Decorators give Tokyo condos ‘kawaii’ touch

Kyodo News

Apartment houses and condos decorated to cash in on the popular kawaii (cute) concept are catching the fancy of female residents.

The decorators, Kana Arai, 32, and Kumi Tahara, 27, set up a real estate company called Tokyo Girls’ Fudosan in 2006 to handle interior work for guesthouses where residents live a communal life. Residents share living rooms, kitchens and lavatories equipped with chandeliers and pink toilets.

The women launched the venture in response to requests from the owners of condominiums and detached houses in prime Tokyo locations left empty due to the recession.

The pair travel long distances to their favorite furniture stores to select living room furniture but pick up pictures for the bathrooms at ¥100 shops to reduce costs. They also paint the walls themselves.

In a condominium in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district that was remodeled as a guesthouse last June, there are paintings of carp all over the living room walls.

Playing on the Japanese word for carp (koi), which is also a homonym for “love,” the condo, once owned by the famous female novelist Chiyo Uno (1897-1996), is named House of Love.

The two women collaborate on the designs, which differ from room to room.

“We often change concepts on the fly. But we’re giving consideration to the feeling of women of all ages who seek cute things, such as brilliant things and the color pink,” Tahara said.

The House of Love features a cat’s paw-footed bathtub and a large mirror like one that might be found in an actress’ dressing room. A total of 10 rooms have already been occupied, and more than 20 people are on a waiting list.

At present, there are about 100 such rooms, chiefly in the heart of Tokyo. At ¥70,000 to ¥80,000, the monthly rent is less than a one-room dwelling in the same area. The customers are mainly in their 30s. “They seem to be seeking companions to live with, rather than low rent,” Arai said.

Residents share housecleaning chores and men are prohibited. There has been almost no trouble. “They’re keeping a reasonable distance from each other and seem to be enjoying living happily,” Tahara said.