Reimagining the Box House


Project: Box House
Address: 22-3 Kitanomine, Furano, Hokkaido
Original Construction: 2003
Construction Company: Karumai
Renovation: 2023
Renovation Company: Kikuta & Co
Design: Ken McBride

The Name

Box House Front DoorHow do you name a house? We sat on the front porch going through Japanese names, Swiss chalet names, and Telluride residence names, when the answer was staring us in the face – the square windows on the front door, the concrete slab in front, and the shape of the house all in one geometric pattern.  

From that name, we had our design focus –  boxes and squares.

The Concept

We travel to Hokkaido to experience Hokkaido. When Sydney, Hong Kong, or Toronto all have similar colors, foods, and coffee shops, we travel to experience what is different and to be mindful of the unique parts of our destination.  

furano fields bieiWith the Box House, we feel we created something unique to this area.  Not the bright whites and large windows of Niseko, nor the sturdy concrete of Sapporo, but the colors and sights of Furano: the farms, the fields and flowers, the mountain ranges and ever changing colors of the sky.  We also wanted to showcase the local craftsmen we have become friends with. The areas around Asahikawa and Higashikawa have woodshops creating quality furniture with local materials.  We hope as you visit Hokkaido you also will experience what is special about Hokkaido.

Please enjoy what took us over two years to curate. 

Ground Floor

The Bench
Wood Bench

Entrances are first impressions.  

With the concrete wall and dark carpeting, we wanted a strong piece of wood to provide balance while serving as a place to sit and transition from the outside to the inside.  We also knew the wood had to reach the entire 4-meter length of the hallway. Over a 6-month search with a lumber company in Ashibetsu, we located a 5-meter elm that was found buried in a bog in far eastern Hokkaido and sold via auction in Asahikawa. The bog had compressed the elm, providing a harder wood to work with.  Kinosozai in Ashibetsu cut and dried the wood over another 4-month period before he spoon carved the top surface for texture and then finished it off with linseed oil.   The legs are steel.

Relief Maps

Furano Relief MapsThe two relief maps over the bench provide a visual introduction to the area. Furano sits 100km inland, about as far inland as any place in Japan, and is bordered by the Daisetsuzan National Park.  The high elevation of the Furano basin creates a cooler continental climate that delivers our famous Bonchi Powder.  

Warming Room

The warming room was originally an elevator, and we think much more useful as a warming room for your outdoor clothes

TV Room

Snoopy WallpaperThe one room with limited natural light, we wanted a bright and cheery space with the sky blue patterned carpet tiles and ceiling box sunlight. We removed the closets and built a travel friendly luggage space with an open clothes hanging unit. This wallpaper in this space provides just a splash of cuteness when you spot the characters hiding in the pattern. 

The Hokkaido Mountain Series on the wall is by designer Joe Scott in Sapporo and highlights three of the most popular peaks in Hokkaido.  Joe can be found on Instagram @joekkkaido

1st Floor

Tatami Room

Tatami in Furano ColorsOur best sleeping experiences in Japan have been on tatami mats so we knew we needed a tatami bedroom. The tatami was made locally in Furano by Oshio Tatami Shop and was designed to mimic the patchwork fields of Furano and the blue sky.  The futons are hand-made in Sapporo with heavy weight cotton.  The green grass colored wall is actually an erasable chalkboard if and when we allow chalk. The raised sitting area uses a recycled shrine post from an abandoned house in Nakafurano and the square ceiling lighting is Japanese shoji paper. The luggage and clothes hanging space is an autumn themed falling leaves wallpaper.  

  Master Bedroom

Summer WallpaperThe luggage space wallpaper is summer themed with deep midnight blues covered with gold tinged leaves.  The box stool is from Blocco in Ishikari and the side table is from Early Times in Higashikawa.  Side note on how extreme we took the box theme – the curtain hangers are also square shaped. 

The photos are from photographer Yuto Hirasawa in Biei. He runs photo tours and can be found on Instagram @yu_to_h

2nd Bedroom

Spring WallpaperThis is the smallest room but has an outside terrace so we kept the wallpaper light and used the same hue for the curtains so the terrace door disappears into the space when the curtains are closed.  The luggage unit wallpaper is spring themed with large blooming flowers. 

Photos are from Tomi Akira who runs bicycle and snowshoe tours in Biei.  Tomi can be found on Instagram @bieiguide_tomi


Raindrop WallpaperThe hallway sink has an infinity mirror with the facing bathroom mirror. The wallpaper around the sink is a falling rain pattern.   During winter, we take the liberty to call it the falling snow pattern. The most challenging part of this project was the flower patterned bathroom tile.  The designer sketched out the patterns, measured, altered, sketched in a labor of love before giving the blueprint to the tile master.


The one design decision that gave us heart palpitations was the staircase wallpaper.  Covering such a large area, this wallpaper would be awesome or a failure.   We balanced the blue and gray colors in the house with a rich earthy brown patterned with a golden Japanese flower motif.  Our verdict is awesomeness.

2nd Floor


Couch MiyataThe couch is a custom-made “box” couch from Miyata in Asahikawa.  Each section is square with fabric selected to tie in with the blue in the kitchen cupboards and dark grey of the carpet.  

The pillows are from Blocco in Ishikari. 

Dining Table

The dining table and bench is a 3-meter long table designed and built by Slope in Biei. The top is maple while the legs are walnut.  Because of the length of the table, it had to be lifted up through the back deck and assembled on site. The round dining table Edison lights are from Tokyo Lighting and were selected to match the patterns in the staircase wall paper. 

Box Stools

Box StoolsThe boxes/tables/stools are designed and constructed by Suzuki-san in Kami-Furano.  They are designed to be stacked and moved around and function as a stool, small table, or whatever you want it to be.    


The toy blocks are scrap pieces from the chairs from Early Times in Higashikawa.  Experiment – we’ve seen the box stools combined with the blocks combined with the books combined with the Go pieces to create some towering monuments. Adults, try and out create the children please. 

Reading Room Hanko Style

Originally, this was an office. We raised the floor and converted it to a reading room with tatami.  This tatami was also made by Oshio Tatami Shop in Furano. To encourage reading and relaxation, we colored the floor, walls, and ceiling in neutral grays. Then for a bit of fun, we added the red shade on the window as a Hanko, or the red stamp that are used as signatures on Japanese and Chinese documents.  The lamp is a shoji paper motion lamp that rotates from the heat of the incandescent bulb. The books are an eclectic pick from a variety of books shops in the area and the local library.

Letter Box Cabinet

From Usami in Obihiro, this is our information storage cabinet with maps, postcards, and tourist brochures.  Help yourself.  

Sonos Wall Speakers

Ikea Sonos SpeakersSpeakers are Sonos compatible IKEA Symfonisk Picture Frames with speaker covers from  The images  the Christmas Tree in Biei, one image from the winter, and the other from the summer.  Both pictures are from Ren Tsukahara.  He can be found on Instagram @ren_pgsh 

Flower Arrangement

This piece is a large burl from a local tree with the bark removed.  A local high school student, Moo-San, decorated the burl with a variety of dried flowers.  A one-of-a-kind local labor of love. 


The Sunflowers by Ren Tsukahara are printed on birch wood and was selected to complement the yellows in the kitchen. 


Hokkaido has great furniture makers.  Visit these shops in person, or if an introduction is needed, please let us know.