Origami – the centuries old, largely Japanese tradition of folding paper into angular, animals, flowers and abstract objects – engender an air of tranquillity.
Maybe it's because of the famous story of Sadako Sasaki. At the age of 12, Sasaki was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, an after-effect of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb that detonated close to her house when she was a toddler. To raise her spirits, she decided to craft 1,000 paper cranes believing they were talismans of good fortune. Although she eventually succumbed to her illness, both the tale and the cranes endure as potent symbols of peace.
But even less loaded paper creations convey a sense of quietude. At the annual OrigamiUSA Convention in Manhattan, one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the world, exhibitors display everything from seashells to superheroes to spaceships. It's an eclectic mix of subject matters yet the pieces still share a delicate, ephemeral quality. It's likely because almost all of it would be wiped away in the blink of a coffee spill.
It's that delicate sensibility that makes origami so beguiling, even when the folds are transposed into other, less fragile materials, such as wood or fabric. This origami-inspired home decor captures the poetics of the fleeting, even when built to last. It's especially true when the light fixture, coat hook or table is made by an expert designer.
Here are six standout pieces of origami-inspired furniture and decor.
Japanese designer Hitomi Igarashi uses moulds made from folded paper to create the shapes for her delicate-looking porcelain bowls. Because the forms are inherently flimsy, the final products each have their own unique dents, quirks and character-making details. Price upon request. Through hitomiigarashi.com.
Benjamin Hubert’s Garment chair has thin, graceful armrests reminiscent of a bird’s wings. The London-based designer upholstered the piece in a single sheet of folding fabric (fixed with Velcro), which adds an origami-like sense of economy to the already streamlined seat. $4,970. Through kioskdesign.ca.
Famed Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, in collaboration with Italian lighting manufacturer Artemide, has recently unveiled a series of fixtures made almost entirely from recycled PET bottles. Each one comes preassembled and folded flat, only to be effortlessly unfurled into a complex sculptural display. $1,415. Through artemide.ca.
Chinese-Scandinavian design duo Ying Zhang and Ida Thonsgaard have been inspired by origami to recreate the idea of flat-pack furniture. Their end table, made from fabric-upholstered plywood, ships in preconnected sheets. When it arrives, the panels just need to be folded and locked into place. Price upon request. Available soon through zhangthonsgaard.com.
Built NY’s sleek, neoprene wine sleeve isn’t just comely, it’s also practical. The tessellated tote has a beautifully textured surface, but also folds down to a quarter of its height so it can be tucked in a drawer when not in use. $25 (U.S.). Through builtny.com.
Rob Southcott’s powder coated steel coat hooks are like minimalism meets Dennis the Menace. Called Jet Set, each one looks like a paper airplane protruding from the wall, but has crisp lines to create a sense of elegance. $20 each. Through robsouthcott.com.