Minimalist interiors have been a growing trend for many years now, primarily dominated by a monochromatic palette of white. But who says we need to abandon color to live a de-cluttered life?

Here are some ideas to bring some warmth to the home without disrupting the sparsity.

Change of cabinet

Funnily enough, traditional Japanese tansu cabinets were originally designed to be hidden away so that living spaces could be as clutter-free as possible. Today, the rare and high standard of carpentry behind tansu — invisible joinery, airtight drawers and hand-forged metal fittings — is something worth celebrating in the open.

Sendai tansu, historically used to store clothing and swords, are among the most decorative of many local styles found in Japan. Made in Miyagi Prefecture, the Sendai Tansu Cooperative’s new contemporary line doesn’t veer much from traditional aesthetics, aside from one, very daring thing — brilliantly bold colors.

Instead of the usual plain or lacquered finish, these cabinets sport glossy, hard-wearing urethane coats of bright pink, mauve, burnt orange, midnight blue or black. Also with ornate fittings in champagne gold or jet black, they are an unusual mix of the traditional and contemporary that would make a stunning centerpiece in a minimalist room.

The Sendai Cooperative plans to start selling this new line in spring with prices ranging from around ¥200,000 to ¥320,000.


Color-blocking storage

For a less intimidating introduction to home color, Moheim’s collection of storage goods, designed by Shigeichiro Takeuchi, comes in a range of subtle muted hues. The lightweight wooden Linden Boxes are available in pink, gray, navy, natural grain and, of course, white, and they slot directly atop of each other to create an uninterrupted color-blocking effect. There are various sizes, all of which can be stacked together in any combination that works for you.

Moheim’s Tin Canisters — made by chazutsu (tin tea caddy) craftspeople in Tokyo — also come in matching Linden Box colors, and their traditional airtight and seamless lids turn the containers into modernist cylindrical blocks of color.

Linden Boxes range from ¥2,700 for a top cover to ¥6,264 for a large container, while the Tin Canisters are priced from ¥2,808 to ¥3,348.


Dishing out the decor

Patterns, when used carefully, can make a monochromatic space seem far less clinical. If you want to start small, the Tokyo Teshigoto project has produced sets of striped wood-block printed paper plates that are not only vibrant but also showcase the skilled work of Tokyo artisans.

Designed by Taku Omura and printed by Yukiko Takahashi, the Shima no Utsuwa is just one of 19 new hand-crafted items promoted by Tokyo Teshigoto. Each plate’s pattern is based on a Japanese motif — the sensuji pinstripe, yoroke wavy lines, an undulating tatewaku, delicate ame rain-like dashes and a wide stripe based on katsuo (bonito) sashimi. The patterns are printed on sturdy white washi paper, which are folded into shallow box-like dishes with gently curved edges. Ideal as trinket trays, they are an inexpensive way to add some color to a sideboard.

Each design comes as a set of three different sized plates (each a different color), which are priced at ¥1,944 (for katsuo or ame) and ¥1,620 (sensuji, yoroke or tatewaku). Keep an eye on the Tokyo Teshigoto website for an upcoming online shop release.


Going off the wall


Papering an entire room would likely send minimalists screaming, but creating a single accent wall can liven up a space without compromising the simplicity of a room.

The Easy2Wall by Who’s lineup of self-adhesive wallpaper offers a selection of patterns that are bold but not garish, as well as rolls of plain subdued pastels. The range is cut above alternative novelty stick-on wallpaper and includes some unusual ones created by artist Masanao Hirayama and graphic designers Groovisions. If you end up hating it, or the walls start closing in on you — you can always take it down and try something else.

Easy2Wall by Who patterns costs ¥2,808 per meter.


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