Publicity August 2014

Heart in the home business

Architect firm offers authentic, high-quality British designs

If the saying is true that love is needed to make a house into a home, then Cotsworld Ltd. Managing Director Koichi Obi is in the right business.

Obi’s fondness for the UK is reflected in every aspect of the British-style architectural firm, from the sourcing trips to local areas in search of authentic materials to the extensive research and training undergone to deliver the final traditional touches on their products.

His connection to Britain began with a chance meeting of a man selling stone from the Cotswolds area, in south-central England. On seeing his brochure and samples, Obi was so taken by the quality of the construction materials that he resigned from his job and started setting up his own firm. Naturally, he knew where to begin.

“After I arrived at Heathrow, I took a train straight to the Cotswolds”, he told BCCJ ACUMEN. “There I saw the honey-coloured houses spread out before me and I was really impressed”.

It was on this visit that Obi decided to expand his plans to use not only brick and stone, but also other British materials. Over the space of two years, the designer went back and forth, visiting quarries, joiners and craftsmen to encourage them to export their raw materials to Japan.

Research, too, was crucial, and he spent hours in bookshops reading an immeasurable number of books on elements of style—from Tudor to modern—architectural details and interiors. He subsequently passed on this information to his firm’s staff and tradesmen.

“I studied because, if you don’t know about Western-style architecture, you cannot build an authentic house. Style is extremely important to British people, and I thought, ‘I want to become like that’”, he said.

It is thanks to this passion that Cotsworld is now celebrating its 15th anniversary. Delivering tailor-made homes based on photos, very particular requests, and even experiences in the UK, has resulted in delighted customers who often invite him to see the finished interiors.

“Our customers say their homes are wonderful”, he said. “The best feedback I ever heard was from one customer whom I built a house for, in a Cotswold style. When he went to the Cotswolds, he said his house was the real thing. He was so pleased and that made me really happy”.

Cotsworld staff monitor the construction phase in person on a weekly basis. Because of this, the firm’s projects focus on the Kanto area, but Obi insists there are no limitations on the UK-design aspect.

“I have been to the UK more than 25 times”, Obi said. “It means that when customers ask if I know of a place, there is a high chance that I have personally been there. If the building you want to base your design on is anywhere in the UK, we can build it”.

Although traditional British materials are used, the interior structure is built using the international standard two-by-four method, which was originally imported from the US. It has been authorised by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and offers resistance against earthquakes.

A central air system provides a comfortable living environment, and interior designs include kitchens and bathrooms. The firm even provides referrals to specialists for traditional gardens. Obi said although customers are keen for everything to be authentic, some people make exceptions.

“Only about 30% of customers want a British-style bathroom, while the rest want a Japanese-style wet room; others really care about the toilet, choosing washlet types over conventional ones”.

Although it is not always easy to find the necessary materials, Obi told BCCJ ACUMEN that he loves his work, which inevitably spills over into his social life.

He recently addressed 60 people at a seminar where he showed over 200 photos and described the design features of the Georgian and Victorian periods. He also appeared as an expert guest on an NHK talk show about castles featured in the popular UK drama Downton Abbey.