House Envy: Look inside Yo Shin So, a $1.7-million Zen oasis

Visit the Japanese countryside without setting foot outside the Perimeter
4010 Beechwood
Courtesy of V Team Realty

Complete with four koi ponds, two teahouses, a sculpture garden, and a meditation room, a house named Yo Shin So (“a sunny place in the woods”) is the most authentic slice of the Japanese countryside you will find this side of the Prime Meridian—and it’s only 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta.

Architect Kenneth Nishimoto designed the five-bedroom, four-bathroom Zen oasis to serve as the home of an executive from Coca-Cola Japan in 1975. When Louisiana-born Sarah Garvin and her husband bought the home in 1998, they focused on preserving Yo Shin So’s traditional Japanese aesthetic. During the couple’s renovations, craftsmen from Kyoto stayed at the house for six months, hand-carving every cabinet.

“It was definitely an act of love from Sarah [the current owner] and her now-deceased husband,” says listing agent Lisa Vayle of V Team Realty. “All of the cypress used for the woven ceilings, decks, cabinets, and beams was taken from the Flint River and milled on site. There is an entire sculpture garden with about a quarter of an acre of amazing pieces. One is made of bamboo in the shape of a globe and is 20 feet tall. You can’t make this house up. It’s a piece of art.”

The traditional elements are obvious even before entering the 3,504-square-foot residence. Bonsai trees, Eastern-inspired sculptures, and trickling fountains welcome guests in the front yard. The house’s hip-and-gable roof (irimoya) evolved from the shape of old Japanese farmhouse roofs and was updated in 1993 by Japanese master craftsman Toshihiro Sahara.

Inside the entrance hall (genkan), visitors are met by a three-ton Stone Mountain boulder that acts as the kutsu nugi ishi (“taking off shoes stone”) as well as traditional woven rice-straw mats (tatami). These mats, also featured in the master bedroom, are three- by six-feet and serve as a basis of measurement in Japanese homes. Like many traditional Japanese dwellings, the living room features a tokonoma—an area where fresh displays of art and flowers reflect the changing of seasons—with a bamboo tokobashira pillar. The warm wooden flooring in the living room, kitchen/family room, library, and part of the master bedroom is made from walnut-stained white oak specially milled in North Georgia for this home. The vaulted ceilings are divided into modules by beams and redwood posts.

Floor-to-ceiling windows and wooden decks (engawa) create a strong link with nature, even when inside. Outside, the 2.2-acre grounds are home to 100,000 gallons of koi ponds (larger than an Olympic-sized swimming pool) and a stunning enclosed garden (nakaniwa) designed by seventh-generation Japanese gardener Eijiro Nunakawa. Connected to the house by bridges and walkways, two teahouses feature a wine cellar and home theater.

This world of serenity at 4010 Beechwood Drive in the Mt. Paran/Northside neighborhood is currently on the market for $1,695,000. Contact Lisa Vayle at 678-283-7001 or for more information.