The recently opened Masters Craft ceramic ware boutique in the basement shopping area of Palace Hotel Tokyo is pure proof of what we already know: nobody masters the art of minimalism as well as the Japanese.
Everything in this store, including how each individual item is displayed on the shelves and counters, manifests the skill of leaving all else out except what is needed for balance; of not being afraid of empty space, and of allowing every piece to tell its complete visual and tactile story.
The 45 square-meter (484 sq.ft.) store was designed by Akemi Katsuno & Takashi Yagi, founders of Kyoto-based Love the Life.
For inspiration, they visited the Masters Craft headquarters in Mizunami city, located in the Tono region of Gifu in central Japan, where ceramics production dates back 1300 years. The trees, mountains and silence of the neighboring area inspired the 14 tree-trunk- poles suspended from the ceiling. The visually prominent materials of the shop interior -- Castor Aralia tree and ceramic tiles – also speak the language of the region.
Palace Hotel Tokyo is located in the business centre of the city, and it faces the Imperial Palace and a lush park. It replaces the Hotel Teito and Palace Hotel that occupied the same site from 1947 and 1961, respectively. The 290-room Palace Hotel Tokyo opened in May this year and includes the second Evian Spa outside France. - Tuija Seipell
The Italian wallpaper company Wall & Decò is known for creating exquisite, large-scale mural-like wallpapers that define a room. They are widely used in hotels and restaurants, and for private residences by interior designers.
In April at the Fluorisalone 2012 in Milan, Wall & Decò introduced a new wallpaper system designed for the outdoors.
Their OUT - Outdoor Unconventional Textures - system is a three-part covering that allows for incredible photographic reproductions and large-scale graphic designs to be applied onto outside walls. The system consists of an adhesive, a technical fabric and a finishing treatment.
The designs introduced in Milan included a Bauhaus look, a black-and-white OP pattern, tile-initiations and even military camouflage. We believe this is an idea that has staying power, and that it will expand and improve as feedback from early users comes in. - Tuija Seipell
Mats Sjöqvist together with brothers Mårten and Olle Eriksson-Mårtens attracted a solid following of well-dressed men to their first menswear boutique, Herrekipering (haberdasher in Swedish), on Kocksgatan 17 in Stockholm’s Södermalm district.
Earlier this year, they expanded the business by opening their second and much bigger store, Haberdash, on Upplandsgatan 50, in the Vasastan area of Stockholm. In the process, they renamed the first shop Haberdash as well.
We love the functional, minimalist interior of the new boutique, completed by Stockholm’s Form Us With Love (FUWL).
The materials and details of the store design speak the same language as the brands represented in the store, the language of timeless style, long-term value, functionality, quality and artisanship.
The underlying goal of all of the displays is to allow the customer to see and examine each item completely. So FUWL created a stylized, minimalist craftsman’s studio, with the items displayed on magnified pegboards, simple workbench-like counters and basic square shelving.
Materials, such as Silestone Quartz, Kährs ash and Tärnsjö Tannery leather are used for displays and surfaces. The “bare-bulb” pendant lighting is FUWL’s own Form for Design House Stockholm.
The esteemed brands sold at Haberdash include the French Armor Lux sailor sweaters made famous by Pablo Picasso, Brooks bicycle saddles and accessories from the UK, and Grundén raingear from Sweden.
FUWL is a multi-discipline design house established in 2005 by fellow students of product design at Småland’s Kalmar University, John Löfgren, Jonas Pettersson and Petrus Palmén. - Tuija Seipell
Ecole Maternelle Pajol, a four-classroom kindergarten on Rue Pajol in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, combines so many of the things we love.
Parisian architecture office Palatre & Leclère has restored and reimagined the 1940s building, yet they have left the basic feel of the structure unchanged. We believe in repurposing and saving older buildings, but letting them tell their previous stories, even in their new guises.
We love color, especially when it is used to brighten up an otherwise drab or monotonous environment. This kindergarten clearly speaks the language of joyful color.
