Illustrator Hiroki Tsuboi visits Sumitomo Group
Sumitomo Realty & Development’s remodeling service for condominiums

Sumitomo Realty & Development offers Shinchiku Sokkurisan, a full remodeling service package for detached houses. Skeleton Renovation is the company’s equivalent service package for condominiums.

Shinchiku Sokkurisan
  • Sumitomo Realty & Development’s remodeling service for condominiums
*The “skeleton” of a condominium
A tatami room and a carpeted room are skeletonized and remodeled as a single spacious room.
*Before & After

For many people, buying a home is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I bought a home in Tokyo.

There is no place I can call my hometown as my family moved frequently when I was a child because of the nature of my father’s work. So, I want to live in our family home for a long time for the sake of my children. Even after they grow up and live away from the home in which they spent their formative years, I want them to still think of it as their home and to visit every now and then (also with their children in the fullness of time) . . . That’s why the theme of home resonates with me and I was so keen to report on this topic.

Sumitomo Realty & Development launched Shinchiku Sokkurisan in 1996 for remodeling of detached houses. Utilizing the original barebones structures, such as pillars, this service package covers complete remodeling of everything else. The result is virtually a new house. At that time, this approach was unique to Sumitomo Realty & Development in the house remodeling industry. Since Shinchiku Sokkurisan costs no more than 50% of a complete rebuild and is offered at a fixed price, it was well received in the market. Skeleton Renovation, the company’s equivalent service package for condominiums, was launched in 2000.

Mr. Osamu Usami of the Shinchiku-Sokkurisan Business Division explained to me what the service involves: “In general, remodeling refers to partial remodeling, such as replacement of a bathroom, toilets, and other facilities and wallpaper replacement. But our Skeleton Renovation involves a comprehensive refurbishment of everything from the room layout and the locations of the kitchen, the bathroom, toilets, etc. to plumbing and electrical wiring, after removing everything from the exclusively owned area of a condominium, such as walls between rooms, floors, and ceilings, to reveal the ‘skeleton’ of the condominium.”

What’s behind the wall?
Tucked in the corner of a large room is a semi-private space transformed from what used to be a built-in closet. A popular concept.

Tailor your residence to your lifestyle

The hallmark of Skeleton Renovation is attention to detail, such as changing the height of the electric outlets and switches according to the user’s height, changing the position of the dishwasher for ease of use for a left-handed person, and replacing deteriorated old drainage pipes. The sales engineers (SEs) identify customers’ needs through meticulous interviews and help them create their ideal homes.

Mr. Usami showed me a condominium in its skeletal condition at a worksite. All the concrete walls are revealed! Although each condominium is only a part of a building, I wondered if it was OK to strip everything out like this . . . He told me that most condominium buildings have a rigid-frame structure supported by columns and beams and even if walls of the exclusively owned areas are removed, there is no impact on the structural integrity. In an empty space framed by exposed concrete walls, I had no idea where the living room, bedrooms, bathroom, etc. used to be.

According to Mr. Usami, the great majority of customers are people in their 50s or older living in condominiums built 20 to 30 years ago. Once their children become independent, it seems that couples would like to change the layout of the homes to suit themselves. “In the case of a newly built condominium, people tailor their lifestyles to their existing residence. But Skeleton Renovation helps customers tailor their residences to their lifestyles,” says Mr. Usami.

I was shown around several remodeled condominiums. In one of them, I saw a breathtakingly spacious living room. A couple living alone had got rid of their children’s rooms to greatly expand the living room. There is such a sense of space. To one side is an open plan kitchen with marble countertops. The kitchen, which used to be squeezed up against the wall, has come into its own. In this way, it is possible to change the locations of facilities that use water. The bathroom and the adjacent space with a washbasin, mirror, and so on are also roomy and stylish, reminiscent of a boutique hotel.

To ensure safety and quality, an inspector meticulously checks everything in accordance with the company’s unique construction procedure specifications.

Airy, glass-walled bathrooms (above) and adventure playgrounds for pets (leftbelow) are in high demand.

To realize the ideal home, it is essential to carefully consider the layout and specifications right at the beginning. For example, even if you wish to radically change the locations of the kitchen and the bathroom, it may be difficult to do so because of the relationship with the plumbing in the common area of the condominium building. “I tell our staff to interview the customers to identify all their requests at first,” says Mr. Usami. Based on the knowhow they have acquired through over 10,000 cases of remodeling, the company will try to reflect the customers’ requests to the maximum extent possible. Sumitomo Realty & Development calls the staff dealing with customers “sales engineers (SEs)” and a dedicated SE is appointed to take care of each customer from the first consultation through to delivery. Since remodeling companies typically have different personnel in charge of each process, trouble is likely to occur: for example, the customer’s requests are not communicated to the people in charge of the actual construction or the outcome differs from what was discussed and agreed. Sumitomo Realty & Development has put a system in place that prevents such trouble. Based on its accumulated knowhow, the company has created unique construction procedure specifications. Inspectors meticulously check more than 100 items against the specifications to confirm whether the construction has been done properly.

Another characteristic is the fixed price. Typically, in the remodeling industry, an estimate is made by multiplying the number of units by the unit price, and then adding everything up, but people tend to find this confusing. If an unexpected situation occurs, which is not unusual in remodeling projects, additional change may be incurred. In contrast, the price for Skeleton Renovation is essentially the sum of the standard construction fee and the prices of the household appliances selected by the customer. The pricing is transparent. Once determined, there is no additional charge. Indeed, the pricing system is a practical expression of the company’s customer-first principle. A residence is a place where you and your family may spend decades. If I wanted to remodel my residence, I would like to ask reliable people like Mr. Usami and his colleagues!

Sumitomo Realty & Development-style storage

Many Skeleton Renovation customers want to streamline storage. Spacious shoe closet
Adorable walkthrough closet
Confined space?  No worries! Storage space behind the mirror Every scrap of space put to good use Out-of-sight laundry
It’s like the ninja house I longed for as a child! Storage space inside the raised floor too!

Editor’s note

Excited at the prospect of the upcoming theme of Skeleton Innovation, Mr. Tsuboi and the production staff were full of bright ideas.
“I heard you can change the entire layout to create something truly extraordinary.”
“Really? Like a glass-walled bathroom and a courtyard with trees and flowers at the heart of your condo?”
“No way! Such a layout would be impossible!”
How far could you go with this concept? Our imaginations took wing! We were so excited we couldn’t wait for the interviews.

As Mr. Tsuboi explains in his piece, Sumitomo Realty & Development has an impressive track record amounting to over 10,000 remodeled condos. The company has indeed received requests for such striking features as glass-walled bathrooms. Apparently, depending on the design constraints, many of these novel customer preferences can be accommodated. Viewing mockups of remodeling condos, we were amazed by the numerous ingenious touches, notably the extraordinarily efficient use of space.

Transforming part of a room into a kid’s den by converting a closet into a bed.
Cupboard-style Buddhist altars like this one have become popular in recent years.
A tremendous choice of doors and flooring.
“So many different types of doors!” exclaims Mr. Tsuboi!

Number (Manga Reportage "Visits to Sumitomo Group")