Despite the current dearth of international tourists in Tokyo, many new hotels, originally hoping to accommodate an Olympic rush, have had no choice but to open. Since so many are beautifully designed and reasonably priced, now could be a good time for Japan residents to enjoy a staycation. “On: Design” checks out four new establishments that offer out-of-the-ordinary stays.
A refreshing departure from the ever-popular minimalist white palette, Toggle Hotel brings a splash of vibrancy to the concrete jungle of Suidobashi. Its bright exterior of alternating strips of yellow and gray, inspired by the building’s adjacent expressway markings, only hints at the array of colors found inside.
Designed by Klein Dytham Architecture, every level of the hotel is two-toned from floor to ceiling. Twelve colors are used in six combinations — from a cheerful light blue and yellow to a deep purple and beige. Even the left and right sides of corridors are different colors, each leading to matching bicolor guestrooms.
While the two-tone color blocking is its most distinctive feature, the hotel concept centers on providing spaces in which guests can easily “toggle” between work and leisure modes. Most of its rooms feature high bunk beds or daybeds, matched with furniture that can function as mini desks or coffee tables.
There are other design quirks, too, including triangular corner rooms with window views that make guests feel as if they are sleeping in the middle of the expressway, and a gray laundry room divided by a sunlit yellow lounge area that’s so pleasant, it’s worth relaxing there while the dryer spins. Fans of Japanese design will also recognize celebrated brands dotted around the hotel, including Karimoku New Standard furniture, Kinto glassware and, most notably, signage and graphics by Artless Inc.’s Shun Kawakami.
The BnA (Bed and Art) Project supports artists in Japan by establishing Airbnbs and boutique hotels dedicated to showcasing their artworks. BnA’s modus operandi is to allow artists to develop their own ideas inspired by the architecture of each space, sometimes even modifying the rooms to artists’ requests. In return for designing guest rooms, artists receive a share of the room booking’s profits. The latest addition to the hospitality venture is BnA_Wall, a renovated Nishijin textile company headquarters in Nihonbashi featuring 26 unique rooms.
The result is a collection of wildly different immersive experiences, from Yoshirotten’s sparse and minimalist “Float” meditation room, saturated with color lighting, to Magma’s kitsch “Hardcore Game Room,” decorated with comically huge references to board games and a row of basketball hoops.
Of particular note is the “Framed Function” room, for which architect and designer Daisuke Motogi created abstract artworks that can be removed from the walls and used as furniture. The sculptural piece above the bed doubles as a set of cylindrical cushions; a monotone black picture turns out to be a serving tray; and a large matching rectangular work can be attached to a geometric frame to form a side table.
Another “On: Design” favorite is Kanto Iwamura’s “An Urban Nest” room, inspired by the outdoor nooks and crannies that inebriated citizens sometimes find themselves sleeping in overnight. Here, the bed is raised to create a cubby hole to crawl into below, while raw concrete steps and industrial piping give the impression that the guest has found shelter in a neglected city backstreet.
Also art-related is Kaika Tokyo by The Share Hotels. Similar to the BnA Project, The Share Hotels renovates old buildings across Japan into budget boutique hotels with public spaces to help foster a relationship with the local community.
Kaika, in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, is a hotel housed in a 54-year-old former warehouse. While the upper floors have been converted into guest rooms, sections of the first and basement floors have been reserved as storage facilities for contemporary galleries, including Nanzuka, Voilld and Yoshimi Arts. Some artworks are placed around the hotel and in a commercial gallery on the first floor, but guests are encouraged to peer through the storage areas’ wire fencing to view other pieces.
As a foil to the contemporary artworks, Kaika maintains a warehouse aesthetic that extends to the lounge area and corridors, with wooden crates used as display tables and signage boards. Other design pluses include a showcase of art goods available to purchase, traditional Japanese craft dishware in the bar and rentals of the stylish Tokyobike brand.
Designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune architects and constructed by ADX, K5 is another building renovation and local revitalization project. Housed in a former 1920s bank in Nihonbashi, it pairs the building’s original Western-style modernist concrete facade with 20 immaculately styled guest rooms, while opening up its library-bar, cafe and restaurant to locals and drop-in visitors.
Inside is a fusion of contemporary Scandinavian design and Japanese artisanship, all imbued with a hint of nostalgia. Expect Japanese woodwork by ADX in dark tones, retro-style tiled corridors, drop-shaped washi paper hanging lamps, curved plush minimalist furniture, richly colored textiles and copious oversized potted evergreens. An unusual design signature is the floor-to-ceiling cylindrical curtains that enclose each bed. Hand dip-dyed in indigo and translucent, they are a striking feature that offers guests a little extra nighttime privacy.
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