Comfy, cozy, uber cool, baroque: A shop interior isn’t usually a place to feel at home… Dear consumer, do you care at all? Yes, we bet you do — when you’ve seen what magic caves Tokyo-based Jamo Associates create for your shopping pleasure. They just did the sophisticated interior of the new 3.1 Philip Lim boutique in Aoyama, and don’t forget their work for hipster magnets Loveless in Aoyama and Colour By Numbers in Daikanyama. PingMag went to visit stylist Chinatsu Kambayashi and designer Norito Takahashi in their lovely Jamo office, decorated with all sorts of samples and wondrous objects in Azabudai, to talk about what underwater fairytales have to do with interior.
Written by Verena
Translated by Natsumi Yamane
How did it start with Jamo?
Chinatsu: Norito was originally an interior designer and I was an interior stylist. We were both working individually as freelancers in different industries of publishing and designing. But since we shared the same keyword of ‘interior’ in common, we thought it’d be fun if the two of us from different backgrounds did something together.
And how did your first project come about?
Little iron chains everywhere… Photo by Kozo Takayama
Chinatsu: At the time, although we were in the same office, we worked on different projects. But we gradually started sharing our opinions through daily conversation: We would look at each other’s drawings and say “Oh, I think that one is better” or “That’s cool, but this isn’t.” Then one day, at a presentation, Norito realized the design limitations as a designer and I’d also been thinking that the styling of the photos I just captured was boring. It occurred to us that we should do the presentations of a building or a space together — from both a stylist’s and a designer’s perspective. So we did a presentation suggesting that we can create something interesting if someone half dreaming did the thinking together with the person designing it, and it actually went down really well. (Laughs)
So that’s how it began! When brands approach you, how do you start with a concept?
Chinatsu: The important factors are, first of all, the client’s requests, what they sell and what the shop building looks like. For example, with the Loveless store in Aoyama we found that there were many vaults in the ceiling. So we came up with the concept that it was a hole in Tokyo, as the client requested an abandoned and rocky look. Eventually, we created the space under the concept of the “geological layers of the earth.” Also important is who to appeal to and what kind of customers you want to attract. Because no matter how cool a space is, it wouldn’t work if you have products with a warm kind of atmosphere.
How about the new Philip Lim boutique in Aoyama? The way you use the light with perforated walls is really interesting: It reflects the use of indirect light in Japan a lot, since windows are usually semi-transparent here. Even more interesting that this is a traditional Japanese way but the brand itself is from New York and makes its debut in Japan…
Chinatsu: We’re honoured to hear that. Unconsciously, we think it’s beautiful, because we are Japanese. However, we never consciously tried to make it typically Japanese or New York-style. We just looked at their collection of clothes and the shop building itself, and thought that was the most beautiful way to do it. That’s how we got to that in the water concept: The way the light is passed through the glass and the way the lights from inside and outside mix resembles the light we get from looking up from under water.
3.1 Philip Lim: clever play with natural illumination — and lots of accessories!
Norito: Also, the client had only given us one theme, he wanted something romantic. We wondered what would be romantic for Japanese and we thought of the sea. Then we saw that rectangular, semi-transparent glass building and developed that ‘in the water’ concept.
Chinatsu: And that in turn led to the Japanese folklore of Urashima Taro travelling to this underwater paradise called Ryugujo, where people don’t age, eat delicious foods all the time and everything is beautiful and sparkling.
That’s romantic indeed.
Chinatsu: Yes, but we had to make it modern!
You said earlier that matching the products sold in the store and the atmosphere of the space is part of your job. How about Loveless’ baroque-style space and their hip clothing? How does this go toegther?
Dramatic eagle at the entrance! Loveless Dark Side. Photo by Kozo Takayama
Chinatsu: We mean ‘match’ in a different sense. In this case, it doesn’t mean going in the same direction but ‘to coordinate’ something to make the products look attractive. I mentioned the example of warm and cool earlier, but we also can deliberately place warm things in cool spaces to make them stand out. And we can also let romantic things conform to romantic surroundings. It depends on the circumstances.
Another big difference is that Loveless is a select shop, so it is like the home of the buyer. In Philip’s case, Philip Lim is a brand shop so you have to pursue their brand image. They have already established their direction as ‘romantic, cute and classic,’ so we toned the colours down to make sure that their colourful collections stand out.
And how about the interior itself: Do you make it by yourself when crafters can’t do it?
Loveless Goyard: the lighter side. Photo by Kozo Takayama
Loveless Sunny Side: the absence of blight. Photo by Kozo Takayama
Chinatsu: Norito originally used to do ironwork and I like making things too, so if it’s something as simple as the finish, then that’s nothing out of the ordinary for us. We don’t have fixed contractors, but we have people we like depending on what they are good at.
Norito: Japanese are good at this kind of work and you can get decent results whoever you assign for a job. But the projects with an antique patina aren’t something that anybody can do.
Chinatsu: We frequently integrate things that need to be made by hand, so we go for contractors who are good at handcrafts. However in Japan, there is a tendency to avoid using handmade things.
What projects were challenging in terms of crafting?
Chinatsu: The ageing process for the Loveless shop was really difficult. It was a big space and we needed more than one craftsman so we used two contractors. So matching their work was really tough.
Was the Loveless cave supposed to like it’s 50 or 100 years old?
Chinatsu: It’s not that we had to imitate a ruin from a particular age but we came up with a background story for it: Something like “there was a big hole in the middle of Tokyo and when people went into it and dug it up, people found this abandoned ruin…” I always come up with romantic or fantasy stories about the projects that I’m doing and then we both work on how we can base it on that. So Norito sometimes even phrases his questions like “Do you think the person who lives here would like this colour?” rather than just asking “Which colour should I use here?”
THE CONTEMPORARY FIX shop in Kita-Aoyama featuring a motorbike altar!
What’s the story behind the Uchu Country interior?
Norito: I like film director Tim Burton, like Edward Scissorhands.
Chinatsu: It’s a mix of Tim Burton with Loveless.
Reminds me a lot of 20′s expressionist movies… What’s your favourite Jamo project up to now?
Chinatsu: That’s difficult, but Loveless in Aoyama stands out so far. We put a lot of time into it and it’s our very first shop we designed together — and it received most of the recognition too.
For which project did you have the most freedom?
Norito: Colour by Numbers, perhaps?
Chinatsu: Philip Lim too, we had quite a lot of freedom.
Guess you need the freedom to come up with good work. What have you been working on recently?
Jamo: interior stylist Chinatsu Kambayashi and interior designer Norito Takahashi.
Chinatsu: We were working on a bistro directed by Cibone called “House,” which just opened in July.
Ah, sounds tasty! Thank you, Chinatsu and Norito of Jamo Associates!