April 02, 13 | Eri Makino
"Conde House" - The items made here help bring people and the forest closer together.
If there are any carpenters among you Hokkaido Likers, you may recognize this unique bow-tie pattern woodwork. It is known as "Chigiri" in Japanese, and it is a technique for reinforcing joints in wooden boards. Not only does it help to create a stronger and more tightly fit piece of wood, but it also adds a splash of design as well.
This is just one example of the wonderful craftsmanship I was able to view on my recent trip to this furniture maker!
Furniture surrounds us nearly every moment of our lives, with tables and chairs being perhaps the most used items we have. Everyday, whether it be enjoying a meal, working, or spending time with family, we make use of these items without giving them much thought. Today I'd like to take a closer look at these pieces of furniture, and give you some points to be aware of when choosing what to buy.
Some benefits of choosing wooden furniture over other options include the many textures and colors available. The wood used will gradually adapt to the user and the lovely look of the hardwood will endear itself to any owner over time.
Shown above is the "Conde House" head office building in Asahikawa, Hokkaido.
Although Hokkaido based, this furniture maker has become quite popular all over the world. Asahikawa is located quite near the center of Hokkaido, and is surrounded by lush forests, making it the perfect area for wooden furniture makers to take up their craft.
I was able to speak with the craftsman about their thoughts on furniture making and working with nature to create their products.
Some trees in the area are 100 to 200 years old, so the workers make it a point to care and raise other trees so that they can get to this age as well. Their aim is to create a balance in the area that will allow their work to continue for generations to come.
To achieve this goal, Conde House makes furniture with a "three lifespan" policy.
"Lifespan of the Material" - This involves the careful selection of top quality wood, with an emphasis on making use of each tree's individual characteristics.
"Lifespan of Construction" - This involves creating reliable and durable products.
"Lifespan of Design" - This involves creating timeless designs that are easy to use, assuring that customers will be happy for years to come.
Conde House believes in fostering "craftsmanship which customers will be able to love for generations." These powerful ideals are easy to see when you visit the factory and shops. As soon as you enter, you are met with a kind atmosphere and beautifully displayed furniture and goods.
In the back of the building you can find skilled craftsman and young engineers hard at work in the factory. From the early stages of wood selection, up until the finishing touches are put on each item, the whole crafting process takes place here.
Each tree has its own unique characteristics and it seems that even the best craftsman need to cut into the wood first to discover these traits.
After examining the wood, each piece is used in a way which takes advantage of its shape and grain.
To create curved or complex shapes, thin sheets are overlapped and pressed.
By doing this, rather than cutting away from one large piece, the craftsmen make more efficient use of the valuable lumber.
There are many things that can only be achieved by working with the wood by hand.
Even when machines are used to process the wood, human hands and eyes are necessary to complete the work.
Craftsman are very serious when working.
The wonderful smell of wood permeated the factory.
Beautiful upholstery lined the factory wall.
About 200 kinds of fabric are used to make the chairs and sofas.
The seats of the chairs are all hand sown.
The finished works are set in this area for inspection.
The rest area for workers features, of course, Conde House furniture.
In the wide shop area many of the finer works produced are displayed prominently, showing the high quality work these craftsman can achieve.
It creates a very sophisticated atmosphere.
After participating in the tour, while the works were certainly beautiful, I was more impressed by the hard work and dedication to the craft that the workers at Conde House demonstrated. Works produced with this level of dedication could surely be used for generations and not lose a single bit of their beauty.
If you plan on visiting Asahikawa any time soon, please consider adding this shop to your list of places to visit. For those who can't make it all the way out, there are 11 stores across the country, so keep an eye out for a Conde House sign near you!
Conde House Homepage: <a href="http://www.condehouse.co.jp/?lang=en">http://www.condehouse.co.jp/?lang=en</a>
(Hokkaido Likers Editorial Department - Eri)
(Some photographs courtesy of Conde House)