Archive for January, 2012

With the tag line “Be the change. Volunteer,” Hands On Tokyo addresses the critical needs of the community by partnering with other organizations focusing on educational and social issues in Tokyo as well as disaster relief in north-eastern Japan. By collaborating with partners to create projects designed to meet their needs, [they] provide numerous volunteer opportunities for any individual or corporation looking to make a difference in the community. Currently, Hands On Tokyo has over 3,100 registered volunteers, arranges over 300 volunteer activities a year, and has given back more than 21,000 aggregate volunteer hours to the Tokyo community. 

Tokyo Jinja is proud to have donated this amazing rare and valuable glass senbei (rice cracker) canister from the early 20th century with raised glass lettering and original lid to the upcoming event “A Taste for Volunteering” in support of Hands on Tokyo.

There is still time to sign up and attend as well as bid on this senbei jar and a host of other prizes!

DATE:  Friday, February 3, 2012
Reception: 6:30 Party: 7:00-10:00 PM
LOCATION: The Capitol Hotel Tokyu
COST: ¥20,000 per person
DRESS: Semi-Formal
RSVP: hot.tfv.admin@handsontokyo.org

Hands on Tokyo has been doing incredible work in Tohoku and I was lucky enough to have helped on a project to feed 600 people in Iwanuma last June. We made and packaged some of the desserts while having fun together. If you can’t make the event, I highly recommend signing up for some of their volunteer activities which you can do by clicking here.

For more on vintage senbei canisters, see Country Kitchens and Rice Crackers…a visit to Tomioka Hachimangu.

The senbei canister sold for 73,000yen last night! It was the HOT item of the night. I am so pleased!

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the Brooklyn apartment of Aya Yamanouchi Lloyd, designed by Nadia Yaron and Ry Scruggs whose design firm Nightwood specializes in refurbished vintage pieces, deconstructed furniture and handmade textiles. Their philosophy is to “design and build with a down to earth yet airy aesthetic and sensibility to convey a modern rusticity that emphasizes hand crafted one-of-a-kind works of functional art… Old things, primitive practices, creative reuse and natural materials inspire us both.” Nightwood never use the term wabi-sabi on their website, but I think their work is the very embodiment of it. For a reminder, the Wikipedia definition is quite good: “Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is ‘imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.’” Ironically, the apartment’s owner is Japanese  – with a name like Aya Yamanouchi, I can’t imagine that she is not – but again, I don’t think there was any deliberate link to the idea of wabi-sabi.

Many of the vintage pieces were sourced locally, including the bench and column in the entry.

The living room is full of recycled and reimagined pieces, such as the coffee table which had its old laminate top switched out for marble.

Visible upholstery tacks are part of the charm.

Each quarter stool is covered in a different fabric. Such fantastic floorboards too!

I am loving the birdcage and faux shadow painted on the wall – so whimsical!

Ry Scuggs built the frame and Nadia Yaron wove the fabric used to cover the chair.

The settee cushion is covered in kimono fabric, a great juxtaposition with the wire filigree.

The little night table lantern is so creative. I think it makes a great way to use some of the small Japanese milk glass fixtures we find here.

The Nightwood duo don’t have that many other full projects under their belt, although they have been collaborating on pieces since 2003. But there are a few highlights on their website including this Williamsburg loft, which is darker and smokier…

…and more industrial feeling…

…as well as this simple and bright brownstone.

Ladders seem to be a constant feature in their designs.

I couldn’t resist sharing! I’ll be back with more Chinese New Year posts next.

For the full article and more photos, see The New York Times. There are also some great photos in their sneak peak over at Design Sponge.

Related Posts:
Thoughts for 2012…We Are The New Victorians

Image credits: 1-8. The New York Times, January 25, 2012, photo credit: Trevor Tondro, 9-12. via Nightwood.

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So after you had their portrait painted, where were you going to worship your Chinese ancestors? At your very own altar table of course! Now truthfully, many of the larger pieces come from shrines and temples, but individuals did own them, and they were considered the most important piece of furniture in the home. Portraits and scrolls were hung above them on the wall and offerings such as food or flowers would be placed upon them, as well as decorative objects. During the Cultural Revolution, traditional Chinese furniture became a liability – a connection to the old ways – and much of it was destroyed or carted off, only to be rediscovered and deemed desirable by, you guessed it, westerners!

While we no longer use them for ritual worship, they tend to be incredibly functional and attractive in modern-day homes. The tables could be made of hard or soft woods, sometimes lacquered on top and often having upturned flanged ends. Bamboo pieces like this one tend to come from the Shanxi region of China. Long and narrow, set up higher than a dining table, altar tables fit well in a variety of spaces, perhaps nowhere better than an entryway, where they can hold display pieces, corral shoes and serve as an all around command center for the home. I love the items on display and the high contrast in this photo. All the accessories are linked back to the color black painted above the white beadboard. The fine bamboo table and the floor runner provide just the right amount of warmth.

Perfect along a long narrow hallway, this bamboo piece has a lacquered top. The mullioned window panes seem to mimic the shapes in the bamboo.

I would normally consider painting an antique bamboo altar table to be heresy, but this one looks so fresh against that great Florence Broadhurst peacock feather wallpaper.

I love the mix of the very sharp and spare lines of this simple table with the curvy Thonet stools below. Altar tables are perfect for stashing extra seating in the entry…

…as seen here again. Their height also makes them perfect for holding lamps.

Moving on to the redoubtable Miles Redd, I cannot help but admire the extraordinary combination of color, style and period in this dining room with the bamboo altar table providing the visual anchor amidst all that paleness. It also makes a great buffet, able to hold dishes, cutlery and numerous serving platters along its 7 foot or so length.

Tablescaping is an art that achieves perfection on an altar table, as the height and breadth give it stature while the space below is perfect for tucking just about anything. The contrast here between the symmetrical arrangement on top and the asymmetric one below is genius.

From a practical perspective, they make great bars! Note the blue and white porcelain hibachi, or maybe a fish bowl based on the painted motif, being used as an ice cooler…

…and here again, a lacquer one being put to the same use.

One of the best places for an altar table is running along the back of a sofa as a console table, perfect for holding lamps, books and magazines in easy reach. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos illustrating that so you’ll have to use your imagination. I do have a few more unusual placements, like this example of a very wide one being used as a kitchen island…

…and this small narrow one being used in the bathroom as a dressing table.

Have you noticed a bias towards bamboo examples in this post? That is because bamboo altar tables from the Shanxi region of China are my favorites as evidenced by this late 18th century one in my home. One piece of advice I give often is to buy less, but buy better. This table was one of my main purchases when I lived in Hong Kong – I was very young so I scraped and saved to buy it. There has never been a moment since in which I did not love it and I know I will have it forever. When I came to Japan 7 years ago I assessed every house and apartment I saw for placement of the table as it is over 7 feet in length and didn’t fit in my NYC apartment. Now it has the pride of place and you see it immediately upon entering.

I hope you are enjoying these Chinese New Year week posts!

Image credits: 1.via Eclectic Revisited, 2. via decorpad, 3. Domino September 2006, photo credit: Corey Walter, 4. Elle Decor March 2006, photo credit: Pieter Estersohn, 5. House Beautiful September 2007, photo credit: Pieter Estersohn, 6. House Beautiful April 2011, photo credit: James Merrell, 7. House Beautiful September 2007, 8. House Beautiful November 2009, 9. Markham Roberts, credit unknown, 10. House Beautiful May 2010, photo credit: Thomas Loof, 11. Elle Decor June 2010, photo credit: Simon Upton, 12. me.

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