardrobe, and storage cabinet. Everything except the storage cabinet was custom-made by the construction company.

10. Master Bedroom

Next to the daughters’ room is the master bedroom. We only have a bed and a bedside table in the master bedroom to keep it a comfortable sleeping space. We are using two mattresses without a bed head that we brought when we moved in, which is space-efficient and neat, and we are happy with it.

We also installed a ceiling fan in the center of the ceiling, which allowed us to sleep very coolly without needing an air conditioner, even in midsummer. The dressing room is connected next to the bed and is separated by a door.

We have pendant and stand lights on both sides of the bed that we turn on for a soft glow.

11. A Room for Bath and Laundry on the Second Floor

You’ll see the laundry room and sink as you exit the bedroom. It’s a small space, so the laundry room isn’t separate and in an open area, which is disappointing. However, considering the space efficiency and movement route, it’s the most appropriate, so we’re satisfied.

We installed a top bowl and separated it from the inside, and we only installed a toilet and shower booth in the second-floor bathroom. Initially, we thought we should have a bathtub here, but it was impossible due to the small space. In retrospect, we hardly used the bathtub, even when we lived in an apartment, so it seemed an excellent choice to give up on it boldly.

There’s no separate storage in the bathroom, so we’re using a shoe cabinet bought at IKEA as a storage cabinet across from the sink. It doesn’t take up much space and has more storage capacity than we thought.

12. Attic

Next up is the attic.

We don’t have a TV in the living room, but we do have a TV in the attic, so we go up there when there’s a show we really want to watch or when we watch a movie on the weekend. We have a bed and a big table to eat chicken or snacks while watching movies. It also doubles as a guest room when guests are here, making it an integral part of our home.

13. Outer Living room

Back down to the ground floor is the outer living room, which is open to the kitchen and yard. We love camping, which is why we built the house. When I was designing it, I said I wanted to feel like I was camping through all season, not minding the weather. It’s an ambitious space by which we sacrificed one space of room.

The floor is epoxy, which the contractor recommended, and it’s really easy to maintain because it leads to the outside, so you have to wear shoes.

It gives us the freedom to move around freely and easily while enjoying the yard, and with a small window between the kitchen and the outside living room, we don’t feel stuffy, and it’s convenient to carry utensils and food through the window when eating in the outer living room.

We put only the essential furniture, such as a sofa, table, and chairs, and use it to relax while listening to music/radio. We also go here when we have guests or want to eat while playing in the yard. It’s comfortable to have a barbecue in the yard and eat inside, and it’s connected to the kitchen, so it’s easy to get in and out of the house.

Most guests visiting my house spend more time here than inside the home. When the door is closed, it’s a self-contained space where we can sometimes play loud music and stay up late at night without disturbing the rest of the family members in the house, and sometimes we install a projector here to watch TV or a movie.

This space is great when the weather is nice, of course, but when it’s raining and you’re listening to the rain and spending time together as a family, you can’t help but think, “This is happiness. This is so good.” Even in the middle of winter, you can just turn on the stove, and it’s warm enough to live without a coat. I can’t wait to see the snow here.

14. Yard

And finally, our yard. During construction, many people expressed their sentiment that the yard was too big compared to the house, saying, “Why not make the house bigger instead of the yard…”

But since we decided to build our home, the yard was the most exciting and important part of the process. We moved into our house in July, and in the short time we’ve been here, we’ve already had many memories of our yard. We’ve spent our entire summer vacation here, had our kids’ birthday parties, pitched tents in the yard, planted a small vegetable garden, and enjoyed harvesting cabbages, cucumbers, chives, and more. We also love to build fires, so we have a stack of firewood.

The yard is, and always will be, essential for our family to come together.

We set the deck in an “L” shape in the yard, sometimes putting the table outside or inside. We set it according to the circumstances.

As much as we love camping, I wanted a place in my yard to sit around and build a fire.

We put string lights between the decks. Before it got freezing, we used to place a table in front of it and have tea and meals.

A view of the yard connected to the outer living area.

We had a daughter’s birthday party in the yard.

Posting photos and talking about each room of our home has been a great way to rethink our house, and I hope that it will continue to be a place where our family can play, have fun, and create many happy memories for each other in the future, too.

I think it’s time to wrap up. I think any home is a place that empowers everyone to live fully, and the space of a home can make a big or small difference in an individual’s or family’s life. Since we moved to a detached house, our life patterns have changed, and we can do so many things together as a family.

Home comes in all shapes and sizes, but we hope everyone’s home is where they can find strength and comfort. Thank you for listening to our “Noh-ol Zip story” so far. With 2019 approaching, we wish you all the best for the rest of the year and hope you have a warm and happy holiday season and New Year. Thank you.

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