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Friday 29 March 2013

Japanese Interiors Under the Monocle

For a country with such high design standards, it's surprising that many Japanese apartments are pre-fabricated plastic matchboxes with little longevity. Few and far between are Sir David Tang's sisal floors, paulownia woods loved by Studio Nendo or Hasamiyaki ceramics.

Perfectly placed in Design Trawler's highly rated Hankyu Men's store sits the Monocle Cafe. A little basement oasis of democratised design; taste makers sit alongside teachers, enamel lighting, soft woods and typographic detailing. Everything Japanese studio apartments should be, yet seldom are. Do we over-romanticise Japanese design? Most likely there's a blog in Japan that thinks everyone in England has a four poster bed and a chesterfield. Which is entirley untrue of course. We all have Chippendale's.

Fish Crate & Barrel

I was always disappointed with US furniture retailer Crate & Barrel. Yes, the emporium of stateside middle-class taste has, for years now made the most handsome drinks cabinet in the world, and yes, they pair it with a veritable Abercrombie & Fitch-like portfolio of finely chiseled friends - but there is a distinct lack of anything made from crates, or from barrels.

Not so in this local fish-focused izakaya in Shinjuku. Using crates from what is likely Tokyo's famous Tsukiji fish market, the tuna crates-turned-tables look rugged and relevant. The only thing missing perhaps, is a barrel themed bar stool or two.

Strike a Match - Save a Beard

So you've got the aforementioned pepe nero man candle and need something equally attractive to set said armoas alight. In the absence of a vintage table top lighter, silver, and in the shape of leaping jaguar, naturally; an old fashioned box of matches will do the trick. These unique designs available for a couple of coins at the Conran Shop do the trick perfectly.

A little twee perhaps, with the decidedly Stella Artois vintage designs; there is something satisfying, iconic even, about striking a vesta against the side of a cardboard box. Of course, real men have designer stubble for such uses... or kitchen blow torches.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Introducing the Man Candle

Scented candles are about as masculine as scatter cushions, but as proved by Cape Henley, the man cushion does exist, and therefore the same must be said for the 'man candle'. Well, it's taken a little while, but Design Trawler has pinned it down [and while you can get a suitably masculine black pepper candle from the admirable Molton Brown, that's far too easy].

This suitably 'grrr' flame bearer comes from Erbario in Italy. Based in Tuscany, the firm produces innovative scents including citrus and cinnamon, wine and also olive oil. I particularly like the brick-like form, hearty paper packaging and shoelace finishing. It's not tested on animals so it'll please sensitive sorts, or at least provide a fitting excuse to vegan other halves with kittens.

These Boots are Made for Trawling

Otsu Furniture is just the kind of perfectly crafted little store that Tyler Brule and the editorial team at Monocle Magazine would love. The sliding shoji doors off Tokyo's Meguro-Dori hide a space that's more workshop than well... 'shop'. There's always a chap contently working away restoring an old wooden cabinet or shelf as only Japanese woodworkers seem to.

I previously picked up an old tailor's spool and on my most recent trip was attracted by these antique Japanese shoe stays. The best place for wooden shelf-candy, Otsu is as honest as a shop can get and it seems fitting that both my acquisitions here have been tailoring related. I'd like to think If Otsu did tailoring, they'd do so without a care in the world for schedules or profitability, diligently crafting bespoke wears like their effortlessly honest cabinets, stools and curios.
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