House Tour: A fruity colour palette in this three-bedroom apartment

What could a fruity colour palette mean? Take a look at this three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Tokyo's Nagatacho district which belongs to a pair of very adventurous clients.   

Renovated by British architectural designer Adam Nathaniel Furman, the home belongs to a mixed Japanese-expatriate retired couple who regularly host guests from abroad.  

The 157 sq m apartment is located in a building built in the 1980s. The existing layout was dark and self-contained, with small rooms off a long corridor and ceiling heights of under 2.4m.

Mr Furman, 36, whose maternal grandmother is Japanese, rearranged the plan to create an entrance vestibule and short hallway leading past twinned single bedrooms, after which the apartment opens up into a large living room that is united with the kitchen and eat-in island.

The separate master bedroom and bath are off the dining area, creating flexibility should the owners want to rent out part or all of the apartment. The line between living and dining is marked by a curve where lavender carpet meets green-striped vinyl flooring.

Once the hung ceiling was down, beams, ducts and other guts of the building were enclosed in tight cavities that were then covered in textured white wallpaper to keep the increased height.

Mr Furman ended the wall colour at a uniform distance of just over 1.2m from the floor.

"The white doesn't hide it," he said about the ceiling's irregularities, "but the colour draws your eye somewhere else."

"Originally they were referring to it as the 'bubblegum flat'," he noted about the clients, who declined to be interviewed. "Then they switched to 'watermelon'. You can see the hints of green, the stripes, the warm tones that turn into meaty, juicy pinks."

Many of the client-architect discussions devolved into conversations about senses, tastes and food, and Mr Furman spent days with the couple shopping for materials.

The kitchen and bathroom counters, made from a semi-translucent artificial marble manufactured by LG Hi-Macs, created one of those sensual moments."If you put that in front of people who love colours, they will fall in love," said Mr Furman.

The yellow bathroom fixtures were a harder sell. The faucets, a Danish classic designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1968 for bathroom hardware specialist Vola, are one of few selections for the apartment not sourced in Japan.

"I spent quite a bit of time trying to get them to agree to that," Mr Furman said, "I was very sure of myself."

While most of the apartment's colours are somewhere between a pastel and a muted bright, the faucets came in hot - "a bit of a Tabasco thrown on".

Luckily, Japanese manufacturers are more liberal with rainbow hues than American or British ones; the matching heated towel racks are from a standard catalogue, as are the peachy toilets.

"In Britain, it is so hard to find coloured sinks and toilets - they tend to be vintage from the 1970s," he said.

The ones he chose, by housing equipment firm Lixil, come in a range of Easter egg tones.

While Mr Furman is drawn to artificial materials such as vinyl (the kitchen floor) and melamine (the dotted and arched doors), his clients wanted some natural elements as well.

The connected kitchen-living-dining rooms revolve around a large custom-made cabinet built from spruce, while the variegated aqua backsplash tile is from Nagoya Mosaic.

"I wanted to find a place that produced ceramics that have a wonkiness to them that offsets the hard surfaces," said Mr Furman.

He gained money in the budget for the bespoke cabinet by saving on the bath-and-shower units, which came off a truck as one integrated piece.

All those colours, all that jazz - not everyone wants to live in a sweet or spice shop year-round, so Mr Furman has not had many opportunities to design permanent spaces. "A lot of people approach me, see my portfolio and then run away screaming," he said.

What kind of client is comfortable living inside a melon? "They are very eccentric, not in terms of dress or outward appearance. They just don't accept norms," he said. "They enjoy finding new things to like between them."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Jazz it up with a fun, fruity palette'.