It’s big in Japan
Let a new Barbican exhibition inspire the minimalist look of the Far East at home, says
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)