Tools for Life


Jo Nagasaka’s Shibari stools


Urban Japan is known for its tiny living spaces. It’s equally renowned for Japanese ingenuity at designing elegant plug ‘n play design solutions for living in small or multi-use spaces. And, as the foreign success of Japanese lifestyle chain store brands like Muji would suggest, there’s an increasing market for furniture and design solutions that are both style and space-conscious in in many of the world’s evolving megalopolises where private living space is at a premium.

So, when your bread and butter is producing something as prosaic (albeit extremely design-friendly) as a treated plywood available in bespoke colours, you might not seem like a natural candidate to branch out into hip contemporary furniture. But, that’s exactly what Ichiro Inc. have done with their Ichiro-Iro Project.

Ichiro-Iro operates dually as a brand of desirable contemporary furniture based in the modernist notion of domestic space as a kind of machine for living (the “Iro” part of the project’s name comes from the Esperanto word for “tool”) and a subtle marketing of the mother company’s core production of materials. The Ichiro-Iro Project has seen Ichiro Inc. invite a range of designers and architects to produce furniture designs for the brand that underscore a modernist, utilitarian approach to the home. Needless to say, many of them elaborate that unique Japanese path in which a stark, geometric simplicity is effortlessly combined with a highly aestheticised notion of nature or the poetics of the ephemeral.

For example, what could be more fundamentally Japanese than Energy Meet’s Another Floor on the Floor ? Not formally that different from the way in which raised platforms on which tatatmi and futons were place was used  in traditional Japanese architecture, here the design uses a perforated TRICAL industrial plastic to create an easily installed “floating” floor with the mildly tensile qualities of a hammock under which you can grow grass or plants. Or, there’s Jo Nagasaka’s Shibari Stools of foam dipped in rubber and then hand-tied, almost a post-industrial evocation of the traditional kimono’s obi where the broad brocade sash was held in place by silk rope, here realised as furniture.

But, probably the real winner for the export market is Torafu Architect’s Koloro-Desk (basically phonetic Japanese for “colour desk”). It’s a hybrid in so many ways. Culturally, it’s Bauhaus-meets-bonsai. And formally, it’s a conflation of the full privacy of a porter’s chair with the semi-private space of those ancient reference library study tables where some of us literally spent years. Pairing it with a Koloro-Stool that snugly fits into the space beneath it is the natural aesthetic (though not necessarily spinal) all-in-one solution.

Its “window” flaps serve additional storage/support functions when you want your head buried in your work away from all the busyness around you, but easily flip up if you need your multi-use space to look less cluttered. Hell, extremists could simply turn the whole affair around and give the impression of a simple cabinet to visitors, their frenzied work life hidden from view. It’s the ultimate way to create an entire study in a space smaller than a broom closet.

And, of course, as both the name and the background of Ichiro Inc. should readily convey, it comes in a range of colours with which you can personalise your private head space.


Torafu Architect’s Koloro-Desk and Koloro-Stool



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