Kyoto Nijo Castle Machiya Project – Part 4


Follow our journey as we renovate a traditional machiya townhouse in Kyoto. Once complete, the renovated machiya will be offered for sale.


While in the planning stage we need to select finishes, products and colors. In Tokyo it is easy to have access to all of the suppliers’ showrooms and there is a wealth of options to choose from. The Shinjuku business area on the west side of Shinjuku Station is home to a large number of interior show rooms. Shinjuku Park Tower has the Living Design Center Ozone ( which has many brands and makers spread over multiple floors. Another good location is the Tokyo Design Center ( near Gotanda Station.

Once everything is settled on, we can sign the construction agreement with the contractor and get started on the work. Until then, we have some design choices to make.

Tokyo Design Center


The current flooring is mostly tatami mats upstairs and downstairs, with some old wooden floorboards in the verandahs and kitchen. Since the entire interior is being gutted, we need to install all new flooring upstairs and down. We are going with domestic hardwood ash flooring in the living room and upstairs bedroom. There are quite a few solid wood flooring suppliers in Japan with a huge range of both domestic and imported materials.

After ordering several samples of both Japanese ash and oak, both from Hokkaido, we decided to go with the ash flooring. It is a little lighter in color and the grain is less noticeable than the oak. It’s also very hard. The type of wood we chose is suitable for use with floor heating – some flooring isn’t, so it is something to be aware of.

With many of the solid woods you can choose the grade, stain, width, length and thickness. The wider the floorboard, the higher the cost.


One of the upstairs rooms will be tatami. With tatami mats, you can choose the shape, tightness of the weave, color and border trim. Tatami mats differ in size depending on the region, with those in Kyoto being the largest in Japan. Since the kyo-machiya homes are designed for Kyoto-sized tatami, a 6-mat room in Kyoto will be about 17% bigger than one in Tokyo.

Although tatami rooms are becoming less and less common in homes and apartments, rooms sizes on floor plans are still indicated by the number of tatami mats instead of square meters or square feet.


It’s costing more, but the walls will be painted instead of wallpapered. You may not find it as an option when looking at rental homes, but if you are doing up your own home in Japan, you can ask to have the walls painted or plastered instead of wallpapered. Wallpaper is cheaper and quicker to install, which means you see it in most homes and apartments in Japan. 


The exterior of the house is currently a light grey mortar with some vintage orange tiles. We plan to paint the exterior in a charcoal grey or almost black color, with dark brown wood features. There are quite a few examples of machiya in this style around the city. Some have be done using mortar that has been colored with charcoal, giving more dimension to the dark color. Concrete can also be colored with charcoal.

Exterior inspiration


  • Most showrooms do not require appointments unless you want the sales staff to provide planning assistance and to guide you around.
  • Flooring and wallpaper samples can be ordered online cheaply and easily.
  • It’s not an issue with a house but if you want to install hardwood flooring in an apartment building you may need to comply with sound-proofing rules under the building’s bylaws to reduce noise to the apartment below. Some older buildings have an outright ban on hardwood flooring, requiring apartment owners to use carpeting only.

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