Among the rural scenery of southern Ehime Prefecture is Atelier O-HUIS, a one-of-a-kind accommodation that is both an art space and a luxurious inn boasting premium comforts. Limited to one group of guests per day, Atelier O-HUIS offers a curated experience with 24-hour room service, Michelin-starred chefs, and a private hot spring spa, all the while beautifully preserving the artistic sense of its former sculptor resident, letting me experience the power of art in many different ways!
Refresh Yourself Amidst Invaluable Works of Art and Untouched Rural Scenery
Just a few seconds was all it took for me to understand why famous Dutch sculptor Kees Ouwens fell in love with this place so much that he decided to establish his atelier here, far from any big city, right in the heart of the Japanese countryside. The area surrounding “atelier O-HUIS” is a peaceful rural landscape of Uwa-machi, Seiyo Iyo City, Ehime Prefecture, in the northwestern area of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main islands of Japan.
Charmed by the panorama that Atelier O-HUIS’ former resident Kees Ouwens must have cherished and observed so many times while creating new art pieces, I let my eyes wander through freshly harvested fields caressed by warm sunshine, groves of Ehime’s famed mandarin oranges that some local farmer was hand picking, and the golden horizon of that sunny autumn day.
No wonder that this place of such genuine beauty, capable of putting the heart at ease and nurturing creativity, became the home to an artist for as long as 25 years. Born in the Netherlands, Kees Ouwensーwho was fascinated by traditional Japanese rock gardensーfirst came to Japan at the age of 23 to study landscape architecture.
This period of study had a great impact on Kees’ artistic vision, so much so that he moved permanently to Japan in 1994. After a fortuitous encounter with a landscaping company from Uwajima, he decided to live and work in Shikoku where he discovered the charms of the region.
Rest area with chairs and hammock
The sculptor established his atelier on a magnificent site of about 4,000 ㎡, crafting the entire space as a work of art. Overlooking the rural landscape, the garden is dotted with artworksーabstract stone and iron sculptures that add a sense of vigor to the sceneryーand even houses an adjoining pottery workshop specializing in Ehime’s exquisite Tobe ware, where guests can try their hand at pottery making under the guidance of a Tobe ware master.
The building’s white walls, stone walls, and large iron door are also art pieces made by Kees Ouwens. Complemented by nature-rich spaces like the rest area hidden in greeneryーideal for stargazing at night or just admiring the forest swaying in the gentle breezeーI felt like art and the rural landscape were beautifully harmonized throughout Atelier O-HUIS’ grounds.
Have a Blissful Time at This Luxurious Stay Limited to One Group of Guests Per Day
Main room – living room
In 2014, after moving to Mexico and building his new studio there, Keew Ouwens didn’t want his beloved Japanese atelier to be left unused and empty. So, he decided to turn it into a luxurious hideaway where guests could relax and enjoy the untouched nature of Uwa while feeling the power and beauty of art.
Since then, the atelier has been successfully renovated into a sumptuous accommodation facility of 200 ㎡ that only welcomes one group per day and has 24-hour room service. All the artworks now shine, as they are appreciated by the many guests visiting the inn.
Main room – kitchen
After stepping over the impressive, giant door made of iron, I was transported into the living room and kitchen which were adorned with wood and stone in warmer tones. These calming spaces were perfect to enjoy the welcome drink, which was matcha green tea prepared right in front of me.
An uninterrupted sense of balance runs through the space through an attentive arrangement of lighting and design that connect the environment inside and outside. I was most amazed by the kitchen window and stone flooring that seamlessly blend the interiors and the garden, framing the view with a curated bamboo grove and culminating into a 6-meter iron plate that perfectly matches the surrounding vegetation with its height.
Unique to Atelier O-HUIS also are the multitude of decorative details, many of which were left untouched from the time when the inn was purely an atelier, such as the iron ceiling or iron table legs in the main room. Some were especially made for the inn, such as original furniture or small wooden items like amenity boxes or tissue cases handmade by local artisans.
As I took my time slowly relaxing and exploring Atelier O-HUIS’ many wonders, I felt like I was touring an art gallery that was imbued with a familiarly gentle sense of comfort. Rich in sculptures, paintings, and ceramics, Atelier O-HUIS offered numerous opportunities to take a break from the external world and rejuvenate myself.
Teeming with stylish touches and pops of color, both spacious bedrooms welcomed me with their soothing atmosphere and suffused lighting. The nighttime had a marvelous surprise: the ceiling opened into a skylight, revealing glimpses of pristine starry sky! Another space I greatly enjoyed was the library in the attic. Hidden and cozy, it housed a collection of books that Keew Ouwens himself actually read to learn about Japanese culture.
Relaxation also came in the form of a sumptuous bathroom and open-air bath overlooking the forest and utilizing Ehime’s most famous hot spring water directly carried from Dogo Onsen. The view that you can admire from both stands out as a decorative element on its own.
Devoid of actual art pieces, in the bathroom and onsen, Uwa’s lush nature works as the central piece, similar to a giant painting where the relaxing panorama takes up the windows and surroundings and envelops your body, providing scenes of lush greenery during summer, accents of red “momiji” maple trees during autumn, as well as snowy landscapes in winter.
Relish Delectable Dishes Prepared by Local Michelin-Starred Chefs
Not only is the architecture one-of-a-kind, but also the cuisine as it is prepared by dedicated chefs from local Michelin-starred restaurants. Ingredients are attentively selected following micro-seasons of two weeks so that they are all as seasonal and fresh as possible, while the dishes focus on the original flavors and nourishing properties of the ingredients without adding extravagant touches.
The style of cuisine can be arranged upon request, but Japanese and French cuisine are some of the guests’ favorites. You can have delectable French dishes cooked on the spot or have sushi prepared before your eyes, and you can even relish different ones if you are staying for more than one night!
Enjoy Art and Luxury at Atelier O-HUIS
Located right in the heart of Japan’s charming countryside, Atelier O-HUIS offers any possible premium comfort you can imagine! From 24-hour room service to private chefs and even Ehime’s most luxurious hot spring water, the inn is sure to provide you with unforgettable moments to spend with family, friends, or loved ones all while refreshing yourself through the power of nature and art!