Minimal Remodelled

The rise of Japanese Design

January 2020
4 minute read
San Francisco carpet in light grey and black by Woodnotes
There’s a design movement turning minimal on it’s head.

Step aside cold and clinical.
This is about understated and quietly beautiful.

Spaces that are warm and welcoming.
Perfectly balanced interiors with exquisite attention to detail.
High quality traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design.

It’s centuries old principles are elevating traditional minimal to a new higher level.

What is it?
Japanese Design

I could rave about Japanese design for weeks, but don't worry, I won't!
To showcase the movement, I’ll share the 5 brands that do it best.

They lead the way.
Bringing you the design classics of the future.


subtle, understated beauty

Quiet, green mountains and trickling streams.
The home of Maruni in South West Japan.

Specialising in solid wood furniture, this company are the epitome of quality.
(no veneers here!)

They combine the finest traditional Japanese woodworking with the creativity of top international designers.

The result?

Some of the best contemporary furniture you’ll find.

Hiroshima low armchair in black by Maruni
Hiroshima Low Armchair

My top pick is their Hiroshima armchair.

Exquisitely hand crafted, it’s the ideal combination of utility and beauty.
With flowing elegant curves and no hard edges, you just want to stroke it.

Shown here in Beech with a matte black stain.
There’s no thick paint or sticky varnish, just a silky smooth satin finish.

It comes in a variety of natural woods and stains, and an upholstered version.
Who’d have thought minimal would give you so much choice?!

Maruni embodies shibui - a balance of simple and complex.
Subtle details are discovered over time so you never tire of the object and it’s value grows - the sign of a future classic.


light simplicity

These guys push the boundaries.
They’re the authority on minimal and architectural lighting.

Every product fuses the Vibia philosophy with an international designer’s creative vision.

Their Tempo pendant light’s a perfect example of the influence of Japanese aesthetics.

Tempo pendant light in black by Vibia
Tempo Pendant

The designers took inspiration from traditional lighting like Japanese lanterns - wound bamboo covered in paper or silk.
Then they reduced them to an essential abstract silhouette.

Three shapes emerged - the disc, the diamond and the milk glass oval.

Suspended by a delicate black structure, the opaque blown glass diffuser emits a soft glow. Bringing a calming ambience to your room.

In two sizes, a wall version and four colours, Tempo’s the perfect subtle showpiece. Your only problem? Which to choose.


refolding the screen

What could be more distinctly Japanese than a folding screen?
Through the centuries, byōbu were used as a decorative way to create intimate spaces.

See how these have been translated into a furniture series by Ethnicraft.

Stairs cupboard by Ethnicraft
Stairs Cupboard

The Stairs cupboard is the ‘Lanvin’ of storage - elegant, sophisticated and structured. Made from blackened oak, it perches on slim metal stilts with a delicate lightness.

Ethinicrafts technical woodworking advances allow complex construction.
The Stairs cupboard uses perfectly aligned angles that create beautiful shadows across the surface.
Giving depth to what would otherwise be a flat black expanse.

This Belgian brand emphasises outstanding craftsmanship, simplicity and innovation.

As their name suggests, they’re environmentally aware. Not a scrap of wood goes to waste. Even the sawdust is used to fire the ovens that dry the timber!


paper underfoot

When you think of Japanese floors, you think Tatami mats.

Sleek, woven and perfect when you want a graphic, minimal effect.
No wooly rugs here!

Woodnotes create a stunning contemporary range.
This Finnish company have pioneered the use of paper yarn. Yes, yarn made from paper!
Manufactured from wood it’s strong, recyclable and biodegradable.

From kitchen to bedroom, their mats elevate any room. They even make an outdoor version. Now your terrace can look as fabulous as your living room. Essential for evening soirées.

San Francisco carpet in tan, stone and black by Woodnotes
San Francisco Carpet

San Francisco’s my favourite.

Shown here in tan, stone and black it comes in 10 colour combinations, all reversible with a choice of sewn or fringed edge.
Made to order in any size up to 10m, for even the largest room.

Tatami mat - originally a luxury item for nobility, tatami are woven from soft rush straw with a padded rice straw core. The size depends on the region but is always in a 2x1 proportion.


boulder and slate

This Finnish company live and breathe everything that’s great about Japanese design. Their furniture is minimal, perfectly proportioned, and beautifully made from solid wood using the finest Finnish craftsmanship. Even their name sounds Japanese!

They challenged 12 top designers to interpret the Nikari philosophy and create a piece of furniture for each month of the year.
The result - the ’12 Designs for Nature’ series.

Shown here is April - a low side table.

April oak side table by Nikari
April Side Table

The natural world is revered in Japan and they place great importance on preserving features like wood grain.
April is made from solid oak with a delicate oil finish. This enhances the inherent beauty of this hardwood.

It reminds me of slate balanced on a granite boulder, in a Japanese garden. Placed off-centre it reflects the principle of Fukinsei - balance and harmony through asymmetry.

There’s a coffee table in ash, and an occasional table in birch.

And for your green credentials, a proportion of their profit is donated to WWF Finland to protect the rainforest.

Minimalism is no longer about stark concrete and metal.

Japanese design has introduced warmth through its connection to nature and use of wood. Its emphasis on craftsmanship and traditional techniques has brought a human touch to modern designs.

Now your interior can be minimal and sophisticated, but also warm and welcoming.

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