Designed with a distinguished oriental concept in mind, Japanese Refuge is an impressive home boasting a unique blend of simplistic architectural elements. Constructed to embrace purity in design, Neolith sintered stone was used across the property.

Nestled in the lush forested hills between José Maria Córdova International Airport and the vibrant city of Medellín, this luxurious residence, designed by Colombian interior design firm 5 Sólidos, is truly immersed in nature. The objective was to create a secluded residence which would truly offer solace, removed from the nearby bustle of the city and the homeowner’s hectic professional life. 


An oriental heritage

The property owner’s many visits to Japan, in which he fully immersed himself in the country’s unique culture, fostered a love for its distinctive architectural styles. He knew he wanted to bring some of this highly original aesthetic to the design of his personal retreat, where he could escape the intensity of everyday life. Following this specific request, 5 Sólidos embarked on extensive research into the materials and shapes that define this clean, minimal and austere vernacular. 

Working through a number of designs, the design team finally agreed that the residence would reference a traditional Japanese house, comprising two wings -- one private and one social -- connected by a hallway flanked by tranquil interior gardens. A specially made shoji panel elegantly divides the two areas. 


At one with nature

Knowing Japanese culture holds a strong sense of respect for the natural world, the use of wood throughout the build was essential to maintain this connection to nature. Yakisugi, an ancient technique involving the burning and subsequent varnishing of wood, was used for the facade, creating a striking contrast against the natural oak tones which dominate the interior. 

Building on the natural theme, Neolith was specified extensively throughout the Japanese Refuge. 100% natural and faithfully capturing the look of naturally occurring stone, these surfaces evoke a reverence for nature while embracing modern technique. 

A waterproof, stain-proof, scratch-proof and extremely durable material, it was ideal for application in the home’s bathrooms, kitchens and exterior environments without compromising on the project’s eco-friendly vision. Furthermore, Neolith’s carbon neutral status goes beyond the aesthetic to quietly echo the house’s respectful paean to nature.

Another key feature, helping to blur the gap between inside and out, is the gabled roof, where changes in height were cleverly incorporated to differentiate between the household’s social and private areas. This juxtaposition creates points of visual interest throughout the property, accentuated by strategically positioned skylights and dormers in the bathrooms and hallways, which allow shafts of daylight to pierce the space.


Sensory spaces of calm 

The private quarters consist of three en suite bedrooms. Here the spa-like bathrooms are a stand out feature, flooded with ample light. Neolith Nero was specified for the vanity tops, creating a distinct visual and textural contrast to the surrounding neutral wood. These rooms provide a tranquil setting in which to unwind and truly relax, offering views of the expansive, verdant, outdoor landscape through floor-to-ceiling windows.  

The dressing room presented a complex design challenge for the architects. The owner required storage for almost 700 pairs of shoes in this room, while remaining in-keeping with the overall aesthetic of this distinctly minimalist property. 


Social interaction

The biophilic theme carries through to the social wing, which comprises of the kitchen, dining room and living room. Similar to the rest of the property, these impressive spaces boast expansive windows that further bring the outside in. 

In particular, the kitchen embraces the Japandi aesthetic, fusing both Japanese and Scandinavian design elements to suggest an ultra-modern space that’s highly functional, yet simplistic in approach -- reiterating the nod to nature throughout the property. Neolith Beton, a surface inspired by poured concrete, was specified for the countertops and backsplash. Offsetting the dominant natural wood, it evokes a cool, gritty and urban flavor without the sizeable carbon footprint associated with many cementitious materials. Neolith’s ultra-hygienic properties also made it a natural choice for the surfaces in this busy convivial space, where cleanliness is key.


Take a walk on the wild side

Stepping into Japanese Refuge’s captivating gardens, via the main deck, immediately immerses the visitor in an area designed to heighten spiritual wellbeing and promote a real feeling of escapism. The purpose of this outdoor space was to reflect the four elements: land, water, air and fire. Neolith Beton was also specified for the external fireplace, creating an additional focal point in the garden and further enhancing the reference to the element of fire. The property’s adjoining deck leads onto a wet zone, featuring a semi-Olympic swimming pool and water mirror complete with a central path used for meditation. 

The lowest level of the deck features a relaxed, peaceful alfresco dining area and a fire room with a view of the adjacent forest. This expansive exterior space provides an element of sculptural beauty and creates a series of pure lines, further promoting a sense of boundless space.

Commenting on Neolith’s role in the project, 5 Sólidos head designers, Daniel Correa, María José Fernández and Elisa Otega, said, “The client always comes first. It’s central to the 5 Sólidos approach, so the brief is often highly specific. Fortunately, Neolith’s surfaces were able to help us embrace the concept underlying Japanese Refuge, surpassing expectations. Offering plenty of flexibility in design, through its ability to be cut to almost any size and a vast range of colors and formats, it helped to create a beautiful oasis and establish a tranquil secluded setting. 

“Neolith also delivers huge amounts of embodied value,” they went on to say. “Aside from possessing unrivaled hygienic qualities and durability, it’s a low carbon surface. This latter attribute sat perfectly with the home’s overall aesthetic, keeping the project aligned with our client’s overarching focus on sustainable design.”

The Neolith used in the project was provided by one of the brand’s newest divisions, Neolith Colombia, who worked closely with Cinco Sólidos to ensure material excellence at every stage of design and build. 

Japanese Refuge


Designer: 5 Sólidos, Colombia

Sintered Stone Manufacturer: Neolith, Colombia