Spotlight on Japanese design: 5 furniture brands to know about (2022)

You must by now all know how much I love Scandinavian and Nordic design (I would hope that if you’re reading this blog regularly, you’ll be as big a fan as I am!). Well today I want to talk about another region of the world that shares a great many similarities when it comes to simple, understated interiors and fine, well-crafted furniture – Japan.

The first thing that springs to mind when I think of Japanese design is a feeling of zen; a sense of ease and tranquility, translated into spaces that feel restorative to be in and designs that are quietly beautiful. I can’t profess to know everything or even much about Japanese design, but for me it’s all about the senses – embracing the imperfect grain on a piece of wood, cherishing the way the light falls through a window, or just living with only what you need. Sometimes just looking at an image of a beautifully ordered Japanese home is enough to bring about that sensation of calm. I guess it’s not too similar to the relaxed, cosy feel of a Scandinavian home – they always seem to get the balance right between pared-back minimalism and warmth. Perhaps it’s because both regions share a mindful approach to everyday living.

Beyond the feeling of an interior, the two design worlds share a design philosophy centred around craftsmanship and a close connection to nature. Both regions share a respect for their heritage and the craft techniques of the past, while bringing those stories into the present with new collaborations and technologies. The Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetic is about refinement – reducing things down to only what is necessary and always prioritising quality over quantity.

‘What sets Danish and Japanese design apart from other design traditions is our uncompromising focus on designing places, spaces and things that last,’ says Norm Architects

Both at Milan Design Week and 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen, Japanese design brands shone brightly. Here, I’ve rounded up 5 design names and new collaborations to know about. There’s plenty of Scandinavian brands already taking inspiration from Japanese design for their products, but I wanted to focus on Japanese brands you might not have heard of and collections where the two regions have teamed up together to wonderful results.

1. Karimoku Case Study
Conceived by Japan’s largest wooden furniture manufacturer, Karimoku, thisnew contemporary lifestyle brand launched at 3 Days of Design in the elegant surroundings of the Kinfolk Gallery. Based in Japan,Karimoku Case Studyis ‘born out of admiration and love for serene beauty, material richness and timeless appeal’.

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Karimoku Case Study work with world-renowned architects to create a series of Case Study collections, each connected to a particular setting in Japan. The first is the Kinuta Collection by Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa Design, comprised of 12 considered furniture pieces. They take their name from two apartmentsin the Kinuta ward of the Setagaya district in Tokyo that Keiji Ashizawa Design has renovated. The designs take inspiration from the architecture and the courtyard that connects residents to the outside nature.

Inspired by the temples, shrines and gardens of Japan, the exhibition itself at Kinfolk was designed as a ‘tactile sanctuary’ with natural materials and earthy tones that allowed the furniture to quietly sing. You didn’t need any theatrics, it was all about the materials and textures.

Images: Photography:Monica Grue Steffensen, styling: Linnea Ek Blaehr, courtesy KarimokuCase Study

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2. The Table Project by All the way to Paris, 1616/Arita and Skagerak
Also as a meeting of Scandinavian and Japanese values at 3 Days of Design, Danish brand Skagerak unveiled The Table Project with Japanese porcelain brand 1616/Arita, Japanese designer Teruhiro Yanagihara and Nordic design studio All the way to Paris.

The collection comprises over 100 tableware pieces designed by Yanagihara and hand-painted by All the way to Paris. Digging into the archives, the designers took inspiration from Arita’s 400-year-old heritage to create a series of delicate motifs and illustrations. Some are shaped by the negative space left by a stencil of the female form. They come in Japanese colours of blue, red and brown.

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While I was at Skagerak’s Copenhagen showroom, I fell in love with their new lighting range. With a mouth-blown opal glass shade and round, black handle, the charming design references traditional Japanese lanterns.

Images courtesy Skagerak, last image:Cate St Hill

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3. Artek – FIN/JPN Friendship Collection
For Milan Design Week, Finnish brand Artek celebrated the 100 year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Finland and Japan by commissioning designers, architects and craftsmen to explore the shared values between the two cultures. Some took inspiration from Japanese rituals, while others reinterpreted classic Alvar Aalto designs.

‘Despite their geographical separation the countries share a deep kinship; both pursue the essence of a simple life, possess an affinity with nature, a love of silence, a reduced visual language and a respect for craftsmanship,’ says Artek.

