A FINE BLEND

A fu­sion of Ja­panese and Scandi style is a mar­riage of minds

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - By Neale Whi­taker Neale Whi­taker is co-host of Fox­tel’s Love It Or List It Aus­tralia on Lifestyle, and a judge on Nine Net­work’s The Block.

I’m not re­ally sure about the term “Ja­pandi”. It sounds a lit­tle clumsy and not re­ally evoca­tive of the so­phis­ti­cated aes­thetic it de­scribes. But as a newly minted ad­jec­tive for a fu­sion of Scan­di­na­vian and Ja­panese in­flu­ences, it’s a word we’re go­ing to be hear­ing a lot more. And to be hon­est, “Ja­pan­di­na­vian” is a bit of a mouth­ful.

Re­mem­ber scratch-’n’-sniff? Well, in this col­umn I’m in­tro­duc­ing lis­ten-’n’-read. Check out Nor­we­gian DJ Kygo’s 2015 track ‘Here For You’. This is how Ja­pandi would sound. Tight melody, trea­cle-rich vo­cals and the clever beat we as­so­ciate with Scan­di­navia, over­laid with what I can only de­scribe as elec­tronic cherry blos­som. You can al­most hear the geisha’s shamisen. But how per­fectly it all blends. And in the con­text of de­sign, it’s in­trigu­ing how two seem­ingly dif­fer­ent aes­thet­ics com­bine to cre­ate some­thing dy­namic, mod­ern and just so… right. Aus­tralian de­signer Tom Skee­han agrees. His Can­berra-based stu­dio (skee­han.com.au) has cre­ated Hoshi, a fur­ni­ture range ex­clu­sive to Style­crafthome (style­craft home.com.au). “I ad­mire the prac­ti­cal and re­fined Scan­di­na­vian ap­proach,” he ex­plains, “but com­ple­ment­ing it with the crafts­man­ship found in the Ja­panese tra­di­tion. Both cul­tures cher­ish ma­te­ri­als and func­tion­al­ity… build­ing fur­ni­ture to last a life­time.”

A cou­ple of years ago, I vis­ited Ja­pan to ex­plore the tra­di­tion of crafts­man­ship – known as takumi – that tran­scends tra­di­tional stan­dards of qual­ity. It’s bound up with per­sonal pride, with push­ing one­self to the lim­its in search of per­fec­tion. In a so­ci­ety like ours that is learn­ing to value au­then­tic­ity over the fake and mass-pro­duced, it’s not dif­fi­cult to find par­al­lels in cul­tures that prize longevity and in­tegrity.

And Ja­pandi is a style they have long ap­pre­ci­ated across the Ditch. Auck­land­based Si­mon James de­signs for both his epony­mous de­sign stu­dio (si­mon james­de­sign.com) and fur­ni­ture brand Res­i­dent (res­i­dent.co.nz), both dis­trib­uted in Aus­tralia by Dis­trict (dis­trict.com.au). Like Skee­han, James be­lieves Scan­di­na­vian and Ja­panese de­sign “both share com­mon val­ues around min­i­mal­ism, sim­plic­ity and clean lines – but ex­e­cute this with dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. There are as­pects of both tra­di­tions that work well to­gether to bring warmth to an in­te­rior.” Some­times it’s dif­fi­cult to make sense of it all, but I guess I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in why a trend is a trend. In Aus­tralia, our love of pared-back sim­plic­ity has driven a long-stand­ing love af­fair with all things Scandi, Dan­ish de­sign in par­tic­u­lar. But a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the ar­ti­san – the in­di­vid­ual – ex­plains the Ja­panese twist. It’s a mar­riage of minds. Kon­nichiwa? Hej.

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