Seeing both the wood and the trees

Moctave’s range of wooden furniture should get any hipster, nature-lover or slow-lifestyle design enthusiast excited. In short, it’s wood porn of the highest quality.

Established last November, Moctave locally sources 30 kinds of wood from Gifu Prefecture and hand crafts everything it makes. The stand-alone works — a chair, stool and small table — are understated with a hint of 1960s Nordic simplicity, but it’s the latest Ostinato series that really pulls out all the stops. Made from at least eight types of timber — including maple, walnut, cherry, zelkova and oak — each Ostinato piece’s parquet effect highlights the subtle contrasts of different wood grains and tones. Gaps in the parquetry also allow light through the works, with glass shelving and tabletops adding an ethereal quality.

The series takes its name from a soothing repetitive melodic phrase used in Baroque music and Moctave designers say that its arrangement of various woods offers a similar “comforting sense of rhythm and harmony.” But aesthetic comfort comes at quite a price. At ¥151,200 for the chair to ¥536,760 for the cabinet, the slow life may involve spending a lot of your time saving up for these beautiful items.


Taking it outside

On a far more accessible level, Twelvetone’s new outdoor-goods brand Yoka is a range of portable plywood furniture, designed to be easily assembled and then flat-packed for storage. Wood snobs may dismiss plywood as the poor man’s timber, but it’s strong and flexible, and without it iconic 20th-century designs such as Sori Yanagi’s butterfly stool would never have existed. Plywood also makes the Yoka range light enough to carry by hand.

The most recent addition to Yoka — which has been offering stools, shelves, chairs, tables and boxes since June — is its Panel Acoustic Speaker for smartphones. This simple box structure amplifies sound and, like all Yoka goods, it’s made from local conifer plywood that has been officially graded and stamped for quality. The veneers accentuate the natural grain and if you’re lucky, you could get one that features that grade stamp. Yoka goods are also handcrafted in Tendo, Yamagata Prefecture, an area well-known for manufacturing wood products, including Yanagi’s famous stool.

A varnished Panel Acoustic Speaker costs ¥7,844, while an untreated one is ¥5,684.


Going mobile

Drill Design’s Place to Be for its Tempo brand of geometric mobiles is basically a very cool version of the “balancing bird” — that kinetic novelty toy that’s often used in schools to teach kids about the center of gravity and whose kitsch design hasn’t really changed since the day it was invented in the 1980s.

Place to Be is a walnut veneer structure that, like that novelty bird, has its center of mass at a single point. Instead of that point being the beak of a hawk, however, it’s the tip of a star-like sculpture.

A meditative ornament, the star balances on a tall pointed stand, and when touched, it gently dips and rotates but never falls. Its uneven design makes the phenomenon seem even more impossible and the muted color of walnut wood stops it from being mistaken for a toy. Just 37.5 cm tall and at ¥7,344, Place to Be is also a good alternative for Tempo fans who don’t have room for the range’s large ceiling mobiles.


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