A convergence of the ancient Zen Buddhist Philosophy of Wabi-Sabi and Bauhaus-American Modernism. Replete with Knoll classics such as Harry Bertoia's Diamond Chair and Isamu Noguchi's Cyclone Table, this home prioritizes asymmetry and simplicity above all. Pairs are hard to come by and quiet, simple spatial moments occur when you least expect them. Bauhaus-American and Japanese craft underscore it all.
Located in northeast area of Kyoto, the former capital of Ancient Japan, this humble abode boasts a harmonious blend of Zen gardens, natural wood, and serene stone. Drawing from the Wabi-Sabi philosophy that derives from Zen Buddhism, the home maintains the existing structure in order to preserve the natural evolution of the original space. Wabi-Sabi focuses on celebrating the beauty in what is natural and the acceptance of imperfections, simplicity and asymmetry.
Intricate details like the offset staircase by the main entrance, the irregular placement of windows, and the natural warping of wood echo the principles of Wabi-Sabi. While the single-story exterior is exemplary of traditional Japanese architecture, the interior showcases a personal take on the evolution of Wabi-Sabi in the context of Modern design. Organically shaped ceramics sit perfectly askew on the surfaces of more geometric tables and Knoll furniture is found neatly ordered in pairs or as stand-alone pieces.
The living area of the Kyoto house is broken up by sliding doors, a common feature in Japanese homes, allowing space to be open or closed at any given moment. The darker palette, a result of the copious amounts of exposed wood, offers a neutral back drop that evokes the Wabi-Sabi philosophy of having no value. A bland start allowed the home’s owner to make value out of no value, one that manifest itself in the presence of Knoll furniture. A single Bertoia Diamond Chair placed in a lowly, dimly lit corner; a floating Saarinen Tulip Stool; and a Cyclone Dining Table with seating for one make up both a visual and physical austerity. Where the Diamond Chair rests, there is no accompanying furnishings, only a glowing large paper lantern. In line with the Wabi-Sabi worldview, such simplicity and modesty allows the user to appreciate the ingenuous integrity of objects.
Mirrored across a large glass window, the indoor and outdoor spaces host the same black Bertoia Side Chairs. However, while the indoor space contains a Cyclone Table, full of metal wiring and a stiffer construction, the outdoor space opts for a softer, wooden table that sharply contrasts the wire-form construction of the side chairs. At play again is the Wabi-Sabi theme of asymmetry and simplicity.
"...Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic of THINGS. A combination of THINGS (ex. rocks from a mountain stream) at the right place can create VALUE out of NO VALUE..."
The walls of Kyoto House are brightened with Japanese art and some more modern photography. Two photographs stand out in particular as they feature Knoll furniture. These black and white photographs showcase Diamond Chairs placed in front of what looks like the prior façade of the home and a window-lit Platner Arm Chair. The images show how the house mimics the aesthetic of situating individual objects in solitary spaces. These still images remind the viewer that despite the passing of time, there is a simplicity and functionality in modernism that is not only still relevant, but also works.
Thanks to their intentional placement, Knoll furniture effortlessly renders a landscape imbued with the very principles of the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. The effect each piece will have on its environment and the dweller is always at the fore of any aesthetic choice. The interpretation of modern design continues to evolve yet the intent remains the same.