We love it when public art and public buildings and spaces are used to express joy and be playful, too, not just to parade impressive and “acceptable” art and architecture. Of all places, shouldn’t a kindergarten resonate deeply with children, not just adults?
And of course we love any project that invest the same time, effort and resources into spaces and places for kids than we are used to investing into adults’ play.
In Ecole Maternelle Pajol, Palatre & Leclère used color boldly both inside and out. They also provided a variety of shapes and forms in the furniture, furnishings and on the walls, in the play areas, rest areas and even in the bathrooms. In addition, they provided a variety of textures from tile and glass to rubber and wood.
The building has kept its 1940s brick-wall feel, yet it radiates exuberance and has an up-to-date energy. Most likely its current users feel it was built just for them.
Palatre & Leclère is an architecture agency founded in 2006 by Tiphaine Leclère and Olivier Palatre. - Tuija Seipell.
Shrouded House is a discreetly opulent residence for a young, design-aware family of four (plus a Labrador retriever) in Toorak, considered the most prestigious neighborhood in Melbourne, Australia.
Inarc Architects was in charge of the architecture and interiors of the project, completed in February, with Allison Pye Interiors consulting on the interior design and furnishings.
The 13-room residence consists of the 850 square-meter (9,150 sq. ft) main house plus the 300 square-meter (3,330 sq. ft) basement, and the 70 square-meter (753 sq. ft) poolside cabana. The previous house and the earlier landscaping on the site were demolished. The new landscaping replaces most of the removed trees, and responds to the needs of the new house and its residents.
The project gained its moniker Shrouded House from the main feature: the effective screening of the slightly twisting and turning exterior from the adjoining properties and the street by bronze aluminum battens. Used throughout the exterior, the battens give the structure its homogenous coloring and its sense of lightness.
Bronze, steel and glass give the residence its contemporary sculptural presence yet they also allow light and clouds play on, reflect and penetrate the structure, which makes the entire building appear smaller and less monolithic. The effective use of these materials also helps connect the exterior to the interior spaces.
As the structure is also broken up into smaller-scale components, the sizeable house does not appear overly imposing or grandiose.
The interior is open, warm and light-filled with white, sandstone and oak surfaces linking the spaces together.
We love the understated way in which the designers have interpreted the family’s needs of privacy, warmth and openness through timeless, understated architecture. - Tuija Seipell
In Christchurch, New Zealand, 10 massive optical illusion-inducing mixed-media art pieces by Mike Hewson pay homage to the former Christchurch Normal School which opened in 1876.
The building, completely renovated for apartment and retail use in 1981 and renamed Cranmer Courts, was damaged badly in the February 2012 magnitude 6.3 earthquake and it is now destined for demolition.
Before it is gone forever, Hewson wanted to pay homage to the building that used to house a vibrant community. He covered the total of 130 square meters of plywood with mixed-media images depicting artists and others who lived and worked in the building.
Private donations and Hewson's own money covered the $15,000 installation costs. New Zealand-born (in 1985) Mike Hewson is a civil engineer, graduate of Canterbury University (2007). He has worked as a civil engineer in Port Hedland in Western Australia, but has travelled regularly to New Zealand to complete works of art there. He will move permanently back to New Zealand next month and focus on his art full time. - Tuija Seipell
Restaurant Farma Kreaton (Meat Farm in Greek)is the recently opened addition to the well publicized Fabrica Kreaton restaurant located in the center of the city of Komotini, (Adrianoupoleos 4) in northeastern Greece.
The architecture and interior design of both spaces are by Minas Kosmidis (Μηνάς Κοσμίδης) with offices in Thessaloniki and Komotini.
In the case of Farma Kreaton, graphic designer Yiannis Tokalatsidis created the minimalist, hand-drawn graphics and cut-outs of cows, chickens and the scenery of the countryside that set the whimsical barn-yard chic tone to the entire space.
The 270 square-meter (almost 3,000 square- feet), 150 seat new restaurant is in essence an additional open-concept eating area to the existing Fabrica Kreaton that, in turn, is themed around a Greek butcher shop. Both are housed in a renovated 1950s farm house with a large yard.
