Style & Design | ON: DESIGN

New brands to delight design fans

by Mio Yamada

Staff Writer

Important ‘mews’

Wooden furniture maker Karimoku, renowned for its Karimoku New Standard brand that matches international designers with Japanese craftspeople, has a new, very important clientele: cats.

Borrowing a slogan from its collaborator Rinn — the cat goods brand behind the stunning, albeit pricey, Neko Modern Cat Tree — Karimoku Cat’s concept is “Cat First.” In design, though, it’s also very mindful of cat owners’ aesthetic preferences.

The Karimoku Cat Tree (¥42,984), a compact 124-centimeter-tall climbing frame, could easily be mistaken for a stylish bookshelf. Its triangular base and oval steps are non-slip textured by uzukuri, a traditional technique of scrubbing wood surfaces to expose the grain, while the scratching post, something that is usually covered in sisal twine, is disguised by the use of white or natural cotton rope. The Karimoku Cat Bed (¥32,184), meanwhile, applies Karimoku carpentry know-how to perfecting cat comfort. A smoothly carved shallow bowl, the bed has a fitted cushion of breathable cotton foam covered in supersoft micro fur. Its oval shape was chosen to ensure the cat has enough room to wiggle around, while still feeling the security of a small space.

Both items feature soft, rounded edges and a minimalist aesthetic that wouldn’t look out of place in any modern home, but don’t be tempted to use them yourself. Remember, “Cat First.”

karimoku-cat.jp

Little DJs, cooks and zoo keepers

Kondo Inc.’s new kids’ toy brand Dou?, which launched for pre-order this month, is a delightful lineup of wooden edutainment toys, created under the guidance of a group of mothers who make up the core members of the Dou? team. Though the moms’ main concerns were about safety — all the toys comply with CE toy safety directives — the items are also creatively designed to include unusual details.

Every piece in the collection — which includes hiragana alphabet cards shaped like biscuits and a traveler-themed set of building blocks housed in a suitcase-shaped trolley — is worth mentioning. But there are three On Design favorites.

First is the Little DJ wooden set of decks (pictured), which has two turntables that emit sounds when spun. The sounds change depending on the speed the discs are rotated, so kids can mix beats with their left and right hands. There are also three sliders and a tiny abacus for the little ones learning to count.

For budding cooks, Little Chef offers the tools and ingredients to make a ham salad sandwich, including a choppable tomato and a jigsaw lettuce leaf. Best of all, the set’s cooker not only doubles as the items’ box, but it also has different shaped slots in the lid to encourage kids to tidy up with a game of matching items to holes.

Last, but not least, is the My Zoo pull toy that allows toddlers to turn their wooden companion into a giraffe, rabbit or elephant. The animal heads are tucked inside of the body and can be swiveled out, with the elephant cleverly using the silhouette of the front wheel to create the shape of a trunk.

All the items are individually handcrafted with prices ranging from ¥3,996 for Little Zoo to ¥13,500 for the Carry Me building block set.

www.dou-toy.com

©FRANCFRANC CORPORATION
©FRANCFRANC CORPORATION

Modern Works, modern shopping

©FRANCFRANC CORPORATION
©FRANCFRANC CORPORATION

Last month, furniture and interior store Francfranc launched Modern Works, an exclusive lineup of coordinating designer pieces, now available to buy online and at a new store in Yokohama and a limited outlet in Aoyama, Tokyo.

Describing the range as “normal standard,” Modern Works aims to fill the gap of what it calls a “middle” market: consumers who can’t afford high-end designer furniture, but are discerning and willing enough to spend a little extra for quality.

The vast collection — which includes everything from dining chairs to couches, tables to cabinets, and poufs to beds — is also a deliberate departure from Francfranc’s predominantly plush and bright or pastel-colored fare. New clean, streamlined shapes are introduced, with designs alluding to a classic mid-century modern aesthetic. Colors, too, are different — primarily dark or dusky blues, grays, oranges and black, with natural wood-hued or black accents and details.

There are far too many pieces to describe, but until February next year, the entire range can be viewed in at Modern Works Aoyama, an unusual cashless store that uses QR codes to guide visitors to online product information and allows them to either purchase items straight away or order via the webstore.

bit.ly/modernworks

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