Soak It In
Kanae Hasegawa -- Interior Design, 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Life in the megalopolis of Tokyo is not easy. The city's workers endure cutthroat competition, late hours, and crowded commutes. Is it any wonder that residents regard the bathroom as an important retreat where they can relax and rejuvenate from the stress of the day? The Japanese are reputed to spend more time in the bath than any other nationality, so the bathroom also becomes a place to express personal style.
Recognizing the importance of bathing to Tokyo's busy professionals, Wako Manufacturing hired Fumita Design Office's Akihito Fumita to create a brand of bath fixtures and accessories under the name Spiritual Mode. Wako has long been a leading Japanese maker of stainless-steel bathroom products. Spiritual Mode represents the company's move into the luxury market, offering design-conscious consumers the latest in technology and comfort. When the time came to design the very first showroom for Spiritual Mode, Wako simply returned to Fumita.
Hidden on a backstreet in Tokyo's fashionable Aoyama district, Spiritual Mode is in the basement of an office building. No street-level clues hint at the showroom's presence. And that's just fine, says Spiritual Mode's Hitoshi Kawai, who's positioning the brand to appeal to design cognoscenti: "Only customers who know where we are and know about our products come down here."
The journey begins with an open-air flight of aluminum steps that descend to a courtyard with a square of oiled ebony decking in the center. Along the side, a ceramic-tiled walkway, sheltered by an overhang, leads to the showroom's glass door. It opens to a 1,900-square-foot universe of stainless steel.
Past the stainless floating reception desk, customers enter a sort of glowing tunnel with angular stainless volumes running along a sidewall and similar panels jutting out overhead. The metalwork was done at Wako's factory, and the angles refer abstractly to the hexagonal logo of Spiritual Mode, Fumita explains. Apertures in the metal allow concealed fixtures—installed in the 6-inch gaps behind the wall and above the canopy—to cast light across the gleaming surfaces, like ripples over water.
Only beyond the tunnel does the customer finally emerge into the double-height main display space. One highlight is the Beignet, an acrylic soaking tub designed by Fumita. Shaped like a doughnut, the tub is paired with a round stainless showerhead ringed by an acrylic diffuser that allows the fitting to do double duty as a source of water and light.
A consultation area offers customers clear acrylic chairs and stainless tables for considering merchandise choices. Nearby, three doors in a row slide open to reveal 36-square-foot rooms, each containing a lifelike vignette with offerings that change twice a year.
By using 18 tons of stainless steel in the showroom, Fumita says he acknowledged the history of Japanese design, fusing "lasting tradition with the look of the future." And if the future bears a subtle resemblance to Star Trek? That's just something to contemplate while soaking in the bath.