In Farma Kreaton, in addition to the graphic components, we were attracted to the lovely, white-painted wood floors and the overall feel of a temporary barn-raising supper.
The simple plank tables, the mismatched, unpretentious chairs, the humble potted plants and herbs on the tables, all exude a feel of a space dedicated — just for the moment — to sumptuous eating and enjoyment of good company.
The hay bales, pick forks, watering cans and cut-out animals remind the diners of the work done and to-be done on the farm, the dinner beings just a moment of celebration — perhaps of a good hay harvest or a successful calving.
In short, Minas Kosmidis and his team have managed to create a believable semblance of a working farm without going overboard and ending up with a contrived, pretentious “concept” instead.
The food at Farma Kreaton is typical Greek meat-based plates, and the diners are predominantly locals. Tuija Seipell.
We love the way Bangkok University has been branding itself as a Creative University during the past few years. One method they have chosen to do this is to re-imagine and re-allocate the space so that the students will want to spend time on the campus, not just studying but enjoying themselves.
As before the university retained Bangkok’s Supermachine Studio, led by Pitupong (Jack) Chaowakul, to create the Student Lounge (formerly allocated for teachers) at the Rangsit Campus, located north of Bangkok.
The new configuration for the lounge was completed in March and includes about 1,000 square meters (about 10,764 square feet) combined on the ground floor and mezzanine.
The ground floor area is designed as a flexible hang-out space that can be reconfigured for studying alone or in groups, resting, meetings and so on, using the porous, mobile “ribs” as walls.
The mezzanine level is a fun and games zone. It includes a pink polka-dotted Karaoke hut, teetering off the “cliff” and about to fall off onto the reading cave below. Students sitting on the massive modular sofa in the reading cave can clearly see their fellow students performing in the Karaoke hut.
The game zone includes a huge pool table with mobile holes, a giant dart board where no-one can miss the bulls-eye, a music rehearsal room that is like a little house with one wall hinging open, plus a gossip corner and a Kungfu zone.
Many of the components in the space are meant for the students to change and reconfigure, including the 400- bottle chandelier and the gigantic panda that could be painted in the future to resemble other characters, animals or creatures.
Inside the 6,5-meter high panda is the spiral staircase connecting the ground floor and mezzanine. Students enter the staircase from the backside and exit from the back of the head. The mouth of the panda is a window.
The columns dotting the ground floor are currently white, but the students are expected to paint or decorate them as well. In addition to Pitupong Chaowakul, the design team included Suchart Ouypornchaisakul, Nuntawat Tassanasangsoon, Wattikon Kosolkit, Santi Sarasuphab and Supanna Chanpensri. - Tuija Seipell
We don’t often come across projects to feature in Valencia, although the ancient city is the third-largest in Spain. So, we were particularly excited to discover the new cool kids wear boutique, Piccino, that opened at Trafalgar 52 this month.
Piccino (Italian for “kids”) is the first retail shop of the family-owned company that offers reasonably priced Italian children’s fashions including Brums and Bimbus.
Valencia’s Masquespacio, also known as +Quespacio, lead by Ana Milena Hernández Palacios, was in charge of both interior design and graphics for this beautiful 38 square-meter (409 square feet) gift-box-of-a-store.
This store reminds us a bit of the Candy Room in Melbourne by the Red Design Group.
But in Piccino, we especially love the bold and disciplined use of just two basic minimalist principles: white surfaces and black line drawings. This framework creates a sense of being inside a drawing, and it blurs the border between real and imagined, giving a fun 3D effect to all flat surfaces.
We are forced to really look, to see, to check out what’s what. Yet, the simplicity of the framework also lets the clothing play the main role. It pops, but in a fun, inclusive way.
The back-story and inspiration come from the owners’ kids and involve children sewing clothes for their new friends.
With the added drawings of furnishings, kids and clothes, and fun call-outs and other on-brand touches, the space is kid- and parent-friendly yet also cool enough to appeal to pre-teens.
The classic Lou Lou Ghost chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell seems to be designed for this environment. - Tuija Seipell