Designer Jo Nagasaka, for instance, used an age-old Japanese practice of brushing wood and removing layers of lacquer to create a colourful grain on Aalto’s tea trolley, bench and stool. Indigo specialise BUAISOU also played with Aalto’s stool, dipping it in an indigo bath to create a rich blue surface (available in Japan only). Finnish-Korean duo COMPANY has created a set of six characterful ceramics that the Finnish delegation might have brought to Japan. Koichi Futatsumata’s bench takes inspiration from the public baths that are deeply embedded in the cultural rituals of both Finland and Japan (available worldwide from September 2019). Find out more about the collection here.

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Images courtesy of Artek

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4. Maruni
Established in 1928, Maruni is a Japanese wooden furniture manufacturer with the motto of ‘Industrialised Craftsmanship’. They seek to balance artisanal wood techniques with high-tech machinery to create simple wooden furniture that highlights the natural beauty of the wood and the sophisticated skills of their artisans.

Maruni’s name was put on the map when in 2008 they launched a collection with designer Naoto Fukasawa, and then in 2011 with British designer Jasper Morrison. The aesthetic is very clean, refined and minimalist.

At Milan, I like that Maruni didn’t have lots of new designs, but refinements to existing pieces. Maruni presented an upholstered version of the Roundish Armchair by Naoto Fukasawa. This curved, comfortable design is made of a single piece of laminated plywood that has been twisted and bent in three dimensions. The Hiroshima sofa, also by Fukasawa, now has a chaise section, while Jasper Morrison’s solid wood Fugu chair comes as a dining chair as well as a lounge chair.

Images byYaneo Kawabe, courtesy of Maruni

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5. Karimoku New Standard
A highlight of Milan Design Week for me was not the flashy shows and installations but a hidden-away home and secluded garden in the Brera district conceived by Japanese brand Karimoku New Standard (KNS). Serving drinks and nibbles prepared by Japanese chef Shiori Goto, it was the perfect spot and green oasis to escape the madness of the design week and relax a while.

2019 marks Karimoku New Standard’s 10 year anniversary. Like Karimoku Case Study, it’s also owned by Karimoku, hence the name. KNS collaborates with international design names to create innovative, joyful and functional furniture for contemporary urban living. All of its products are made of sustainably sourced Japanese hardwoods.

At Milan, KNS unveiled a number of new products, including the stackable Polar chair by Tokyo-based Swiss designer Moritz Schlatter, and a curved shell chair made from reinforced foam and Japanese oak by Scholten & Baijings. My favourite designs are the Caster Low Chair by BIG-GAME in dark green (fourth image) and the faceted, round Colour Wood Dining Table by Scholten & Baijings (you can see the coffee table version below).

Images: courtesy Karimoku New Standard,except first, second, third,sixth and ninth of the KNS Home & Garden: Cate St Hill

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FAQs

What style is Japanese furniture? ›

What Is Japanese Furniture? Japanese furniture relies on the use of natural materials such as bamboo, fine woods, silk, rice straw mats, and paper. It blends modern elements with traditional Japanese design in an artful manner. The result is furniture that is simple, comfortable, and flexible.

Who is the famous designer known for his furniture design? ›

Charles and Ray Eames ruled the furniture design scene in the US from the early 1950s to the 1970s, and they are most well-known for their Eames Lounge and Ottoman chairs.

What are the elements of Japanese interior design? ›

Here are some of the key characteristics of modern Japanese interior design for the home.
  • Lightweight. 'Lightness' in this context can be taken both literally and figuratively. ...
  • Declutter. ...
  • Natural Materials. ...
  • Illumination. ...
  • Modular Design. ...
  • Void. ...
  • Detail. ...
  • White.
Jun 29, 2017

Who is the best furniture designer in the world? ›

Famous Furniture Makers and Designers
  1. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a renowned Scottish designer known for his lucrative design career. ...
  2. Le Corbusier. ...
  3. Charlotte Perriand. ...
  4. Frank Lloyd Wright. ...
  5. Marcel Breuer. ...
  6. Vico Magistretti. ...
  7. Charles and Ray Eames. ...
  8. Arne Jacobsen.
Feb 22, 2022

How would you describe Japanese design? ›

What is Japanese Design? When people think of Japanese design, they envision minimal, uncluttered spaces with a few select designs scattered throughout. Sliding doors, natural materials and low lying furniture are all synonymous with the country's interior design.

What is Japanese style? ›

Japanese style evolves around clean and uncluttered living, holding tightly to balance, order, ancient customs, and a love for natural beauty. When one understands the ancient tea ceremonies and lifestyles of the Japanese— the culture immediately becomes very endearing and worth replicating in our everyday lives.

