on trend: Japonisme

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I recently returned from the trip of a lifetime in Japan. Japan had been at the top of my travel bucket list for years and it lived up to all expectations. Everything looked just as it does in the pictures whether it be the breathtaking temples and pavilions, the enchanting Japanese gardens, the never-ending stationary stores or Geisha girls standing on street corners at dawn. We saw it all and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t fall in love with every single bit of it.

Wherever I travel I am always looking at how architecture and interiors differ in different parts of the world and I was really excited to see what Japan had to offer with its minimal, simplistic and functional approach to design whether it be for a pencil sharpener or a skyscraper. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t surprised to find, on my return home, my monthly Elle Décor issue with ‘Japanese Style – The Mood of the Moment’ on the front cover. What I really found from visiting age-old temples to Tokyo’s newest buildings, is how Japanese design is as beautiful and elegant today as it was over the centuries. Japanese design holds a certain timelessness and it’s no wonder that it’s the mood of the moment.

We’re all familiar with the popular images of Japanese interiors; Bonsai trees, shoji screens, black lacquered furniture, large tassels and tatami mats, but when I think about Japanese design (especially after my travels), I think of the emphasis placed on functionality and simplicity and exquisite ceramics. The thing is, the inherent simplicity and elegance of Japonisme is seductive because it appears to be based on four key ingredients: harnessing the power of nature and natural materials; reveling in finish and texture; paying attention to the smallest details, and approaching design not only with a respect built upon centuries of ritual and tradition but also with a healthy irreverence that enables constant evolution. It sounds easy, right? But it seems it can never be authentically emulated outside of Japan.

This month’s issue of Elle Décor introduces us to the concept of Wabi-sabi, the Japanese notion of the beauty in imperfection. It is a concept perfectly executed by Belgian architect Axel Vervoordt, ‘self-described creator of calm, peaceful spaces in which beauty is distilled to its purest form’. The newest thing that really excites me is Kintsugi, the art of fixing broken objects, usually ceramics, with gold seams and it’s something I just might have to try. It really sums up the characteristic approach Japanese designers have to take a problem and not only solve the initial dilemma but to also redefine the very thing that is being challenged in the first place and it is that, that I find forever refreshing and exciting. As Elle Décor state: ‘It’s about boundaries, borders, edges of things; about showing new ways of seeing things’.

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