529: Trend spotting
Trina O'Hara takes us on a tour of international furniture fairs to find
the top Japanese designers at work today.
521: Child's play
Trina O'Hara checks out the design celebrities hatching playful furniture
and accessories for kids.
517: Personal Effects
In celebration of the centennial of his birth, Trina O'Hara looks at the
life and enduring legacy of Japanese-American designer Isamu Noguchi.
513: Seeing the light
Trina O'Hara ponders the latest interior design trend and finds the answer
505: Lights of fancy
Trina O'Hara checks out the contemporary chandeliers and whimsical lighting
sculptures fast becoming fine art across the city.
501: Natural causes
493: Living rooms
Inspired by the diverse lifestyles of this teeming metropolis, design experts
Kyoko Asakura and Jaume J. Nasple-Baulenas have compiled an intriguing look
inside the city's private homes. Tama Miyake Lung talks to the authors of Tokyo
489: Living in the past
Art editor John McGee reveals three Tokyo stores that specialize in finding
the best of what's old in Japanese antiques.
485: Monochrome marvels
Black and white are back in fashion and making their mark in the interior
design scene. Martin Webb reports on how to get the look for less.
481: Cut and paste
Scrapbooking has swept America, where it's big business, and now it's catching
on in Japan. Chris Betros attends a "cropalong."
477: Moss cause
A sprinkling of moss can transform any windowsill into a miniature Zen temple.
Hanna Kite offers some tips for bringing a little tranquility home.
469: Ikebana for idiots
With a plethora of rules and schools, Ikebana can be intimidating, not to
mention time-consuming. But who says busy people have to miss out on this ancient
art form? Georgia Jacobs gives you the basics on no-fuss flower-arrangement.
466: A dyeing breed
Winning fans from New York to Tokyo, designer Akiyoshi Yaezawa is putting
a traditional stamp on modern accessories using a 17th-century hand-dyeing and
painting process. Krista Wilson reports.
457: Party of five
Matt Wilce lays out five luscious looks for New Year.
449: Thought out
Designers create spaces but they also like to inhabit them. SuperDeluxe offers
a place to drink and think for the design communityand of course their
445: Design on Tokyo
A trio of interior design events is on its way to bring style into our Tokyo
439: Setting pretty
Matt Wilce lays the table with styles for summer.
435: Tropical haven
Asian furnishings are finding their way to flats across the city
431: Wed white and blue
Treasures of traditional Japanese design, blue and white are the perfect foil
for Tokyo's sweltering summers
427: Have a ball
Who says you need tickets to catch a piece of World Cup action?
423: Collection point
Nishi-Ogikubo's 65 pre-loved furniture stores make up Tokyo's great antique
419: Flower power
Bring your gloomy flat back to life with seasonal flowers.
415: On the mend
Tokyo's fix-it men can have your furniture back in form
411: Phone home
Panasonic unveils the e-lifestyle of the near future
407: Launch Pad
Sputnik Pad lands in Jingumae
Ideé is one of Tokyos most established interiors stores
The days of sitting on the tatami floor are over
Tokyo's embraces ultra-modern design
Put feng shui to work at work
The ancient Chinese art of feng shui
From ants to artichokes and spiders to swans, nature is an
inspiring force for interior designers. Trina O'Hara
digs into biomorphism.
Newcomers to Tokyo often struggle to maintain a connection
to nature. They leave behind a garden brimming with flowers
and insects, only to replace it with vases of fake flowers
from the ¥100 store. But there's a better solution
to the barren living-room landscape.
chair by BoConcept (above) and the "branch"
Biomorphism, otherwise known as Biomorphic
Design, is not a new concept but it's perfect for Tokyo
today. First embraced by Western designers during the '20s
and '30s to replace hard-edged, machine-like furniture
and objects, biomorphism is design resembling or suggesting
the forms of living organisms. Biomorphism can appear as an
ant-, swan- or egg-shaped chair, a butterfly-shaped stool,
or a spider-shaped lamp. Biomorphism can be a mobile that
looks like a tree branch, or fabric with pod-shaped motifs.
Put simply, it is pure, stylized, organic form: the living
room equivalent to a walk in the park.