What is the most popular furniture? ›

The most popular piece of furniture in the United States is desks. On Pinterest, “desks” were searched more than chairs, tables, and sofas. Another popular search for furniture was coffee tables. This shows that many are looking at furniture and decor for their home offices and living room spaces.

What furniture is most important? ›

The most important pieces of furniture for your home
  • Sofa.
  • Coffee Table.
  • Chest of Drawers.
  • Boookcase.
  • Armchair.
  • Dining room table.
  • Desk.
  • Wardrobe.

Who is the biggest furniture manufacturer? ›

IKEA. IKEA has been the world's largest furniture retailer since late 2000s. Founded in Sweden, and now headquartered in Leiden, Netherlands, IKEA is a world leader in the global furniture market that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances, and home accessories.

What is Japanese decor style called? ›

Japandi interior design is the fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian interior design styles—the very name “Japandi” is the combination of the words “Japanese” with “Scandi.” The marriage of Japanese and Scandinavian interior design styles is one that makes sense due to their similar sense of minimalism, love of nature, ...

What makes Japanese interior design unique? ›

Modern Japanese interior design is anchored in minimalist principles, clean lines, and natural materials. With modern Japanese-style rooms, you'll see simple, oftentimes low, furniture, blank walls, as well as a neutral color palette. In modern Japanese-style homes, less is more.

What is Japanese interior design called? ›

Japandi is a type of design that merges Japanese and Scandinavian minimalist elements. (Hence the name, which is a combination of Japan and Scandi.) From Japanese design, we see a strong focus on natural features and materials, as well as rich colors that add depth to a minimalist environment.

How do you become a successful furniture designer? ›

You can follow these steps to gain the education, skills and network you need to become a successful furniture designer:
  1. Earn a bachelor's degree. ...
  2. Build a furniture design portfolio. ...
  3. Gain experience in furniture design. ...
  4. Continue your education. ...
  5. Expand your professional network.
Mar 22, 2021

What is interior design furniture? ›

Interior designers use furniture to establish a pleasing sense of order. They consider two-dimensional and three-dimensional design in the arrangement of furniture along with the elements of design such as shape, form, color, and texture. The principles of design can be applied to furniture, too.

Who created furniture? ›

Archaeological research shows that from around 30,000 years ago, people started to construct and carve their own furniture, using wood, stone, and animal bones. Early furniture from this period is known from artwork such as a Venus figurine found in Russia, depicting the goddess on a throne.

What influenced Japanese design? ›

Japanese design in general has been heavily influenced by the world around it. Japan is a country with a very diverse artisan craft tradition. Ceramics, woodcut prints, calligraphy, origami, kabuki theatre, and more recently manga and anime are just some of the arts developed there.

What is Japanese inspired decor? ›

Japanese-inspired interiors are designed to emulate the natural world. Natural wood is often used as a central material while bamboo, silk, rice straw mats, and paper add textured, visually appealing accents.

Why is Japan so aesthetically pleasing? ›

Shinto and Buddhism

With its emphasis on the wholeness of nature and character in ethics, and its celebration of the landscape, it sets the tone for Japanese aesthetics. Until the thirteenth century, Shinto remained the main influence on Japanese aesthetics.

What is Japan famous for? ›

Japan is famous for natural sights like cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji, cutting-edge technology like Japanese cars and bullet trains, wacky inventions like karaoke and vending machines, cultural values like politeness and punctuality, popular anime and manga, and mouth-watering food like ramen and sushi.

What is Japanese decor? ›

Japanese decor is arguably the most pleasing form of decoration known to the world, both aesthetically and spiritually. The neutral and natural colors, and geometric order of Japanese decor, lend a feeling of openness and purity seldom matched in other forms of decor.

Why are Japanese so fashionable? ›

Culture Richness of Japan

Japan's cultural richness has brought in many different interpretations of styles that are often observed in contemporary street fashion. Since the early 1850's, when international trade had just begun, Japan was often considered to be the fashion inspiration.

What furniture is popular now? ›

Wood, glass, stone, and metal are still more popular than plastics and synthetic fabrics. In 2021, expect to see more unpainted wood furnishings, stone textures, plants, wicker furniture, and ceramic pieces in homes. Combining natural materials will also be huge this year.

What color of furniture is popular right now? ›

Neutrals are still trending, but they're shifting slightly to more interesting colors like green - which is taking over as the new neutral piece of furniture color. Green is calming, refreshing, and versatile - meaning it will go with any color scheme you have going on in your home.

