On choosing objects that inspire joy
On choosing objects that inspire joy and harmony
Is there a relationship between a culture’s climate and its aptitude for beautiful design? Tadatomo Oshima — Director of IDÉE and authority on all things Nordic design in Japan — thinks so. “I think there are many very elegant lamps by designers in countries with long winters.” He himself predominantly selects 1950s Finnish furniture for his own home: “Alvar Aalto, Tapio Wirkala and for lamps, designers such as Paavo Tynell. I particularly like brass for lamps — like the way bamboo’s colour varies over time, I think brass is a material that you feel more attachment to the more it changes.”
In Japan, each season brings its own character and colours — from winter’s snow-dusted landscapes and spring’s cherry blossoms to the symphony of neon reflected on puddled pavements during Tsuyu (rainy season). “The seasons evoke images of colours; spring is yellow and green, summer is blue, autumn is brown and deep red, and winter is white. I find enjoyment in decorating, having chosen a seasonal colour theme.”
‘I seem to have a preference for items that you can empathise with or respect when hearing the background story of how they were made.’
Tadatomo Oshima, 2020
Ultimately, he chooses not to be constrained by themes. “I choose what I like, regardless of country of origin, time period or whether it is well-known or not. However, when I look at the things I have decorated my house with, there is somewhat of a consistent taste and individuality to them. I seem to have a preference for items that you can empathise with or respect when hearing the background story of how they were made. I also choose things that make me smile when I look at them.”
IDÉE originated in Tokyo, originally as a Western antique business in 1975 but started producing furniture in 1982 — its very existence having a significant impact on Japanese culture and design. Their products are chosen based on their affinity with other stock, ensuring a common thread runs through all of their wares. They often collaborate with up-and-coming designers and a dedicated IDÉE shop portrays a global vision of products imbued with meaning and originality.
Tadatomo joined IDÉE in 1998 as a café manager, before hopscotching his way through public relations and product development; currently, he is responsible for the overall direction. “When I was job hunting in 1997, there were few interior design shops, so I was attracted to IDÉE as they had — as they are called now — a lifestyle shop, with not only furniture but sundries, textiles, a florist, a café and a gallery. I got an interview but told the company director that the music they had playing in the café did not suit the space. He said, ‘Well, please change it’, and so I was assigned to the café.
‘I believe that having affection for an item when choosing it, leads to a richer life for that person — a life where one can seriously consider what is important everyday...’
Tadatomo Oshima, 2020
“I lacked experience at first and felt at sea, but the café was a place where designers from all over the world such as Jasper Morrison and Mark Newson (who did design work for IDÉE) came. Young Japanese designers also frequented it, so it was a very stimulating and exciting time. Furthermore, it was an extremely important period as I was able to learn to consider the basics of service which makes people happy.”
As for his personal work philosophy, he is keen to stand back and let customers form their own relationships with products. “I don't want to tell customers what to do. An individual’s surrounds and lifestyle are something they should contemplate and choose for themselves. However, I always try to offer my thoughts, hints and ideas through interior design.”
“I also consider the relationship between the maker and customer. As such, we carefully convey the maker’s thoughts to customers and hope they take this on board and find additional value in the product.”
Of the products sold at IDÉE, Tadatomo does have some favourites. “I really like the reproductions of Serge Mouille lamps as well as the Marc Newsom furniture, but if I had to pick just one, it would be Umbrella stand F.1.86’ by Kuramata Shirō, an internationally renowned designer Japan is very proud of.
“It's an umbrella stand with a support that resembles a leaning walking stick. It’s beautiful if you leave it as it is, but if you put up an umbrella inside the ring, the support disappears and you encounter a spectacular illusion, as the ring appears to float. It was designed in 1986 and we continue to sell it.”
His advice regarding tackling consumer culture is simple. “I think it is important to ask yourself ‘am I choosing this because I think it’s good?’ or ‘am I compromising?’ whenever selecting a product. I believe that having affection for an item when choosing it, leads to a richer life for that person — a life where one can seriously consider what is important everyday, and carefully select products one at a time, socialising and accumulating daily experiences.”