Karimoku Case Study creates new wood design one project at a time

Combining the minimalist aesthetics of Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa Design with Karimoku’s decades of experience in making wooden furniture results in Japandi at its best. The fourth Karimoku Case Study project transformed a Tokyo apartment from the 1980s into a serene and welcoming home whose dark-toned interior is a tribute to shadows.

Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
An apartment located in a quiet residential area in Nishi-Azabu is the fourth completed case of Karimoku Case Study.

A HOME IN a luxurious residential building in Azabu, Tokyo, built in 1988, now has a new, timeless interior thanks to Danish-Japanese collaboration. The interior of the apartment was designed by the Copenhagen-based Norm Architects and Tokyo-based Keiji Ashizawa Design, and the furniture was manufactured by Karimoku Case Study. The Azabu residence was their fourth collaborative project.

The Karimoku Case Study brand by the Japanese Karimoku consists of simple, high-quality wooden furniture, designed separately for each interior design project. This is also what the name of the brand suggests.

Karimoku is Japan’s largest manufacturer of wooden furniture, and it was established in 1940 by Shohei Kato in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture. The name Karimoku comes from the abbreviations Kari and moku, which refer to the company’s hometown and the word mokuzai, meaning wood. At first, the small workshop produced various wooden parts for, e.g., sawing machines and pianos, until it launched its own furniture collection in the 1960s.

The wooden surfaces in the Azabu residence have a calm dark tone.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
The dark palette is complemented by soft light shades.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
For the Azabu residence, Norm Architects designed a modular sofa with a wooden base that features traditional Japanese joinery. The coffee table and lounge chair by Keiji Ashizawa are from the Kinuta Terrace case.

Since 2009, the company has established a number of new furniture brands, such as Karimoku New Standard, Karimoku KUNST, Ishinomaki Laboratory of Karimoku and, most recently, Karimoku Case Study. What all of these have in common is the collaboration with leading creatives and Karimoku’s effort to produce top-quality furniture that elevates interiors and brings joy to its users.

Karimoku strives to produce top-quality furniture that elevates interiors and brings joy to its users.

The Karimoku Case Study projects were inspired by Case Study House program launched in the 1940s by the American Arts & Architecture magazine, which aimed at developing modern homes to meet the increased housing needs of that time. The model houses were drawn by the likes of Richard Neutra, Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames, and they are considered among the most significant works of their designers.

Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
Norm Architects drew inspiration for the home's wall shelves from the patterns of architectural columns. The modular shelves are currently a prototype in Karimoku Case Study's collection.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
The side chair Norm Architects designed for the Blue Bottle Coffee Minatomirai café was also used in the Azabu case. Its sophisticated round shape imitates the architecture of the café in Yokohama.

Karimoku Case Study’s collaboration with Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa Design is based on shared design values: admiration for serene beauty, richness of materials and timelessness. The brand values working with international designers and finding new approaches, and it enjoys testing the limits of woodworking.

The three previous Karimoku Case Study sites are the Kinuta Terrace apartments in Tokyo, the Blue Bottle Coffee café in Yokohama and the holiday home designed by Norm Architects on the coast of Gothenburg. Each project has added new, timeless furniture to the brand’s collection. Furniture designed for previous cases has also been utilized in new projects.

Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
The kitchen features countertops in light-colored stone. Norm Architects' elegant bar stools were created originally for the Kinuta Terrace apartments.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
Karimoku also realized the apartment's bespoke wooden fixtures.

The use of smoked oak and dark wood veneers enhances the dusky impression, creating a calm and cozy space for contemplation and family life.

Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
To contrast the stone surfaces in the kitchen, Keiji Ashizawa designed a lightweight dining table in smoked oak. The chairs by Norm Architects are from Karimoku Case Study's first collection.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
Another new piece by Keiji Ashizawa is a beautiful wooden bench that can also be used as a display stand.

The Azabu case study is characterized by elements inspired by American Modernism. The warm and welcoming interior features stone, dark wood and fabrics with strong texture. When compared to, e.g., the first Kinuta Terrace project with an interior that is flooded with light, the Azabu site features darker tones. The use of smoked oak, and dark wood veneers enhances the dusky impression, creating a calm and cozy space for contemplation and family life.

“I wanted to highlight the quality and unique features of the Azabu Residence Building and incorporate the stone sculptures from the garden and entry that were added during the renovation. I also wanted to embrace the obscurity that covers the whole space. I took inspiration from the Japanese book In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki. I wanted to work with the shadows rather than against them, and hence focused on a darker material scheme,” says lead architect Keiji Ashizawa.

Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
The dark but gentle color scheme continues in the bedroom.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
A black AJ wall lamp, a Danish mid-century design classic by Arne Jacobsen illuminates the bedside area.
Karimoku Case Study 04: Azabu
Keiji Ashizawa's bench is well-suited for putting on and taking off shoes at the entrance.

A total of four pieces of furniture were created for the Azabu project: Keiji Ashizawa designed a dining table and a bench, and Norm Architects designed a modular sofa and wall shelves. Karimoku also realized the apartment’s bespoke wooden fixtures, such as built-in cabinets and doors. Just as with the previous projects, the Azabu case study also forms a coherent whole in terms of style and atmosphere and combines Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics in an elegant way. Thus, Japandi at its best.

See also:

Products designed by Norm Architects >
Products designed by Keiji Ashizawa >

Text: Laura Hallikainen Photos: Karimoku Case Study

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