Not my Japanese house: Part 2

It's taken some time but I'm beginning to understand and respect the Japanese design aesthetic. What's surprised me most is how elusive modern design is where I live. So, as with most things, I resort to the online search.

I'll refrain from snark about odd Japanese architectural details, props, and styling. This time.

Let me just say this residence too has almost nothing in common with my Japanese house. Residential neighborhoods in Japan tend to have blocky, suburban houses with run-down garden sheds, no lawns, garages or fences, and little or no outdoor space between buildings. Not host country bashing here, just telling it like it is.

Yes I realize I'm one lucky bitch to get to live over here but most Japanese architecture and interiors are straight up uninspired, borderline trashy, and they usually depress me. Which is why I'm determined to find the goods.

Speaking of goods, no Japanese home is complete without tatami. It's used in guest and living spaces, sometimes with nothing but a low dining table and seat cushions. Or it's found in bedrooms where you're expected to roll out a thin futon every night and put it away in the morning. (Fuck that, I bought a bed.)

Architectural magazines and blogs spotlighting Japanese design often feature homes with ample plywood ...

But I have yet to see anything like this.

Stairs in Japanese homes are frighteningly steep with tread depth meant for people with very small feet. In other words, they're a trip hazard for clumsy westerners. Particularly Americans.

Don't get me started on overhead fluorescent lighting – in Japan they fucking love it. (Same goes for China come to think of it.) But they have lovely skin tones, unlike me. Oh no, I look all pasty and sick if I get anywhere near a fluorescent bulb.

Homes in Japan will almost always have doors of varying heights. I haven't figured out the logic behind this yet. My 6-foot husband has to duck through 7 of 12 doors in our house. Our house was built in the 1980s or 90s, and Japanese people aren't necessarily as short as they may have once been. I don't get why they haven't increased the standard door size yet. I'm guessing there must be a reason.

Here's a great example of the typical Japanese building envelope – almost completely maxed. And believe it or not I guarantee the residents will not be adding nice patio furniture here. Though Japanese gardens are often small works of perfection, I was surprised homes almost never have outdoor seating areas of any kind. No fences means no privacy. The times we sit outside people walking by look at us quizzically, as if we're locked out of our house. Needless to say, we don't sit out much.

Overall a nice, bright design that maximizes its urban space in creative ways. To me the floor plan is interesting but not ideal. This is not my country, so there is no reason I should expect it to.

Architecture and design by Rythmdesign | Found via Ignant


Hot design

Damn. It's hot in Japan. It's high summer up here on the north coast now. And it's humid. And I don't like it. Summer was my least favorite season before I got here. But it's reason to switch it up and make the house slightly more comfortable. I mean, as much as I can with only one dinky air conditioning unit for an entire house that has no insulation.

In my last living room post the space was pushing the warm factor because, uh, I still got trauma from winter. But now I've scaled back on textures and stuff in general to create the cool, breezy illusion I'm chasing. You know, the one where I sit under the a/c and blithely deny global warming.

Okay, the shag rug remains because the dogs love it and yeah they rule my life. Also, Japanese homes don't have dining areas so, um, we sit on the floor and use the coffee table. Whether that makes me white trash notwithstanding, I refuse to sit directly on a hard floor. It hurts like a motherfucker – you try it. The rug stays.

So if you haven't yet and you're melting out there this summer, ditch the heavy stuff in your space. Clutter, warm colors, furry textures, that sort of thing. Try cooler and lighter colors, fabrics like linen and cotton, and a glass vase with simple green leaves.

It helps me deal with summer heat but maybe I'm mental and you think it's all bullshit. Your call. I'm going to make sangria now.


Japanese coffee culture

I'm a coffee addict, I admit it. And fortunately for me, baristas in Japan do magic with coffee. In fact they obsess over it in ways we westerners didn't think possible, specifically the hand pour. I recently found 08COFFEE, a sweet little coffee spot that reminds me there's a lot to love about Japan. (Sometimes I forget.)

Not only is their art-filled space well designed, bright, and relaxing, but 08COFFEE also does artisan small batch roasting on-site. The young, gracious owners offer select high quality beans as well as top-notch espresso drinks (somehow served at precise drinking temperature) as well as delicate, not-too-sugary cakes. Good stuff.

I love the unpretentious attention to detail and how they used flat white paint, raw wood, and other natural materials like linen sheets with grommets as curtains to bring their funky little space together. This kind of effortless, tasteful design in Japan has proven less common than I'd hoped. But I'm gonna find it if it kills me.

Photos by me | iPhone + VSCO


Why I write

When I moved to Japan from Denver last fall, I left behind some amazing friends. Monika and I were neighbors and quickly developed a close friendship for our fanatical love of dogs, design, travel, dirty chai, liquor, and zombies. Monika recently took the online plunge and launched Tails Around the Ranch, a totally rad, hilarious blog about life with Sam, the sweetest most entertaining therapy hound in Denver. The pair spends weekends visiting sick and dying people to help them cope, which they usually accomplish just by walking through a patient's door. So yeah, they’re my fucking heroes okay? Anyway, Monika invited me to finally get my super secret blog out into daylight ... and here goes. 

How does my writing differ from others in my genre? Designpunk isn't mainstream material, it's more design-meets-dark-humor-meets-punkrock and goes to Japan. Yeah ... it's clearly not for everyone. I can be harsh. I use profanity. I try to keep it real and I don't pretend to be an expert. I also live in Japan which sort of makes me an enigma without even trying.

Why do I write? To throttle the madness. And learn new words.

How does my writing process work? I start with a simple idea and usually end up somewhere else entirely. That's probably wrong ... but hell, it keeps me entertained.

What I’m working on: After flunking out of ninja spy school I decided to learn something about photography. I even bought a good camera and you know that means this shit just got real.

Please give a big hand to: Laura of There and Back Again, another very good friend who set out into the world several years ago when she quit her job, sold everything, joined the peace corps, and shipped off to Uganda. She blogged about it all and I was absolutely riveted, even when she wrote about finding killer snakes and monster spiders inside her house. Laura is a brilliant, talented writer with an incredibly brave spirit. She's currently finishing up her master’s degree in the UK and I know more adventures are around the corner for her ... I suggest we all stay tuned.


Not my Japanese house

Nope, this doesn't resemble my generic suburban Japanese house in the slightest. But it's comforting to know good Japanese architecture and design exists on this island. Somewhere.

And yet ... I have to wonder about some of the styling and design choices employed here. If this house isn't on Unhappy Hipsters, it should be.

Banished from the living room for practicing zen during family time, the blackbird held them in its fixed, indignant stare. 

It reassured him to think the bathroom sink was close because he always found the smell of that particular antique text to be somewhat concerning.

The bunny implored her and again she scoffed, amused by his continued ignorance of symmetry.