Riki Watanabe’s Japanese Design Pieces for the Modern Living

japanese design of the rocker chair
Known as the Riki Rocker, the Riki Windsor chair was altered by Riki Watanabe to adapt to the living environment of Japan as well as the Japanese design. Photo courtesy of Conde House.

Japanese designers have been constantly bridging the gap between everyday simplicity and industrial innovation, practicality, and art. Visually understated but creatively complex, Japanese design often hides technologically advanced materials and concepts behind its audacious minimalism which has helped to shape contemporary furniture design throughout the 20th century.

Riki Watanabe, a world-renowned and highly-esteemed industrial designer, is one of the pillars of Japanese design. His artistry caters from post-war creations like clocks to modern pieces that changed the ergonomic ways of furniture. Watanabe made great contributions to Japanese design recognition in both social and educational fields throughout Japan, such as the establishment of the Japan Industrial Designers’ Association.

He engaged in projects with established brands like Seiko, and was admired and respected by the owner of Conde House, a well known Japanese furniture company. Watanabe also participated in the furniture design scene. He received many awards including the Milan Triennale Exhibition Gold Award, the Mainichi Design Award, and the Japanese Medal of Honor with purple ribbon awarded by the Government of Japan.

riki watanabe is one of the pioneers of japanese design
Riki Watanabe died in 2013 at the age of 101. Photo courtesy of Koji Murakoshi.
“Furniture, like structures, is not just to be seen. The most important conditions a piece of furniture must meet are convenience in use in daily life and appropriateness for its intended use, based on the way people actually live. The materials must suit the purpose, be handled without waste, and be used to create a rational and durable structure. Moreover, the work should be pleasing to the human user - light in weight, smooth to the touch, beautiful in appearance, and richly fresh and innovative. It should also be inexpensive. These important qualities are utterly essential in contemporary home furnishing.” - Riki Watanabe (Innovating in modern living, 2006, P.14 )


colorful japanese design stool
Riki WatanThe colors oppose the common Japanese design aesthetics, however, these stool has been adored by people around the world. Photo courtesy of Sydney Design. abe died in 2013 at the age of 101. Photo courtesy of Koji Murakoshi.

Designed in 1965, this furniture is strong enough to be used as a chair that can hold over 1,000 pounds, but also light enough for children to play with. The Riki stool can be assembled easily and then folded away compactly. This stool is used in many ways in a variety of public areas and workshops. The Riki stool has adapted the living conditions of Japan in which floors can also be seated on.


japanese design stool
This is an example of Japanese design stool during the mid-century. Photo courtesy of Rakuten.

This stool was originally designed for a house by architect Kiyoshi Seike in 1954. After more than half a century, it was made available for sale in 2005. The stool is characterized by its neat form using the combination of solid wood and steel. It is made of solid teak with an oil finish, the steel legs have a durable baked black melamine finish.


japanese design ornament
Inspired by a swimming fish that is common in Japanese design. Photo courtesy of 8 Engine.

A product made in 1983. This mobile was originally designed for a Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku Keio Plaza Hotel. The design depicts a shoal of fishes swimming in the water, and we can feel Watanabe’s playful mind.


While we normally view buildings as strong, unmovable structures that can withstand practically anything, Kazuyo Sejima chose to retain this same strength while making the structure even stronger by infusing her work with a vibrant sense of life and movement.


japanese design mobile
Photo courtesy of Shopify.

The mobile used to decorate the bar at the Daiichi Hotel in Shinbashi was turned into a product in 2017. It is constructed by copper plates, a favorite material of Riki Watanabe, and teak. It creates a chic atmosphere through its combination of the solid feeling of the materials and the lightness of the form.


the japanese design of the rocking chair
Watanabe redefined the ergonomics of the Rocker chair. Photo courtesy of Conde house.

The Riki Rocker is a legacy of Riki Watanabe. Back in 1981 when Conde House was still relatively young and new, Riki Watanabe recognized the integrity of work and potential of Conde House and offered the brand a project collaboration.

Rocking chairs are a tricky business, requiring 2-3 prototypes usually before achieving what is termed ‘perfect balance’. In this sense, the Riki Rocker by Riki Watanabe stands as a legacy in itself, having achieved perfect balance based on Watanabe’s initial drawing. His essence is spelled out in the details of the chair; the slightly lowered upholstered seating, the tapered armrests in the middle of the curve. The resulting oriental look of the chair is apparently unintentional but is telling of the influences of Japanese design and customs that Riki Watanabe enjoyed in his life.

Watanabe absorbed the many principles of the modernist movements like Bauhaus and, in particular, Le Corbusier. He was some point interested in purely importing western modernist ideas into Japanese design. Rather, he concerned himself on how to weave them into a Japanese lifestyle. He successfully managed to incorporate the concept of chairs into a predominantly floor-based lifestyle.

Tokyo Grand Renovation (TGR) is a design and build specialist when it comes to crafting luxury and functionality in one. Inspired by Japanese philosophy and style, TGR’s headquarters is at 9110 La Campana St. cor. Trabajo St., Brgy. Olympia, Makati City, 1207.   

For inquiries, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 832 16 76, or send an e-mail at  info@tgr.com.ph.

TGRはマカティの高級インテリアデザイン、リノベーション、会社です。TGRは 住宅および商業 スペースの為のデザインと建築を提供 し ております。お問い合わせは 、02832 1676 にお電話いただくか、 電子メール info@tgr.com.ph へ送信 お願いします。


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