Try Japanese Design To Cure Your Tech Habit

That old quip that the only certainties in life are death and taxes should be amended to include digital gadgets. Everyone we know is tethered to a smartphone and running on digital overload. But as luxury interior designers, we’re noticing that a pleasing antidote to this modern reality may be a trend we’re seeing everywhere—even in Chicago: a renewed appreciation for the simplicity and authenticity of Japanese design.

150521 JLI Blog Japanese Image 1 chair

Kyoto fabric maker Hosoo teamed up with Danish Designer Thomas Lykke to make the Laval Crown Chair at Stellar Works. Photo: Stellar Works

Of course trends come and go, and as Chicago luxury interior designers, we stay on top of them. For instance, last year, we saw eye-popping agates crafted into a range of products from coasters and clocks to backsplashes and chandeliers; Radiant Orchid, Pantone’s color of the year, everywhere; and chintz back for a flash when the Brits told us to “decorate like it’s 1989.”

150521 JLI Blog Japanese Image 2 lamp

An ancient metalworking technique for tea strainers and tofu spoons, kiku-dashi, was used to create the Kanaami-Tsuji Chrysanthemum Shade by OEO Studio at

So perhaps the ubiquity of our chilly, highly complicated metal gadgets is what’s making Japanese design, with its items that are simple, sensual and satisfying to touch, so popular right now. Many are also artisanal and embrace imperfections, such as roughly woven textiles or handmade tableware and pots. It’s similar to the Belgian aesthetic with its charismatic blend of rough and refined, which was spearheaded by celebrated designer Axel Vervoordt. Prophetically, Axel foresaw the rise of Japanese design trend in 2011 with his book “Wabi Inspirations.”

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The Oigen Foundry in Japan used the ancient cast-iron process Nambu Tekki to make this Japanese-inspired kitchenware by British designer Jasper Morrison.

Yet, based on our observations and the incredible range of Japanese designed or influenced products on the market, we think the aesthetic is here to stay and have embraced it in many of our recent projects—unlike agate chandeliers, intense orchid objects and wall-to-wall chintz! In fact, we find the effortless grace of these pieces can add balance to more intricate pieces in a room when sited skillfully, and they often bring homeowners visual and physical ease.

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Dwell Studio teamed up with Robert Allen on a new textile line that includes Kimono Fabric, shown here in Dove, Persimmon and Midnight from

Some persuasive proof points that speak to the continued strength and impact of the Japanese aesthetic Stateside include:

• Muji, the Japanese “general store” that sells supremely sleek housewares and elegant wood furniture worldwide, now has 10 U.S. outposts with rumors flying that a Chicago store is in the works;
• The Japanese-themed hotel and restaurant chain Nobu, co-owned by Robert De Niro, is coming to Chicago’s West Loop next year; and
• Nearly everyone we know wants to get rid of items that don’t give them joy à la Marie Kondo, the 30-year-old Japanese wunderkind who wrote the international hit and New York Times bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”

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Traditional patterns from the Edo period are printed on these cotton napkins by Isetatsu Samekomom, sold in sets of six at

But best of all, it isn’t necessary to invest in a whole houseful of Japanese-designed goods to bring a touch of Eastern simplicity to our homes, where it can presumably assuage overload from our tech habits. The array of lust-worthy products ranges from wall coverings and textiles to furniture and housewares. We’ve included some of our favorites here and don’t have room to showcase the stunning new wall coverings from Farrow & Ball and chic little humidifiers in rainbow hues by Naoto Fukasawa for Plus Minus Zero.

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Dutch designers Scholten & Baijings collaborated with Japanese heritage brand Karimoku New Standard to create a line of playful oak tables sold at

21 May 2015

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