The Azabu residence in Tokyo talks about modern design from the middle of the century

Danish firm Norm Architects and Japanese studio Keiji Ashizawa Design designed a modern mid-century interior for the Azabu residence in Tokyo using muted dark tones and warm natural materials.


Two studios also designed custom-made furniture for an apartment housed in a 1988 building located on a green plot on a hill in Tokyo.

The apartment is located on a hill in Tokyo

Playing with textures and materials, Norm Architects i Keiji Ashizawa Design for the interior chose stone, dark wood and tactile textiles.

“This project is inspired by the interior design of American and Brazilian modernist uses of warm dark natural materials and wood wall coverings, lush rugs and tactile upholstery in the middle of the century,” Keiji Ashizawa told Dezeen.

“Another major narrative is inspired by the famous Japanese book Jun’ichirō Tanizaki,”In praise of the shadows‘. “

Dining room with dark wood table
Features custom-made furniture, including a dining table

The three-bedroom house has 238 square meters and includes a living room, dining room and entrance area. Norm Architects and Ashizawa covered many floors and walls with dark wood creating a cozy cave-like feel.

“The Azabu residence project was completed in muted, dark tones enhancing and embracing the intimacy of the shadows,” Norm Architects partner Fredrik Werner told Dezeen.

“Spacious but dimly lit apartment is a comfortable, human-oriented and sheltered housing away from city noise. Quiet and embracing interior for contemplation and private family life.”

An entrance hall with a stone floor in an apartment in Tokyo
A stone floor was used for the entrance

The original interior had a “muted and soothing” entrance area that received visitors into the home.

This led to the renovation of the rest of the space, as the architects chose the materials for the interior with the aim of creating the same atmosphere.

“We chose a stone floor for the entrance, a natural oak floor with a stained reaction of iron in the living and dining area and plaster for the walls, accentuated by wooden panels that Karimoku supplied specifically for this project,” Ashizawa said.

Breakfast bar in a Japanese house
The breakfast bar adds seating in the kitchen

In the combined kitchen and dining room, an oak table and bench made of the same material was specially designed for the space by Keiji Ashizawa Design together with the Japanese brand Karimoku.

They are complemented by a beige breakfast bar and a built-in dark wood kitchen.

Living room with white sofa without arms
The beige armless sofa is made to measure for the living room

For the living room of Azabu Residence, Norm Architects and Karimoku designed a modular sofa without arms of a simple geometric shape.

The Danish studio also designed a shelf for the room that was informed by “a pattern of supporting pillars in architecture”. A low glass table and a collection of abstract sculptures give the space a gallery-like feel.

Dark smoky oak paneling covers the walls of the master bedroom, which also has open storage closets made of the same wood. The bed is located on a wooden pedestal that extends from the wall and also functions as a low shelf.

Wall shelf in Azabu residence
The wall shelf has a shape that is determined by the architecture

Although the simple interior design and the abundance of wood evoke Scandinavian and Japanese interiors, the American influence is reflected in the layout and materials used.

“The Azabu project was conceived shortly after a trip to America, and the inspiration of American and Brazilian modernism in the middle of the century is reflected in the use of stone, dark wood and textured textiles,” Werner explained.

“Living spaces with a small niche bar, open-plan kitchen, lush rugs and voluminous comfortable furniture draw inspiration from a range of elements – from the Japanese-inspired Schindler House in Los Angeles to the extravagant New York apartments featured in the Mad Men series,” he added.

Azabu Residence is one in a row Karimoku case study the interiors were designed by Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa Design from Karimoku. The studies previously worked together on three more case studies, including a pine-covered house of the archipelago on the west coast of Sweden, which was a lighter and more open space.

Dark wood bedroom storage cabinets
Dark wood storage spaces are located at the entrance to the bedroom

“Like most other architects, we are working with the idea of ​​Genius Loci – the spirit of the location,” said architect and partner of Norm Architects Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen.

“It all consists of understanding the specific values ​​of a particular site and creating a space that will suit the location and narrative or atmosphere you want to create in a particular location. In this case, the site dictated a range of materials that differed from previous Karimoku case study projects.”

A small dark wood table with a wooden chair
Natural materials were used throughout the space

The natural light of the building also helped to inform about the interior design of the Azabu residence.

“Regardless of the dark tones used to unify the space, the beauty of this home stands out in the morning and early afternoon, with the contrast of direct sunlight peeking into the space, and at night, when the ambiance of the space creates an elaborate scheme of artificial light,” Ashizawa said.

Previous Karimoku case studies by architects Norm and Keiji Ashizawa Design include the Kinuta Terrace apartment block in Tokyo and the Blue Bottle Coffee in Yokohama.

The photo was taken in the Karimoku case study.

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