I thought these lights were Chinese, having admired them many times at the store Shanghai Tang. However, after witnessing them at the theatrical dawn fire ceremony in Mount Koya, I decided to include them. Considering the influences Chinese Buddhism in Japan during the seventh century, it’s no wonder they appear in both countries. I love the use of old everyday kimono fabric used for the shade and the glowing ambient lighting it gives off. Layer your patterns with gingham, bamboo blinds, screen-printed coffee sacks and blue screen-printed wallpaper.
An unusual curtain tie back that looks like an oversized hair ornament a geisha might use on a casual day.
The Japanese are organised & tidy, having a place for everything. Don’t feel you need to buy a staired chest – I recycled balsawood boxes tipped on their sides and secured (by sheer gravity or Liquid Nails, if you must). They once housed old scrolls, paper lanterns and ceramics.
Mix up your textures: use leather for flooring and a wooden circle with embossed painted numbers as a tray or tabletop. Perfectly faded flat cushions serves some utilitarian purpose; woven water reed slippers don’t need to worn but just happen to look the part. The traditional wooden houses of Kyoto have flooring of tatami mats and often with low floor-friendly furniture. I have used a layer of raw leather topped with a length of boro to create flooring. Hang your pendant lights low and make sure you have lots of comfy cushions at hand.This is for eating, conversing, playing games and all your other past times.
The Japanese use low seating arrangements and shoji sliding paper screen doors, clever devices to change the function of their spaces, from sleeping to working to socialising. A bamboo table and cushions, all lightweight for easy moving, sit on a split bamboo mat. A low-hung paper lantern gives a beautiful soft glow.
I was inspired by my visit to the amazing Naoshima art island. Consider furniture placement and be aware of its forms as well as its function. The ceramic stool, hand-painted photo wallpaper and sculptural base of the table act as art pieces as well as functional pieces. Even if you cannot have the internal gardens of a classic Japanese house, place a great shaped to bring in the green and all its serenity.
When I travel, I look for kitchen hardware supply stores. Here, I added to an ever-growing utensil rack Japanese hazard tape, wire baskets and kitchen brushes.
My Japan recommendations:
Old Kyoto: A Guide To Traditional Shops, Restaurants And Inns by Diane Durston
I have had this book for over 15 years in anticipation of visiting Kyoto. A wealth of detailed information on my favourite subjects, trades, among many other things. A must-have.
Lost Japan by Alex Kerr
I was given this by Bodhi, our American guide in Japan (he took us to Mt Koya) who translated it. A great read on politics, and social & cultural history of Japan.
Food and Travels: Asia by Alastair Hendy
Alastair is a stylist, photographer & writer. This book sings to me, it inspires me to cook. I love that it includes the location & origin of the food – to combine stories & travel adventures with recipes & food pictures is just so appealing.
Katachi: Classic Japanese Design by Takeji Iwamiya & Kazuya Takaoka
I have referenced this heavy book for many, many years. it covers all things Japan in paper, wood, bamboo, fibre, clay, metal & stone.
POST FOSSIL: excavating 21st century creation directed by Li Edelkoort
Fab exhibition I went to in Tokyo showcasing modern designs/furniture/homemade from wood, leather, canvas, glass & other humble & honest materials I love.
Superfuture travel guide
Buy, download, print & make it into your own book with designated folds, cuts & taping. An up-to-date uber-cool travel guide with shops, festivals, what's on, what's hot!
Lost in Translation directed by Sofia Coppola
I stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo just because of this movie and had a private moment at the bar, listening to a saxophonist & looking at night-time Tokyo from a great height. Fab!
Okunoyu Ryokan (Japanese traditional inn)
Kurokawa Onsen Minami Shokoku-cho Aso-gun 869-2402 Kumamoto-ken Japan
Ph 0967 44 0021
Traditional Japanese rooms, dotted through the maples, with an energetic river alongside. A tatami-matted room serves as your dining room cum sleeping quarters. We dined on a 36-plate meal (all tiny beautiful morsels of everything) then slept in a row on futons. Plenty of hot pools to choose from: one in the room, men's, women's, communal & private!
Benesse House/Long room
Gotanji, Naoshima, Kagawa 7313110 Japan
Ph 81 (0) 87 892 3223
A hotel in a museum, what a fantasy. Designed by Tadao Ando, this James Bond-like structure looks over the Seto Inland Sea. And my room is beautiful, looking over the many scattered islands.
Sanjo-ohashi Nishi-zume Nakagyo-ku Japan
Ph 075 221 3018
Kyoto shop run by the same family for over 100 years, making and selling traditional wooden brooms. They are all natural fibres, and include your regular square indoor brooms, ones for geisha make-up, paintbrushes, nailbrushes and all sorts of shapes to get into unusual places, nooks & crannies. All so lovely, it would be rude to hide them in the shed or cupboard.
Omiya Nishi-iru Nakasuji-dori Kamigyo-ku
Ph 075 441 0355 (English spoken)
Indigo-dyer's studio, house & shop in Kyoto. All three are lovely if you're lucky enough to get invited in! Shibori and indigo-dyed fabric by the yard, paper, clothes & thread for purchase.
Tokyo Everything you need for any & every craft, and more.