Traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design come together to create a delicate range of furniture and everyday products at the Jin Kuramoto Studio.
There’s something solid about traditional craftsmanship that makes a piece of furniture special. Whether it is in the curve of a chair or a joint in the wood, the attention to detail makes a difference. Japanese designer Jin Kuramoto founded his Tokyo design studio in 2008 and designs furniture, electronics, automobiles and home products for leading brands including Sony, Nikon and Honda.
Kuramoto’s simple yet beautiful furniture designs are rooted in everyday life. One of his first chair designs is called ‘Life’(2009) and is inspired by simple chairs he has seen on his travels around the countryside. “I see pure and innocent attractions in their form,” he says on his website. “I do not yet truly know why they attract and inspire me so much. My feelings that I want to be closer to that “innocence” are reflected in this chair.”
The JK Chair (2012) is also influenced by traditional chairs. The curves of the JK are traditional yet minimalist enough to be contemporary. The “half-arms” are ergonomically designed so that the user can stand and sit easily in a narrow space.
For the Nadia chair (2014), Kuramoto employed traditional woodworking techniques used by Japanese carpenters on ships. “The Nadia series has been developed by focusing on a particular method, known as ‘kumiki’, which uses interlocking construction techniques.
The result is a series of contemporary furniture that harmonises the design aspects with the high level ‘kumiki’ structure, as well as giving an affectionate nod towards the wooden vessels of times gone by.”
Similarly, the Sally chair (2014) also employs traditional wood joining techniques. The chair looks dainty but “has a really strong structure with minimum parts.” The Nadia series also has side tables and coat racks, all made from the same interlocking method.
The Mia (2016) is a stacking chair with short arms. The plywood back and frame gives the chair a traditional ‘office chair’ look, which makes it very versatile. Up to four chairs can be stacked together.
Apart from chairs, Kuramoto has also designed other furniture like side tables and shelves. Liz (2014) is a family of side tables made of plywood only 6mm thick. The unusual shape of the tables is almost sculptural and challenges the boundaries of our notions of what furniture should be like.
The Molly shelf (2014) has wooden shelves and fabric covered ‘doors’ which open out to reveal the shelves. When the doors are opened, the shelves appear to float without support, creating a lovely illusion. The shelf also works as a room divider.
Wind (2016) is another design for room dividers, “a concept more than an individual product.” Kuramoto describes it beautifully as a “forest of organic shapes that controls acoustics and makes the environment more pleasant and friendly.”
Equally organic is the Naft series (2011), one of my favourite Kuramoto designs. These products are simple and made out of metal. From geometric coat-hangers to origami-like pendant lamps, this is a beautiful collection of shapes and angles.
One of Kuramoto’s earliest experimental designs included the Blur collection (2008) that combined a vase and a pitcher with a spout at the same time. “I am interested in the outline of a daily usual act. For instance, baking bread, spreading butter, pouring coffee. Each stands for a separate action but it seems to connect side by side.” So the Blur can be used as a stand-alone vase but you can also fill it with water and water your plants as well.
In recent years, Kuramoto has played with shapes and size and the Phantom for Smaller Objects (2016) is an unusual name for a useful everyday product. The Phantom is a small container that you use to keep your keys or small change. Kuramoto asked the question, “What would be the lightest way to make this; to make your small valuables lightly float in suspension before returning to your pocket the next day?” The answer came in the shape of Japanese manufacturer NBC Meshtech Inc.
Together, they researched and developed a bowl of translucent polyester mesh that was small yet rigid enough to hold its shape. The end result is a tiny little thing of beauty, much like most of Kuramoto’s traditional and contemporary designs.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer