Maison & Objet 2016: Transforming Tatami
Reimagining a Japanese tradition, French designer José Lévy has created a range of furniture using tatami – a material conventionally made from rice straw and used as flooring mats. Levy's interpretation incorporates Washi paper, which adds strength and durability while maintaining the original material's lightweight quality.
Launched at this year's Maison & Objet trade show, the cross-cultural range of seating, side tables and storage is made from precious woods, gloss lacquer and light woods, also inspired by the region. Produced for Japanese manufacturer Daiken, the Moving Tatami range is one of the first to shift this material from floor to furniture, opening up a number of design possibilities for its use.
Influenced by Japan in terms of material, style and palette, the designer cites his early exposure to Japanese culture as the inspiration that shaped the collection. Curved benches and cocoon armchairs serve to mirror the character of Japanese design, while cupboard doors and curved sofa backs provide perfect surfaces for the tatami application.
Although used less frequently today, the material has undergone a small resurgence in recent months. In March 2016, Japanese architect Kenrak Tokmoto designed an 87 sq m house in Nigati as a strict grid of squares specifically to fit the tatami mat's dimensions, while in September 2016, crowdfunded tree houses designed by Wee Studio in Beijing, selected tatami as the flooring for its entire project.
See Updating Luxury Craft, for further examples of design that combines traditional techniques with contemporary luxury.