Shiro Kuramata (1934 – 1991) Japanese furniture and interior designer

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How High the Moon Armchair by Shiro Kuramata
How High the Moon Armchair by Shiro Kuramata

Groundbreaking household items

Shiro Kuramata (1934 – 1991) was a furniture and interior designer from Japan. He was born and raised in Tokyo, where he continued to work.

Education

From 1953 to 1956, he studied woodworking at Tokyo Municipal Polytechnic High School and the Department of Living Design at the Kuwazawa Institute of Design.

Biography

In 1953, he began working at the Teikokukizai furniture manufacture. After that, he worked in the interior design divisions of prominent Japanese department stores, including the San-Ai Co design studio of the Matsuya department store in Tokyo, which he joined in 1957. In 1965, he established his design studio in Tokyo. He used a minimalist approach to his furniture and interiors, evoking traditional Japanese austerity. Yet, the result was a mix of Eastern and Western views.

Summary of Works

The 1970 Revolving Cabinet was his first notable furniture work. Interiors for Issey Miyake’s clothing boutiques (1984 in Paris, 1986 in Tokyo, and 1987 internationally) and the Lucchino Bar and Caffe Oyx for the Seibu store (1987 in Tokyo).

Revolving Cabinet by Shiro Kuramata
Revolving Cabinet by Shiro Kuramata

He has created almost 300 stores and restaurants since 1965. Despite designing furniture for Aoshima and Ishimaru, he is best known for his 1970 Furniture in Irregular Forms collection for Fijiko. Cappellini International Interiors’ 1970 wavy 18-drawer chests garnered him accolades while exhibiting his odd and surreal sense of humour.

His Blues in the Night table included dozens of red diode tubes that lit inside translucent acrylic, making it the ultimate statement in high-tech romance. His huge 1972 lamps were made from heated milk-white plastic sheets stretched over poles to create naturally formed curves.

49 Drawers by Shiro Kuramata, 1970
49 Drawers by Shiro Kuramata, 1970

From 1975, he was a consultant to Mainichi Design Awards. He set up an office in the Rue Royale, Paris. In 1988, he bought the 1927 house designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens for Joél and Jan Martell in rue Mallet-Stevens, Paris. He designed the woman’s handbag Copacabana. Working with the Memphis group and its leader Ettore Sottsass from 1981-83, designs included 1972 lamp Fantéme, 1978 Marilyn Monroe chest of drawers by Lappelini, 1981 Imperial three-part cabinets, 1982 Kyoto cement and glass side table, and 1987 Sally side table with a broken-glass top.

Other work included; 

  • 1964 49 Drawers by Aoshima Shoten, 
  • 1968 Pyramid furniture by Ishimaru, 
  • 1970 revolving cabinet by Ishimaru, 
  • 1976 glass chair for Mhoya Glass Shop, 
  • 1977 Solaris by Aoshima Shoten, 
  • 1983 Star Peace table by Ishimaru, 
  • 1985 Begin the Beguine chair homage to Josef Hoffmann, 
  • 1986 How High the Moon metal-mesh chair by Kurosaki (later, by Vitra), 
  • 1986 Sing Sing Sing armchair by XO, and 
  • 1986 Drawers in Irregular Form by Cappellini International Interiors, 
  • 1988 BK 86000 bar stool by Pastoe, and 
  • 1989 Miss Blanche plexiglass chair.

Recognition

Many shows included his work, including the 1978 ‘MA Espace/temps au Japon’ exhibition, the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and various Memphis exhibitions. He won the Mainichi Design Award in 1972 and the Japan Culture Design Award in 1981.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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