Home tour | Soft minimalism & dark, earthy tones in Tokyo
Today I’m sharing a peek inside a new project from Karimoku Case Study – the ongoing partnership between Norm Architects and Tokyo-based Keiji Ashizawa Design, which has seen them work together on various interiors around the world as well as producing a collection of furniture with Japanese manufacturer Karimoku. Called the Azabu Residence, their latest venture is a stunning renovation of a private apartment that’s tucked away in Tokyo’s quiet Nishi-Azabu district. It showcases the same soft minimalism, natural materials and Japanese and Scandinavian design influences as their previous schemes (which you can see here, here and here), but this time with a darker and altogether more elegant colour palette.
The apartment sits on a spacious, leafy plot, so the aim was to maintain a connection to nature and a sense of calm throughout the interior. The team also wanted to embrace the beautiful light, using muted tones to highlight the dancing reflections and shadows cast at different times of day.
“One of the main narratives in the interior design was inspired by the well-known Japanese book In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, which was recommended to us by Keiji Ashizawa on one of our first field trips in Japan,” explains Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen of Norm Architects. “In Scandinavia we often work with bright white walls to enhance daylight, but through the writings of Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, we understood the value of dark, dim places and chose to celebrate and enhance the nature of the site.”
The result is a sophisticated, timeless blend of earthy beiges and browns, with lime-washed walls offset by swathes of rich wood and layers of soft texture. In the open-plan kitchen-diner, for example, smoked-oak furniture and cabinetry sit alongside pale stone worktops and a light woollen rug, while semi-sheer linen curtains hang loosely in the window. There are also plenty of subtle yet beautiful details, including grooved fronts, carefully placed grain and the diagonally positioned legs of Keiji Ashizawa’s ‘A-DT02’ table – a new design for Karimoku Case Study whose form seems to shift according to the angle from which it’s viewed.
Another just-launched Karimoku Case Study piece is on show in the living room: the ‘N-S02’ modular sofa by Norm Architects, which balances tactile upholstery, gentle curves and a solid wooden base. On one of the walls behind are floor-to-ceiling cupboards housing an ingenious bar niche; on the other, bespoke shelves displaying a selection of ceramics and other objects, including some by Copenhagen-based Kristina Dam Studio, whose sculptural minimalism is a perfect match for the scheme. A cone-shaped paper lampshade – the result of a collaboration with traditional Kyoto lantern maker Kojima Shouten – lends a relaxed, organic feel to the space, while a large potted plant adds a touch of colour and maintains a link with the greenery outside.
The bedroom is perhaps my favourite space. Clad in dark panelling that echoes the other rooms, it has the feel of a cosy, calming cocoon. Beige linen bedding, plush carpet and another plant soften the clean lines, and Louis Poulsen ‘AJ’ wall lamps introduce an element of classic Danish design. There’s also plenty of storage thanks to a walk-in wardrobe lined with custom-made shelves and cupboards.
The whole apartment makes a sophisticated, inviting and incredibly tranquil retreat, and it’s a wonderful example of how Japanese and Scandinavian design can be fused in a respectful and sensitive way. I can’t wait to see what other projects Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa have lined up for the future…
Photography by Tomooki Kengaku via Norm Architects
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