It’s big in Ja­pan

Let a new Bar­bican ex­hi­bi­tion in­spire the min­i­mal­ist look of the Far East at home, says

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Design -

JA­PANESE de­sign, as­so­ci­ated with serene, un­clut­tered space and min­i­mal­ism, comes un­der scru­tiny in a new ex­hi­bi­tion at the Bar­bican Cen­tre — The Ja­panese House: Ar­chi­tec­ture and Life af­ter 1945. It looks first at how Ja­pan’s architects re­sponded in­ven­tively when 4.2 mil­lion homes were de­stroyed in the Sec­ond World War.

“In Ja­pan, architects since the war have de­voted a big part of their ca­reers to de­sign­ing fam­ily homes be­cause they be­lieve in im­prov­ing fam­i­lies’ lives,” says cu­ra­tor Florence Os­tende. More than 200 ex­hibits in­clude mod­els, pho­tog­ra­phy, films and a tea­house that vis­i­tors can ex­plore. The cen­tre­piece is a full-size recre­ation of the Moriyama House in Tokyo, de­signed by Pritzker Prize-win­ning ar­chi­tect Ryue Nishizawa.

A tra­di­tion of flex­i­ble in­te­ri­ors means many Ja­panese homes to­day have no bed­rooms — fu­tons, along with low-level ta­bles for eat­ing, are stowed away af­ter use. With pa­per screens backed by grids of wood or bam­boo, and floors laid with tatami mats, Ja­panese in­te­ri­ors ap­pear all geo­met­ric or­der­li­ness. Yet, says Tom Hol­ber­ton of Lon­don de­sign stu­dio Soho&Co: “Th­ese neu­tral, open spa­ces also typ­i­cally fea­ture in­ter­nal slid­ing doors, al­low­ing peo­ple to di­vide up their homes how­ever they choose.”

Nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als are favoured — wood, pa­per, ce­ram­ics and stone — along with min­i­mal­ist forms and muted colours. But op­u­lence fea­tures, say, in the form of scar­let or black lac­quer­ware and metal­lic ac­cents. More play­ful than it may seem, Ja­panese style is adapt­able to in­set be­low, Cha ket­tle in stain­less steel, £115, by Naoto Fuka­sawa, for Alessi (alessi. com) to­day’s Western homes. Cre­ate flex­i­ble par­ti­tions by hang­ing tex­tile de­signer Margo Selby’s di­aphanous Luna fab­ric any­where in a room, from ceil­ing to floor. A more per­ma­nent al­ter­na­tive is Jeld-Wen’s pared-down in­ter­nal fold­ing wood doors.

Un­im­pos­ing, slen­der fur­ni­ture also con­veys the look, such as the wal­nut DC09 chair from Aram; Con­tent by Ter­ence Con­ran side ta­bles with bronze or gold tray tops from John Lewis, or Lionel Doyen’s San lowlevel so­fas. Mid- cen­tury de­signer Isamu Noguchi’s glass-topped cof­fee table and Hans Weg­ner’s Wish­bone chair with a red lac­quer fin­ish are at The Con­ran Shop. Un­der­stated bath­room ideas in­clude Pure Bath­room’s Lacrima bath­tub and John Lewis’s De­sign Project towel rack. Noguchi’s Fifties Akari floor lights are at the Bar­bican Cen­tre Art Gallery Shop, as are ce­ramic and wood bowls from Lon­don’s Ja­pan Cen­tre. Mo­mosan Shop in Hack­ney sells Ja­panese pot­ter Yuta Se­gawa’s del­i­cate vases. Sleeker are Naoto Fuka­sawa’s stain­less steel Nomu jug and Cha ket­tle for Alessi. Fi­nally, echo­ing the Ja­panese ideal of unit­ing in­doors with out­doors is Palo­form’s Bento gar­den fire pit in Corten steel.

Clean lines in the bath­room: Lacrima bath­tub, £2,525 from Pure Bath­room Col­lec­tion, (pure bath­room col­lec­tion.co.uk)

Built in 1951: Tokyo house of Czech ar­chi­tect An­tonín Ray­mond, who in­flu­enced mod­ern Ja­panese homes

£309: set of three Con­tent by Ter­ence Con­ran side ta­bles ( john­lewis.com)

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