What kind of furniture are people buying? ›

In fact, most respondents said they had to see the item in person before specifically purchasing sofas, mattresses, recliners and rugs, as well as dining tables and chairs. Consumers are also willing to spend more on sofas, mattresses, TVs, refrigerators and dining sets, according to the survey.

Which furniture should you buy first? ›

You'll want nightstands, chest of drawers, dressers, end tables, coffee tables, entry chests, etc. so start with the pieces you need most first. Avoid buying a matching bedroom set, instead think of each piece as an accent that you can layer into the look of each space.

What makes a good living room? ›

It makes people at ease and feel like they want to open up. Has the perfect mix of art that complements the room's style, along with a healthy dose of negative space to give the eyes spots to rest. It also has art that has meaning to the people who live in the space, so that every viewing fills them with inspiration.

Which country makes best furniture? ›

The main furniture producer is China, with 39% of world furniture production. Other major furniture manufacturing countries are the US, Germany, Italy, India, Poland, Japan, Vietnam, the UK and Canada.

What is a high end furniture brand? ›

The Top High End Furniture Brands to Shop Online
  • Novogratz. Amazon. ...
  • Kelly Wearstler. Kelly Wearstler. ...
  • Brabbu. Brabbu. ...
  • Hooker Furniture. Amazon. ...
  • West Elm. West Elm. ...
  • Fendi Casa. Fendi Casa. ...
  • Henge. Casa Design. ...
  • Tov Furniture. Amazon.
Oct 7, 2021

Who sells the most furniture in the world? ›

IKEA. IKEA is one of the largest furniture brands in the world as of 2020, and a manufacturer and supplier of ready-to-assemble furniture and homeware. IKEA was founded 76 years ago by Ingvar Kamprad with its first store in Älmhult, Småland.

How do you make a Japanese style bedroom? ›

Create a fusion of cool and warm colors

When it comes to the Japandi colour palette, it's often a combination of the bright, light and cool tones of Scandinavia, partnered with the traditional Japanese palette, which features darker, richer and more earthy tones, which work well as accent interior paint colours.

What is wabi-sabi interior design? ›

The Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi combines natural inspirations and a neutral palette with a nod to the beauty in the imperfection of daily life. Unlike minimalism, which seeks to streamline and eliminate clutter, wabi-sabi celebrates the knot in the wood or the wrinkle in the linen.

What type of wood is used in Japandi? ›

Wood, bamboo, hemp, and other natural materials are popular in Japandi interior design because of their sustainability. Of these materials, wood is perhaps the most common choice for Japandi decor. Japanese styles may lean more toward darker wood pieces, but Scandi tends to use more natural unstained wood.

How do you make a Japanese style home? ›

5 Japanese home decor ideas - YouTube

What is Japanese kanso? ›

Kanso is a concept which comes from Japanese Zen philosophy and emphasises simplicity. In terms of aesthetics and interior design, it's all about keeping things simple, free from clutter and functional.

What are those Japanese buildings called? ›

Japanese architecture (日本建築, Nihon kenchiku) has been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs.

Why do Japanese sit on floor? ›

Sitting on the floor has long been part of Japan's way of life. In traditional homes, people eat and sleep on straw floor mats known as tatami. Numerous Japanese cultural activities, from Zen meditation to the tea ceremony, are done completely or partly while sitting on the floor.

What is Zen in interior design? ›

Originating in Japan, Zen refers to meditation and has become an increasingly popular principle for interior designers. The design style focuses on creating balance, harmony, and feelings of relaxation through a minimalist approach.

What is the Japandi look? ›

What is Japandi? Simply put, Japandi is a hybrid trend. This new look takes the modern flair of Scandinavian design and combines it with the timeless elegance of a Japanese aesthetic to create a style that brings together the best of both worlds. It's not hard to see why these two styles have been paired.

What are Japanese couches called? ›

A futon (布団) is a traditional Japanese style of bedding.

What is Zen interior design? ›

Originating in Japan, Zen refers to meditation and has become an increasingly popular principle for interior designers. The design style focuses on creating balance, harmony, and feelings of relaxation through a minimalist approach.

Why is Japanese furniture so low? ›

'' This is because in traditional Japanese houses, from ancient times to the present, there was very little furniture to sit or sleep on. Without chairs or bedding, the Japanese generally used the floor to sit and sleep on.

Why is Japanese furniture on the floor? ›

Sitting on the floor has long been part of Japan's way of life. In traditional homes, people eat and sleep on straw floor mats known as tatami. Numerous Japanese cultural activities, from Zen meditation to the tea ceremony, are done completely or partly while sitting on the floor.

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