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Shop list

Bonvoyage
1-2-6 Takaban, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-5720-8805. Open Mon-Fri noon-8pm; Sat, Sun and hols 11am-8pm. Nearest stn: Toyoko line, Gakugei Daigaku stn. www.bonvoyage.co.jp

Cibone Aoyama
B1F Aoyama Bell Commons, 2-14-6 Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3475-8017. Open 11am-9pm. Nearest stn: Gaienmae. www.cibone.com

Living Motif
1F Axis Building, 5-17-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3587-2784. Open Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11am-6:30pm. www.livingmotif.com

Michael's Antiques Arts and Crafts
At the back of the Oakwood Residence, Azabu Juban, 2-4-3 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5442-2099. Open daily noon-7pm. Nearest stn: Azabu Juban.

Otsu Furniture
1-4-9 Takaban, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-3794-7883. Open daily 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Toyoko line, Gakugei Daigaku stn, East exit. www.kiwa-group.co.jp/
kiwahp/store/furniture/
otsu/otsu.html

 

bar news and views
 PAST ISSUES

INTERIORS ARCHIVE:
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 is clear.
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 Houses.
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 community—and of course their friends
445: Design on Tokyo
A trio of interior design events is on its way to bring style into our Tokyo living rooms
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 oasis
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
399: Interiors

Retrospective 
395: Interiors
Kitchenware flare
391: Interiors
Ide is one of Tokyo’s most established interiors stores
387: Inner sanctum
The days of sitting on the tatami floor are over
383: Life in style
Tokyo's embraces ultra-modern design
367: Wealthy workplaces
Put feng shui to work at work
364: Healthy homes
The ancient Chinese art of feng shui

Inside stories

Trina O'Hara reveals the personal touches that three foreigners have brought to their Tokyo homes.

There are many reasons why we look forward to a new country of residence-none more memorable, or satisfying, than unwrapping our belongings from home and arranging them in a new setting. It's a telling moment, though, when the "essentials" don't fit, don't match or don't work and we realize we have to adapt to our home as much as to the culture outside our front door.

In Japan, however, our homes seem to be more private and we rarely get a chance to see how others deal with this interior-design conundrum. So here is a sneak peek into three expatriate apartments. Their owners tell us how they started with some Western-style furniture, a little free space to bring new objects into their life and the desire to record a Japanese experience in their decorating. The results may provide you with some elegant, inventive solutions for your own "global mix."

 

Urban deluxe
An exuberant, colorful living space, high on the "feel-good factor" wasn't always the case for Ramon, a Spanish-born Australian whose last home was an old Queensland worker's cottage with 3-meter-high ceilings. In Tokyo he was faced with a small, dark "box" with ugly carpet, glass sliding doors, paneled walls and low ceilings. The house's only saving graces were its small garden outside and close proximity to work. Ramon's interior needed a touch of theater, so he started with a few cherished possessions and a burst of warm color.

Ramon relies on Japanese artifacts (top) and bursts of red to liven up his boxy Tokyo apartment

"From loving antique European, farmer-type furniture, I found myself getting nostalgic over weathered Japanese artifacts," Ramon says. "I like to collect boxes, though I'm not sure why the fascination. I like their sizes, shapes and variations, especially medicine boxes, suitcases and tansu. My favorite piece is a sushi box that I turned into a coffee table by adding castors. I also collect red things, like wooden lacquer plates or artwork with red in it.

"The other thing I find myself doing is collecting statues, masks and quirky figurines. I was told by an interior designer that it's like having lots of people in the room, so it gives the room a happy, personable atmosphere. However, my Japanese friends think it's a little strange; they believe the soul of the owner resides in these objects so they get a little spooked. While my room can look Japanese, I guess I tend to use items the Japanese do not."

 

Blank slate
Unlike reviving a dark disaster, Samantha had the reverse problem when moving into her brand-new apartment in Tokyo. Coming from the United Kingdom, Samantha was used to old, converted buildings with a real sense of history. In Tokyo she entered a white, minimal high-rise she describes as a "blank canvas with no real character." So for Samantha, decorating took on an entirely different emphasis.

She says, "In Japan, I have to bring in character from the outside to create a living space that embraces both old and new. I like the feeling of giving something old a new home and hopefully passing it on to the next generation. So I love to collect scrolls, lacquerware, ceramics, ink stones, brushes, old calligraphy, obi and kimono, photography, even garden accessories like stone lanterns. Since living in Japan, I look at things in a very different way and I really enjoy creating a space that balances uncluttered contemporary with old and interesting."

Samantha says the only thing she hates about her home now is the fact she will have to leave it one day.

 

Samuel Thawley also leans toward rich reds and mixing classic and contemporary designs
Samantha looks for “old and interesting” items to contrast with her minimalist space

Color finds
When Samuel Thawley and his fiancé came to Tokyo, they were faced with another common ailment in the expatriate community. Namely, furniture provided by the company in a style not their own. Decorating their home required making the most of the existing furniture, stamping their space with their own style and satisfying their desire to capture a contemporary Japanese aesthetic.

The couple love portrait paintings, their red couch and strong graphic shapes in a room. So it wasn't long before rugs, lamps and shapely lacquerware were added to the mix. They too enjoy rich reds, together with a hint of black and the warmth of wood. And like Samantha and Ramon, they like nothing more than mixing contemporary and classic styles with flea-market finds.

Curious, we asked our residents their favorite places for products to line their "nest" and remarkably their answers were almost identical. All three frequent contemporary stores like Cibone Aoyama or Living Motif in Roppongi, then for all things rustic or Japanese they go to Togo flea market, Oedo Antique market, Michael's in Azabu-Juban and Otsu or Bonvoyage store in Meguro.

If you are experiencing expatriate life for the first time or the "umpteenth" time, no doubt you have taken a different approach to living in the big city. And like our three residents here, the best part about these experiences is that they lead you to exciting new discoveries, helping you shape a "global" home that is truly unique and memorable.

Photos by Trina O'Hara