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Britain’s blossoming love for Japanese design in the home

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The design has a red lid and a narrow neck which widens to form a base of sturdy hips. When poured, the contents flow in a singular, uninterrupted stream.

The Kikkoman bottle hasn’t changed since it was designed in 1961 by Kenji Ekuan for the world’s largest soy sauce producer.

Simplicity has made it ubiquitous. And crucially, it works — think of wrestling with glass Heinz ketchup bottles or constantly wiping lids on plastic iterations. Likely, Kikkoman’s bottle is the reason we’re so familiar with soy sauce.

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country's influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country’s influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

In the introduction to her book Japanese Design Since 1945 (£35, Thames & Hudson), Naomi Pollock writes: ‘In Japan, good design is everywhere. But most of all, it’s in the home.’

The trend for Japanese-inspired, UK-based brands, such as Wagamama, Superdry and Yo! Sushi, is well worn, but the country’s influence is likely seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes.

Inspired idea 

The Japanese approach to design is summed up well by a single product – Muji’s right angle sock (from £3.50, muji.eu). 

As the foot is perpendicular to the leg, the sock should follow the shape of the body: design centres on the user rather than the designer.

The word ‘Muji’ translates as ‘without brand’ and the company invites (often renowned) designers to create reasonably priced products anonymously. 

Design guru Naoto Fukasawa is an adviser to Muji, and his wall-mounted CD player for the company (£149) is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Naoto Fukasawa's butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

Naoto Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

In the UK, Chaplins stocks a large selection of products from Japan, including some from the designer.

‘The idea is to create designs that appear to have been sculpted by the elements,’ says Ludovic Aublanc, creative director at Chaplins. ‘It’s the kind of minimalism that brims with emotion, that makes you grateful and happy to come home.’

The company stocks Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Papilio range – chairs and sofas sporting headset ‘wings’ to protect the user’s head (Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair, £2,869, chaplins.co.uk).

Simple seating

Japanese designers have described the chair as the centre of design and an extension of the human form. It follows that these things should be easy on both the body and the eye.

Habitat’s Mori charcoal two-seater sofa (£716, habitat.co.uk) certainly fits the bill. It is compact, unfussy and elegant with its plush curved armrests and contrasting thin, wooden legs.

Simple unfinished woodwork is a key part of design in Japan, like the solid oak dining chairs from Oak Furnitureland (£140, oakfurnitureland.com) which would pair well with the Japanese oak Castor Table by Karimoku New Standard (£1,169, nest.co.uk).

Clutter free

Last year, decluttering guru Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her hit Netflix show. The programme has been talked of plenty, but we’re perhaps unaware of how key these principles are to Japanese design.

A large part of the focus on user-friendly products comes down to space. As ever, it’s important for Muji, with its storage bed (from £299) which has spacious drawers to banish clutter. Loaf has the Woody storage bed (from £995, loaf.com).

Simple boxy shelving units such as the Ikea Kallax range (from £15, ikea.com) are practical, but can also be used for displaying plants, books and records.

Or, for a modern twist, try the John Lewis Dice shelving unit bookcase (£450, johnlewis.com). The company also stocks Japanese brand Like-it’s clear storage products (from £8).

Crockery that rocks 

Japanese pottery has long been a feature of our homes, and a collection by John Lewis is a nod to this. Inspired by woodblock prints, the range includes glassware, plates, mugs and even Christmas decorations. 

It’s all delicate, bright patterns and the infuser mugs by Tokyo Design Studio (from £25) are a highlight.

But elegant motifs are only part of the story. The earthy charcoals, whites and beiges of Hasami Porcelain (hasami-porcelain.com) are a calming, elegant addition to any kitchen.

Hasami teapots start from £65 and mugs from £22 (la-gent.com) – also pick up a copy of Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book Of Tea, written in 1906, an insight into the Japanese ritual of tea-making. Elsewhere, an Oriental Hobnail tea set costs from £22.98 (wayfair.co.uk).

For eating, Denby Pottery has Japanese-inspired bowls from £58 for four in grey and white (denbypottery.com).

Finally, being able to serve Japan’s other favourite drink – the highball – is a must. Try LSA’s Mia Highball glasses (£27 for four, lsa-international.com) or, for something cheaper, a set of six Duralex Prisme highballs is £11.99 at rinkit.com.

Then grab a bottle of Akashi whisky (£28.50, waitrosecellar.com), add ice, stir clockwise 13 times, add soda water, stir again and appreciate another example of elegance and simplicity in Japanese design.

What your home really needs is… a Christmas throw

At this time of year, people fall into two groups: those who believe more is more, with bright lights and decorations aplenty; and others who keep things simple, with a few holly sprigs and a carefully adorned tree.

