Furniture based on river-weathered pebbles

Igarashi Design Studio's Zero Space is filled with furniture based on river-weathered pebbles

Pebble-like seats in pastel hues offer students a place to recline in this recreational area, which Igarashi Design Studio has created for an arts university in Tokyo.

Furniture based on river-weathered pebbles

The Zero Space room by Igarashi Design Studio is set within Musashino Art University, a creative university in north Tokyo that offers courses in fine art, industrial design, architecture and fashion.

Populated by a series of comfy seating pads, the space was previously used as a shortcut to reach other buildings on campus. The local studio has make it into a place where students can relax or work in a much more casual setting than the library.

Designer Hisae Igarashi, who heads up the studio, has also been a professor at the university since 2010.

"Everyone has their own styles of seating and sleeping, and we have searched for an optimum solution," the studio explained. "Zero Space was created as a highly flexible space to suit each one's purpose, letting people use them both alone and in a group."

Featuring smooth, rounded edges and shallow indentations, the seats are meant to resemble pebbles that have been shaped over time "by the flow of a natural river". They're coloured off-white, baby pink, or baby blue, contrasting against the room's warm timber floors.

Furniture based on river-weathered pebbles

Students can sit on or lie across the pads, or stack them up to form small desks and sofa-like seats.

A zero-shaped plate has also been suspended just underneath the black-painted ceiling, an attempt by the studio to loosely encompass the scattered seats below – at night the plate can also be switched on to cast a ring of light.

The room is otherwise illuminated by 35-metre-long panels of glazing that run along the peripheral walls.

Furniture based on river-weathered pebbles

"The inside [of the plate] is an area where pebbles are gathered, it indicates a sense of a place where one could belong," the studio added.

Furniture based on river-weathered pebbles

Zero Space isn't the only quirky spot that's been created for students to relax in – the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, plays host to a sculptural bench that was fabricated by robots, while a school in Ljubljana contains an undulating green loungethat has spotty walls and big cushions.

Photography is by Nacasa & Partners.

Author: Natasha Levy

Spotlight: Milktrain

Instagrammable interiors for Milk Train ice cream shop

Cloud-like ceilings and neon signage are just some of the playful features that design studio FormRoom employed to create this Instagram-friendly ice cream store in central London.

Located in central London's bustling Covent Garden district, Milk Train has been designed by Shoreditch-based design studio FormRoom to "cater primarily to [the brand's] diverse Instagram demographic".

cool ice cream shop design

It is the first retail space of the brand, which has become popular for its wacky ice cream offerings, and will act as a blueprint for the design of all upcoming Milk Train branches. Until now they have exclusively traded out of pop-up food venues.

"The product itself holds such a sense of playful surrealism, and [the client] wanted to carry over that magic to the store environment. As this was their first permanent space, the design needed to be unique and interchangeable across all seasons; allowing the brand interior to evolve as swiftly as Instagram trends do."

Blue booth seating crafted woodwork

Playing on its brand name, the aesthetic of a classic British steam train was the main inspiration for the store's interiors. Upon entering, customers can choose from a menu that's printed on blackboards in white block lettering, intended to look like typical split-flap display boards that show train departure times at a station.

Booth Seating woodwork

Seating booths numbered like train platforms have been completed in pale blue leather, a nod to the pastel hues seen throughout the feed of popular Instagram account Accidentally Wes Anderson.

Mind the melt – a play on Transport for London's cautionary phrase Mind the Gap – has been printed on the store floor, which the studio hopes will encourage customers to engage with the photo-sharing app's well-used hashtag #IHaveThisThingWithFloors.

A sequence of arched frames runs down the centre of the eating area, each topped with spherical pendant lamps. Two-dimensional cloud shapes have then been suspended from the ceiling, mimicking the steam emitted from a train's chimney.

Showcase: Lucky Cat

Design studio AfroditiKrassa "deliberately went dark" to create the jet-black interiors of central London's Lucky Cat restaurant so that they don't disappoint in real life.

Contrasting Resturant Booth Cushy Seating Red and Blue

Situated in the affluent neighbourhood of Mayfair, Lucky Cat is owned by British chef Gordon Ramsay and offers a menu of Asian-inspired small plates and sushi.

The restaurant – which was designed by London studio AfroditiKrassa – is decked out in an array of moody tones, in a bid to ditch the typically colour-saturated aesthetic of dining spots seen on photo-sharing app Instagram.

"We tried to work with materials and colours that are subtle and classic, not too shouty – I worry about short-term tactics, everything ends up looking the same," the studio's founder, Afroditi Krassa, told Dezeen.

"How many times do you visit a place because it looks great in a picture but disappoints in real life?"

