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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ON DESIGN

Offi's Zumi Stool, Tadao Hoshino's dresser drawers, the 'Shadow Series' chairs, Muji's Wagon Set


Special to The Japan Times

With the cherry blossoms finally blooming and spring-cleaning in the air, it's a good time to think about updating your home's interior. And it isn't only a few university students who will be looking for new furnishings to go with the new digs that they move into at the start of Japan's school year in April (though, apparently, Tokyo-born graduates tend to hang around a while longer at their parents' homes to take advantage of the free food and rent).

This month we shine a spotlight on a few choice pieces of interior design -- what we in our style-wisdom perceive to be just right for your home. And if our natural instincts have led to a healthy amount of wood in our selections, we assure you that there was no tree-hugging involved -- it just comes down to just one thing: Wood is good.

Attack of the tripods

Offi's Zumi Stool

Looking like some sort of geometric puzzle or origami construct with its three interlocking pieces, Shuichiro Koizumi's Zumi Stool, created for Offi, is the sort of thing that serves a useful purpose -- a place to lay your posterior, silly -- while drawing attention to its attractiveness. Built from plywood, a material we are noticing more and more of these days, it feels light, and its smallish size makes it suitable for most rooms. As a bonus, an army of them together creates the illusion of having creature-like tripods on a rampage.

www.offi.com

Shape-shifter

Tadao Hoshino's dresser drawers

Tadao Hoshino turns something as mundane as dresser drawers into a human figure (or so he claims) with the Aphrodite. Named after the curves that his set of drawers created, Aphrodite doesn't really strike us as sexy, but the extreme shapes created by the simple act of accessing whatever lies within is a rather nice touch. The gravity-defying construct manages this feat by foregoing with a traditional frame, and instead mounts each individual drawer -- one drawer creates the "track" for the next on top. Of course, to take full advantage of its shape-shifting qualities you will need to leave it out in a wide-open space, which doesn't sound very realistic in the average Tokyo-style apartment -- loft owners, this one's for you.

Hoshino Tadao Atelier, (03) 3589-0778

Out of the shadows

The 'Shadow Series' chairs

Last year's Nextmaruni project, proposed by one of Japan's top furniture companies, the Hiroshima-based Maruni Wood Industries, brought together 12 name designers, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, to create a series of chairs. The idea was to come up with a collection that embraced Japanese aesthetics and comprised pieces that would stand the test of time. Out of this comes the "Shadow Series" version of the chairs, which is presented in the form of chic black alternatives to the collection's pieces. Choosing just one chair to highlight is far from an easy task -- but such is our mission, and one we take on with aplomb -- so we'd go with Masayuki Kurokawa's design (Kurokawa came up with the original idea for the project). The novel approach to have the seat area slightly out of scale with the chair's stark frame speaks to us: It's understated yet engaging work.

www.nextmaruni.com

Round up the wagons

Muji's Wagon Set

Muji is pretty much the first place to look when it comes to smart, affordable living solutions, and one of this season's new offerings certainly continues with this trend. Awkward naming aside, the Stainless Unit Shelf Tamo Wood Box Wagon Set is a very convenient way of dealing with movable storage.

Available in three configurations (cabinet, bookshelf and kitchen), the four-wheel setup offers flexibility in a cramped setting, and its mix of stainless steel framing with tamo wood components gives the piece a nice modern look.

www.muji.net

Two tickets to Milan, please

We're looking forward to hearing about the new products being unveiled at next week's Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan (April 5-10), one of the premier furniture exhibitions. And we'd love to see the presentation by Art Craft International head Koichiro Kimura of his Japanese lacquerware collection "Love & Destroy." It launches with a Disco International Champagne Night opening party (April 5), which promises a mix of punk, disco, champagne and "execution-themed furniture."



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