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

But whether you’re a maximalist or a minimalist, your home will need a Christmas throw because someone in your festive bubble is bound to complain about being cold.

If glitter is your thing, you’ll like the fleece star throw from Marks & Spencer (£25, marksand spencer.com). 

Or snuggle up under Dunelm’s red cable-knit design with a fleecey inside (£60, dunelm.com).

For something more fun, Redbubble has one that reads: ‘This is my Hallmark Christmas movie watching blanket’ (£34.73, redbubble.com).

Going low-key? How about a white and grey reindeer pattern with red pompoms (£40, barkerand stonehouse.com)? 

Or this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw , £99.50, notonthe highstreet.com), which you could use all year round.

Anne Ashworth 

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Orange warning in place for five counties on west coast

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Violent storm force 11 winds are expected off the west coast as Storm Barra approaches on Tuesday morning.

Met Éireann has upgraded its marine weather warning to red, the highest category, on Irish coastal waters from Galway Bay to Bantry Bay from 3am on Tuesday morning to 11pm tomorrow night.

A status orange warning is in place on land for the counties of Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork from 6am on Tuesday morning until the same time on Wednesday morning.

Counties included in orange warning could see damaging gusts of up to 130km/h which will head to high waves, high tides, heavy rain and storm surge.

The rest of the country will be under a status yellow warning for the same period with the possibility of localised flooding.

Met Éireann head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack told Newstalk Breakfast that the storm system is developing rapidly over the Atlantic at present and will hit Ireland’s western seaboard on Tuesday with strong gale force winds which will quickly extend across the country.

There will be heavy rain turning to sleet and snow on higher ground, she warned.

Met Éireann will meet with gardaí, local authorities and emergency services this morning to update the progress of the storm and provide advice on what precautionary measures should be taken.

“It will be a pretty horrid day,” added Ms Cusack who advised against cycling.

The high winds and heavy rain will continue throughout Wednesday but they will have moved on by Thursday.

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, senior meteorologist Liz Walsh warned that trees could be knocked down during the high winds. She also advised that outdoor street furniture should be taken in or tied down and cautioned that Christmas decorations could be damaged.

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Coronavirus rules for driving tests spark complaints

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Claims of rude testers, of not being allowed to cough and having to drive with windows open due to Covid-19 were among the complaints received from people who failed driving tests recently.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), which oversees driving tests nationally, released a sample of the 1,505 complaints received since the start of last year under the Freedom of Information Act.

New figures show the driving test centre in Cork had the highest pass rate with 75 per cent of people passing, while the lowest was Charlestown in Dublin with a 42 per cent pass rate.

One person complained he had told his tester he had asthma and might need to cough because he had recently changed inhalers, causing irritation to his throat.

“I was advised that if I coughed at any stage, the test would be over immediately. This was difficult to control while under exam pressure and added a huge amount of unnecessary stress and pressure,” the individual complained.

Another individual complained their tester said if their face mask slipped “a little bit from my nose” while driving, the test would be ended.

“I’m in shock how he treated me that day,” said the complainant.

Another learner driver who failed said their car was hot and “very uncomfortable” because the tester said the hot air de-misters had to be kept on to prevent the windows fogging up because the back windows had to be kept open due to Covid-19.

One complainant said the tester seemed to have prejudged the test when they spotted a small stain on the driver’s seat as the car was supposed to be “spotless”.

‘Anxious’

“The tester was clearly taking it too far. I was complying with all Covid precautions as I had just Hoovered and sanitised the car and it was simply a mark on the seat.”

There were general complaints beyond Covid-19 issues. One person complained about feeling “anxious” because the tester was “sitting there shaking his head”.

Another said their tester repeatedly shook his head and sighed several times, and then made notes on the score sheet, which was “extremely off-putting and really unfair”.

Another driver said the tester was “extremely condescending and patronising” and mocked their answer to a signpost theory question about an “unguarded cliff edge”.

“We don’t drive along cliff edges in this country,” the tester was quoted as saying.

The RSA has been dealing with a backlog of driving tests due to the pandemic.

The centres with the next highest pass rates were Clifden (71 per cent), Killester in Dublin (70 per cent), Birr, Co Offaly (70 per cent) and Cavan (69 per cent).

The test centres with the next lowest pass rates were Dublin’s Churchtown, since closed (44 per cent), Nenagh, Co Tipperary (44 per cent) and Mulhuddart (45 per cent) and Raheny (46 per cent), both in Dublin.


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Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98

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Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.

On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.

His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.

In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.

Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.

In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.

On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”

However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.

Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.

He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”

On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”

– Guardian

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