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Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006
Pore's Babel, Sunnin's Tokyo Dresser, Magnet Tack, Hiroyuki Kato's Root, braille lighting . . .
By JEAN SNOW
Special to The Japan Times
No sane person would probably ever consider trying to soak in nearly as much design goodness as I do in order to bring to light the cream of the crop for you. Being the brave soul that I am, though, earlier this month I enthusiastically and recklessly charged head first into Tokyo Design Week to see what I could find. As TDW's 100% Design Tokyo trade show was the place to find the products most likely to be seen in stores in 2007, I chose it as the source of my picks for next year's most promising new Japanese designs.
If you're like me, your desk is fast becoming unusable due to the stack of electronic gadgets scattered across it getting their batteries juiced. Right on cue, in comes designer Takafumi Nemoto, under the brand name Pore, with an elegant solution: Babel. Babel is an attractive, low table with a bottom light and a hole in the center so you can plug your gadgets' cords into the six plugs hidden underneath the cover. Think of it as a stylish power strip that doubles as a night stand. Ingenious!
A Tokyo dresser
Taking its cue from the traditional dressers of old, Sunnin's Tokyo Dresser is just what I love to see -- something compact that doesn't suffer from dullness in order to save space. The swivel form, which looks like a cascading array of drawers when opened, is a nice change from your typical set of drawers, and when's the last time being lazy and not tidying up actually improved the looks of a room? As it's made of oak, it doesn't come cheap -- from 190 yen 000 -- but for those who don't balk at such prices, expect a piece that will truly embellish any room it occupies.
From high end we go all the way to the very low end, with a product so simple yet useful that it's hard to imagine why no one thought of it before. Made by 100%, a company that says its mission is to provide designs that give you goose bumps, the Magnet Tack is exactly what the name implies -- a tack with magnetic properties. 100%'s booth provided ample evidence of its power: Stuck into the wall, anything metallic could be "hung on" the tack, from keys to paper clips, which made the objects appear as if they were floating in mid-air. With the amount of desk accessories I have laying around, I could certainly use a box or more.
The root of convenience
Attractive wooden pieces were seen throughout 100% Design, with standouts coming from manufacturer Teori, under their Laminated Bamboo Lumber Project. The company had plenty of beautiful pieces on show, from clocks to vases to lights, with some prototypes that I truly hope make it to retail. My favorite item though was Hiroyuki Kato's Root, a low table with a nonsymmetrical shape that actually adds functionality -- the slanted side, looking like the root symbol it was named after, can be used to store books and magazines.
The braille patterns used by designers Yuki Tanaka and Maki Nakahara on their Lighting of Communication Tool probably won't be recognizable to most people. Taken for their aesthetic value alone, though, they look fantastic and may give you the urge to learn the written language of the blind. The braille spells out words such as "Good job!" and "Good luck!" as the designers' desire was to express warm sentiments in a way that got around what they perceive as typical "Japanese shyness." Swivel the light to change messages, and feel the "warmth" of that sentiment.
Who says building blocks are only for children? Two wonderful sets from Ismi Design Office -- one called Structure, the other Cube -- are stunning light arrays. Infinitely configurable, the pieces can be moved around to create your own illuminated landscape. Seeing delightful, miniature LED light castles come to life before your very eyes really is fun, and it's the sort of thing that although not functional in the traditional sense, will easily become a talking piece in your home. Not only are they sure to draw guests' attention, they'll probably also want to make their own new, glowing constructions.