Great design ideas do not necessarily need to cost an arm and a leg — even though some manufacturers would like you to think so. With that in mind, this month’s picks are a grab bag of affordable products, all under 10,000 yen (the small version of the Oblong clock excepted). Also, you should be able to find most of them online at the Caina design store (www.caina.jp).
The art of dining
Kyouei — or rather designer Kouichi Okamoto — keeps adding to his already impressive collection of innovative works. Still early in his career, he continues to play around with — and turn upside down — many conventions, consistently entertaining with the finished product. His booth at the Designboom Mart during last year’s 100% Design Tokyo fair packed in the crowds, and the last few months have seen him busier than usual, with the launch of a few new products. His fascination for light continues in the form of the Chandelier Bulb and Connection Lamp, and then moves on to household accessories with a couple of vases (the polypropylene Kaki vase and the Ha Na Ta Te flower stand). My favorite? The Frame Napkin — “Stain is art!” — a very simple idea that should go over great at dinner parties. Kyouei products are available in select shops throughout Japan.
Signs of progress
Naming your product A Path to the Future may sound a bit presumptuous, especially when you are flogging adhesive tape. But design unit D-BROS has been known to veer to the whimsical side in its product titles before, so this latest moniker is no big shock. I’m already a fan of patterned adhesive tape — I still pack everything with Groovisions-designed tape bearing that unit’s iconic mascot, Chappie. But A Path to the Future does one better by doubling as measuring tape. Pack your things, tape them up and voila, you’re one step ahead at the post office, since there’ll be no need to measure your parcel. The tape retails for 840 yen and can be found in select shops and design-friendly online stores.
One thing that tends to limit individuality in Tokyo apartments is the restriction in most rental contracts regarding what you can do with your walls. No holes means no wall-mounted objects, which means that accessories need to be of the table-top variety. If a time piece is on your shopping list, you could do worse than the Oblong, from clock company Lemnos, designed by the curiously named moritoyoshi.com (peculiar because there is no Web site matching that address). The beautiful walnut finish gives a sense of heft to the diminutive piece (available in two sizes, 22cm x 30cm x 8cm and 14cm x 18cm x 8cm), and means that it should fit nicely in any wood-themed interior. The Oblong is available in either wood-grain or white frames, and is priced at 10,500 yen and 21,000 yen, depending on the size.
A vase at a stretch
Announced late last year, the results of the inaugural Muji Award were a mixed bag — some of the selections suggested a quest toward simplicity that went a bit too far, ignoring the fact that a successful product needs to have a practical use. One bright spot was from Isolation Unit’s Teruhiro Yanagihara, in the form of the Cover It flower vase. Turn any drinking glass into a flower vase by applying the elastic covering over it, an idea that is both economical and aesthetically pleasing. Still no word on whether any of the award selections will become Muji products, although a showing at this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan come April should reveal more.
Time to revisit our friends at Osaka-based Truck Furniture. Last week saw the start of an exhibition by the unit here in Tokyo, “Trucking Truck #1,” at LimArt (1F, 2-10-2 Ebisu-Minami,  3713-8670), a shop that specializes in interiors and art books. The show, which runs until March 4, will feature the latest sofas, chairs and stools from Truck (truck-furniture.co.jp), including a child-size version of their FK SOFA.