Ariake: A Cross-Continental Experiment In Design

At TVG, we’ve long been enchanted by the minimalist, earthy designs that come out of Japan on a regular basis (note the interior of Japan’s Shichirigahama Minimalist Beach House). Japanese furniture is much like the culture that produced it – traditional, strong, real, with an emphasis on craft. But to Japan’s west – considerably far west – another design tradition of similar themes has taken root.

Like the Japanese, Scandinavian furniture is renowned for its functionality and humble simplicity. Where the two design staples differ is in their materials and colour:

  • Scandinavian design promotes smooth materials and neutral colour to create their minimalistic vibe.
  • Alternatively, Japanese furniture may use more ‘raw’ materials (e.g. bamboo) and darker, earthier colours to exaggerate the warmth of the chosen abode.

There’s a happy middle ground between the marrying of these two cultures through design. This intimate marriage of creativity has resulted in a movement known as ‘Japandi’ – the combination of the similarities and differences between traditional Japanese and Scandinavian design. Ariake has explicitly brought this concept to life through an inter-cultural exchange and collaboration.

‘Ariake’ translates to ‘daybreak’ in Japanese and just like its etymology, the outfit has its beginnings in Japan. Furniture companies Legnatec and Hirata Chair have joined forces with designers from around the globe. Perhaps most notable of these collaborators are Norm Architects (Copenhagen) and Staffan Holm (Sweden) – both recognisably Scandinavian. The result of a series of design workshops in Morodomi, Japan, is 25 minimalistic and functional designs that encompass the soul of each culture. The pieces are all constructed in Morodomi from white oak, hinoki, ash, and leather, plus finishes such as sumi, indigo, and burnt cedar. Here are a few of our favourites.

Skyladder Shelf

The inspiration for these shelves is a dangling rope ladder from a hot air balloon. Perhaps coincidentally, Saga is famous for its hot air balloon festivals. The design is immediately recognised as Japanese, thanks to its curved-bottom legs and stands as one of the foundations for the Ariake collaboration.

Braid Sofa

The braid sofas are a primary example of the Ariake, Japanese-Scandinavian intermingling at play. Designed in collaboration with the Brazilian StudioMK27, the braided nature of the lounge’s exterior may remind one of the hair once donned by the Viking she-warriors of old. However, these patterns are inspired by traditional bamboo patterning, while the overall body of the chair is inspired by designs of Scandinavian legendary geniuses such as Finn Juhl.

Split Mirror

The Japanese concept of ‘Ma’ – pause, gap, or negative space – is integral in the philosophy of this mirror. The outer border consists of two wooden halves, with a noticeable gap in between. According to the collaborators, this ‘allows the eye to contemplate the space in between.’ Certainly one of the more philosophical items on offer from any Ariake.

Aizome Cabinet

The ‘Aizome Cabinets’ strike at the heart of this cross-cultural symmetry, insisting on craftsmanship and utility. With a beauty like this, it’s easy to forget that furniture was once used for more than just visual admiration. This simple Scandinavian design is complemented by the strong Japanese colour pallet. A dancing between two Japanese indigos (Aizome) and accents of piercing red dye make this piece the humble brag of any room.

Visit Ariake’s website for a full sample of their products and story.



Jay is a writer and content producer for The Versatile Gent.

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