Ying Yang bench booth seating for restaurants and bar

To achieve this shadowy aesthetic the studio looked to Japanese kissas – underground jazz cafes which sprung up around Tokyo in the 1930s, where locals would listen to music while enjoying food and cocktails.

"They were bold, atmospheric and nocturnal type of places where you would go to let your hair down and experiment with new, fun things," said Krassa.

"The story of the kissas really described the emotion that the food evoked as well as the ambience we wanted to achieve; considered but not formal, vibrant but not gimmicky – urban, youthful and fun."

"It also challenged our stereotypes of Japan being very formal and strict architecturally," she continued.

Luxury Resturant Chairs

The main dining space has thus been completed with dark wood parquet floors and an inky-black ceiling. Surrounding surfaces are lined with black-painted canes of bamboo, or fronted by black-linen screens.

Lighting is restricted to a few rows of lantern-like spherical lights and brass wall sconces.

Other than the blood-red velvet sofas in drinks area, seating banquettes that run around the restaurant's periphery are upholstered in indigo fabric.

Dark Restaurant Banquette Design

"We deliberately went dark. Considering the location and scale of the space, this is quite a risky move," explained Krassa.

"But as the space is on a raised ground floor, it made sense to me to design it so that it feels like entering another world, a bit of a discovery, a restaurant that would feel warm and cinematic."

Unique bar chairs v-shape

There is also a Chef's Table section, where diners can observe cooks at work in the kitchen from a chunky marble high-table, and a private dining room reserved for special occasions.

In a playful nod to the restaurant's name, feline imagery has been dotted throughout the restaurant – stone cat statues are used as decor, while guests hang their belongings from curling, tail-shaped hooks.

The rear wall of the bar is also clad with 300 black ceramic maneki neko, or "beckoning cats". Featuring one upright paw, the figures are considered a good-luck charm in Japanese culture and typically displayed in the front window of commercial businesses.

"There is relatively little contrast between colours, pattern and finish, yet a lot of richness in texture and tactility – Lucky Cat is a layered design that reveals more every time you visit," added Krassa.

Natasha Levy | 11 July 2019

Showcase: Kids at Play

When you think of toys, books, or virtually anything made for kids today, a slew of cartoon characters and action heroes probably comes to mind. Joey Ho DesignM4 Design Studio, and Brazilian architect, Guilherme Torres are among a few designers who have found a brilliant way to edit out all the media-imposed clichés in order to create thought provoking, interactive and vibrant spaces for children.

banquettes, booth

Showcase: Family Park

x+living explores the future layout of shopping malls with the newly launched neobio family park in hanghzou, china. following the success of the first neobio park, the shanghai-based architecture firm has now completed its successor, which occupies the first floor and atrium of the hangzhou star avenue phase II shopping mall. the project combines four major functional areas, each with multiple ‘accessory’ spaces, that transport kids in four completely different environments, tied together using a palette of pastel hues.


Showcase: AppNexus's Playful Flatiron Office

The idea was to make the 67,000-square-foot space a kind of campus, she says, with various types of meeting rooms and informal places to hang out and get creative:

“People don’t necessarily work at their desks.”

great office design

The result is sophisticated but intentionally not-quite-grown-up. Behold the ranks of vibrantly patterned skateboards mounted on a wall in the reception area—a nod to the young CEO and cofounder Brian O’Kelley’s commuter vehicle of choice. Let’s call them Bart Simpson–approved. Or take what’s universally known as the “cheese wall,” a reference to the Swiss cheese appearance of the large voids carved into this hefty freestanding partition, then outlined with rope lights. The upper  cutouts are painted in the AppNexus corporate color, a vibrant orange that O’Kelley intended as an homage to Princeton University, his alma mater. Cutouts closer to floor level are seating pods upholstered in vinyl in the same collegiate orange. Employees are invited to climb inside and cozy up with their laptops for an afternoon.


Lounge chairs found in the library also appear in sofa form in reception, ready to welcome job applicants with lots of time on their hands. “They arrive very early, because they are very nervous,” Habjan explains, smiling sympathetically. Meeting rooms are strategically placed throughout to divide the rows of workstations into neighborhoods. Each room is identified by a name proclaimed in frosted-vinyl supergraphics:  “Chewbacca,” “Tetris,” “Zelda,” etc. In what has become an App­Nexus tradition, the names were selected by popular vote.

Project team: Vanessa Betancourt; Nicole Kent; Kenneth Bingham; Nisrine Naciri: Habjan Architecture and Interior DesignLighting Workshop: Lighting consultant. Design360; Drive21: Graphics consultants. Usis: Audiovisual consultant. Fiskaa Engineering: MEP. Arnold Group: Solid-surfacing workshop. JRM Construction Management: General contractor. Gardiner & Theobald: Project manager.

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