Infusing Japanese elements into already established Scandinavian looks, the Japandi trend emerged in 2017 – 2018. It really touched a nerve—in a good way—and grew to be immensely popular. No wonder products in this style are still being introduced.
The most recent incarnation was at KBIS, the Kitchen and Bath Show in Las Vegas. The cabinetry company Wellborn is known for such innovations as dog bathing and eating centers. They are also recognized for unique color stories for on-trend painted finishes. At this year’s show, Wellborn introduced a clean-lined zen kitchen that was getting loads of attention from both interior designers and buyers. It was shown with base cabinets in a horizontal whitewash finish called Sandpaper. A deeper-toned River Rock was chosen for the upper cabinetry, hood and island. A slightly darker Suede stain highlighted a vertical cabinet.
Wellborn says this modern kitchen leans into Japandi style.
Integrating aspects of Japanese style into popular trends has introduced many consumers to design elements from the Land of the Rising Sun. But rather than following the typical growth/peak/decline formula that most trends experience, the embrace of Japanese inspiration has only strengthened. Lately, it has become robust enough to gain feature status.
A must-see exhibit in Paris at Musée du quai Branley – Jacques Chirac (through May 28) is Kimono. It celebrates the garment, which dates to more than 1000 years ago. The show also explores how kimonos have inspired fashion designers from John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.
But it’s Japanese craft, used independently, rather than relying on design elements from other cultures, that is having a moment. And different from the past, the items involved are not small, accent pieces that tend to be replaced every few years. Instead, these products are typically retained for decades.
After emerging in charcuterie boards, and then in accent furniture, shou sugi ban is being embraced in a larger way. At the NAHB International Builders show, Nakamoto Forestry showed a range of authentic shou sugi ban (charred wood) siding options, including the new Gendai™ collection. The company, which has a stocking and pre-finish warehouse in Portland, Oregon, has been producing the traditional charred planks for use in Japan for 50 years.
The material, originally (and more accurately) called yakisugi, is now being specified by American architects, who especially favor its durability. A range of 36 different finishes reaches a broader audience. Most significantly, there are different degrees of char. The very lightest version is a Linseed oil white. To achieve lighter looks, the traditional cypress (sugi) wood used undergoes a scrubbing process—to remove degrees of carbonization. Then it’s sealed. The company even offers a less rustic clear version, without the characteristic knots.
Adding to its Artists Edition Collection, Kohler borrowed from another ancient craft. Kintsukuroi or kintsugi, dates to the 15th century. The idea of kintsugi is to highlight breaks or imperfections, elevating them to art via precious metals.
Kohler’s handcrafted Aureus vessel sink reflects this art of “golden repair,” mending broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The vitreous-china bowl, available in square and round shapes, elegantly captures the look with its broken up lines in gold on white porcelain, also drawing inspiration from the natural veining patterns in marble.
Mikado Quartz went big with an impressive booth entry showing off a bold veined quartz that seemed to mimic kintsugi style, especially dramatic because of backlighting that gave the veins a golden glow.
At the Maison et Objet trade fair in January, several Japanese brands from the prefecture of Aomora bonded in the culture of re: recycling, reuse and remaking. Sakiori-Chicka showed off colorful camera straps, pouches, pen cases, key rings and hair ties. Each was made from recycled kimonos, plus colorful fabrics and threads. Sakiori is a style of handweaving on a backstrap loom called a jibata. It originated in the Nanbu region, where old kimono cloth is torn into thin pieces of string for weaving new cloth.
Marrying traditional craft with technology also has brought renewed vigor to Japanese designs. Tosa Kumiko displayed beautiful wood grille motifs that pair hinoki (Japanese cypress) with epoxy resin. Shoji walls actually are so sturdy they are resistant to earthquakes. The Kumiko wall clock speaks to the dual nature of a delicate look and a sturdy product.
And at the upscale Paris Deco Off event, the British brand Designers Guild played up several Japanese textile traditions with its own bold-color signature. So not just the indigo you might expect, but rich emeralds, magentas and fuchsias rounded out the dynamic palette.
The familiar tie-dye of shibori is shown on washable cotton. Hiriyana, which depicts brush strokes in a moody floral, is printed on linen. Peony and rose motifs pair with inky flecked stripes called suzuki, taken from stone artists’ use to create their colors. And sakiori is a woven fabric. It is produced from worn out textiles torn into narrow scraps and woven tightly with cotton warps.
It’s a rich collection that offers slubbed washable cottons, velvets, and linens; wallcovering also is available.
While many of the introductions fall clearly in the modern lane, one set of porcelain dinnerware was about as traditional as it gets.
At Pinto Paris, on Rue du Mail on the Right Bank, one featured tabletop spotlighted Vieux Kyoto, an Alberto Pinto design of coordinating dinnerware. The dessert plate depicts a royal palace and silhouettes of trees in a landscape, hand painted on Limoges porcelain. The setting, on a black lacquered table with an edgy bouquet of protea, lends a modern vibe.
And isn’t that what it’s all about? Drawing from traditional designs, concepts and techniques, faithfully producing its original spirit or mixing it up in a fresh way. Either way, the Japanese craft tradition is alive and well and a good fit for today’s modern home.