Tokyo is a great place for looking into biomorphism because
it's a major center for the collection and sale of
international design. A quick flick through one of several
guidebooks on Tokyo interior design stores indicates there
are more than 650, many of them clustered around Minami-Aoyama,
Daikanyama and Meguro.
||Two takes on Sori Yanagi'
The large number and wide range of interior stores reflects
the enormous Japanese interest in design. And given the Japanese
love for nature, many ideas incorporate natural themes or
references to the living world. As one becomes acquainted
with biomorphism, it quickly becomes evident that biomorphism
is everywhere: the "lip" couch in a Harajuku
clothing store, "coconut "chairs in Hugo Boss,
tree-like DVD monitors in the J-Pop Café, and an "artichoke"
light in Tsutaya bookshop.
More importantly, Japanese designers have always used nature
as a source of inspiration. As a result, they have made some
of the most recognizable and enduring biomorphic designs in
the modern period. Take for example Sori Yanagi's "butterfly
"artichoke" lamp (above) and the "shell"
Yanagi is one of Japan's most celebrated industrial
designers and his renowned stool is a truly elegant example
of biomorphism. Two delicate-looking pressed plywood 'wings'
join in the middle to form a stool. The wings sit poised,
waiting for a human landing.
Using the Western technique of bent plywood to create a Western
form, the stool, Yanagi's design won the Gold Medal
at the 11th Triennale in Milan in 1957. Since then, the "butterfly"
has been selected for permanent collections in the Museum
of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris. Available
in light maple and dark rosewood, the stool can be found in
many Tokyo stores, including Sempre Aoyama, Mid Century Modern,
Collex, Cibone, and Beams Japan.
Chairs are a great place to start if you have an interest
in biomorphic design, and many examples are found here in
Tokyo. Besides Yanagi's "butterfly" stool,
there are Swedish designer Arne Jacobsen's "ant",
"swan" and "egg" chairs, the "shell"
chair by BoConcept, and Australian designer Marc Newson's
"embryo" couch at Idée.
Jacobsen's "ant" chair is pressed out
of a single piece of molded plywood and mimics the outline
of an ant's thorax and abdomen. Its legs look like
thin ant legs, charged and ready to run. In production since
1952, the "ant" was one of the world's
first stacking chairs and can be found in a variety of colors
at stores such as Sempre Aoyama and Cibone.
Biomorphic design, by bringing nature inside, can create a
personal oasis amid Tokyo's concrete jungle. Take for
example the iconic "egg" and "swan"
armchairs, both originally designed for the Scandinavian Airlines
System (SAS) Royal Hotel and Air Terminal in Copenhagen. The
"swan" chair is curvaceous and elegant while
the enveloping oval "egg" chair has an almost
embryonic feel, especially the red fabric version. One could
imagine being curled up like a child inside the "egg,"
which also swivels and tilts to increase the feeling of comfort.
You can find the "egg" at Da driade Aoyama,
a high-end extravaganza of interior products.
Of course, biomorphism is not limited to chairs: it can hang
from the ceiling, crawl up a wall, play on the table or crash
on the bedside cabinet. Danish architect and designer Poul
Henningsen's "artichoke" pendant lamp
looks just like the vegetable. Henningsen has cleverly used
tiers of overlapping shades to direct light in different directions
without exposing the bulb. This tasty example of biomorphic
design would be an excellent feature in any Modernist interior-visit
Demode Q (a quirky, fun, second-hand store in Shibuya full
of design classics), Collex, and Tsutaya bookshop near Azabu-Juban
Another design to consider is Italian Giovanni Pellone's
creepy take on biomorphic lighting, the "aracno-lamp".
As the name suggests, it looks like a spider with legs splayed
out across the wall and a shielded globe rising out of its
abdomen. The Sound of the Sun Store displays this spidery
Other examples of biomorphism include the shell-shaped table
lamp found at Sempre Aoyama, the wave-shaped decorative sculpture
in the innovative Idée store, the "storybirds"
pitcher or jug, resembling a pure white penguin, displayed
in Collex; and the tree-branch mobile to be discovered in
the basement of Time and Style.
Biomorphism is defining a new modern style, and at the same
time it encourages relaxation, provides comfort and is delightfully
quirky. To connect with nature in Tokyo, and take full advantage
of the city's design stores, fill your living rooms
with ants, eggs, swans, butterflies, spiders, shells and artichokes.
Bring biomorphism into your home-it's only natural.
Photo credit: Trina O'Hara