Friday, 27 August 2010


The Japanese have a real flair for display, this never ceases to impress me, on my visits to Japan. Most of the people I meet are of course interested in vintage and antique items and whether they live in a roomy minimal house or a tiny appartment (in Japan called mansions!) there is always a display of interesting items to catch the eye. Some are pared back to basics and they know instinctively where to put that vase, scroll or welcoming flower display, others have their collections on every surface, some serious, some just for fun.

If you have an interest in Japanalia and would like to create displays with an oriential theme, these can still blend very well in western interiors. Feedback from some of our customers shows wonderful innovation giving vintage and antique items a new lease of life. Given the same object the individual is going to display it in different ways, adding their own character to the theme. I would love to hear from customers how they have displayed or used items bought from the website in a western setting.

Probably the most well known item for display is the kimono, it can be a richly embroidered wedding kimono for that wow factor or a humble indigo kimono from the countryside, handspun, dyed and handwoven, for a more subtle effect. For the smaller house or appartment, children's kimono are the perfect answer. The miyamairi kimono, which is similar to our christening robe, used when the baby is taken to a Shinto shrine to be named, is definitely an art piece. It can be richly embroidered, handpainted sumi style or exquisitely dyed and designs include cranes, hawks, carp, samurai and flowers. The obi is also perfect for use in interior design, as a luxurious table or furniture runner and is the obvious choice as a wallhanging in high stairwells because of it's length. Both modern vibrant obi and the more subtle antique ones from the Meiji and Taisho Eras, make wonderful interior design statements each creating their own atmosphere.

There are many other Japanese textiles and garments which can be used to create a decorative display. Kamishimo with their fine komon pattern, worn by samurai in the Edo and Meiji Eras, make wonderful display items and are very popular with customers. Another favorite is the nobori, a Japanese flag for festival events such as Boy's (now Children's) Day. The nobori are handpainted in a colourful folklore tradition, usually with famous samurai and historical events and come in a variety of sizes. In Japan they are usually hung from poles outside the house but would be equally at home as a wallhanging say in a stairwell or over an old fireplace.

Noren are used in Japan as door curtains both in shops and in private houses but in Western interiors they can have a variety of uses such as room dividers (indigo futonji can also be useful for this purpose) wallhangings and as window dressings, some noren are indigo dyed, others use shibori or sumi painting technique for decoration. They can be works of art. With a little lateral thinking many items no longer used for their purpose can get a new lease of life. Japanese outdoor items such as stone lanterns, buddhas, temple lanterns and ornate roof tiles, can make interesting displays on natural stripped wooden furniture. Collections with a theme make quirky displays, for example Japanese footwear, snow boots, geta and childrens decorative zori or collections from a certain area such as Kyushu or Hokkaido. These displays give a homely feel to a room as well as being interesting to a visitor and becoming a talking point.

When walking around the temple markets in Japan, my companions always find it very amusing when I spot a great find at 1000 paces, amongst the piles of stock, and know the precise place I want to display it. I'm hoping after reading this blog, I will have inspired you to create some oriental displays yourself but I warn you it can become highly addictive.

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