Karimoku: Perfect Fit
Wooden furniture—it’s a product commonly associated with the country of Japan. Masters of joinery, precision, and simplicity, the culture has embraced the material and carried on the longstanding traditions of woodworking. While many have followed over the years, Karimoku is the country’s leading wooden furniture manufacturer, with a history dating back to the company’s origins as a lumber dealer during the Edo period of the 1600’s. The company gradually accumulated its technical know-how of woodworking and paining, and at the end of the 1960s, finally achieved its long-cherished dream of producing original furniture in Japan. In the years since, Karimoku has opened showrooms, started participating in overseas design shows and exhibitions, and made an international name for itself.
Where are you based? How many employees do you have? (designers, manufacturers, etc.)
We are based in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. We have 1,948 employees (including designers, sales representatives, and craftsmen).
What is your company ethos?
Our company ethos is Quality First. Our manufacturing method—which fuses state-of-the-art machinery and the techniques of craftsmen—is called high-tech, high-touch manufacturing.
How do you describe your products and style?
It has been eleven years since we released Karimoku New Standard (KNS), which we are introducing at this time, so we have welcomed David Glaettli as a Creative Director and are collaborating with up-and-coming European designers BIG-GAME and Christian Haas. By using advanced woodworking and painting techniques, we are creating designs that are simple and minimalistic while also achieving a playful interior accent.
This collection is well-suited for a diverse range of lifestyles at various locations transcending specific countries and cultures, including traditional Japanese houses, European universities, Oceanian cafés, Mexican restaurants, and New York offices.
What are your favorite materials to use? Where do you source your wood?
Our KNS collection is partially based on a theme of utilizing Japanese hardwood, so we use oak, chestnut, and maple sourced in Japan. As a Japanese wooden furniture manufacturer, we believe that creating furniture by using domestic timber helps to recycle the precious forests of Japan and develop our mountains.
Was there a specific product that you launched with? Do you have a most popular product?
In 2020, we announced a new dining table, the Spectrum Workstation. Spectrum is a versatile table system, designed for flexible contemporary working environments. The table’s design is inspired by the minimalism of Japanese architecture with its graphical lines, combining beauty with efficiency. It features a distinctive double tabletop with storage compartments around the sides of the table to keep clutter from the table surface. A simple and smart cable system with a large, easy to access cable tunnel allows quick installation of electronic devices. We propose this product for various purposes, including as a desk, dining table, meeting table, or high table.
Our most popular product is CASTOR series. CASTOR means “beaver” in French. The series by BIG-GAME was named CASTOR because details initially used in products of the series were shaped like logs and branches that looked as though they had been chewed on by beavers.
This series—which is focused on achieving both simplicity and sitting comfort—includes chairs, stools, high stools, and a number of other families, and the series is used for more projects around the world than any of our other products.
What are you working on now?
We currently have 143 dealers in 24 countries, but we are working on further developing our overseas sales channels to deliver our products to even more people. In particular, we are interested in penetrating North America’s interior market.
How has the pandemic affected your business as well as your goals as a design company?
Because the amount of time people spend at home has increased, people are more interested than ever in fleshing out their interiors. Although we are primarily a furniture manufacturer, we have expanded the range of our efforts as a company, including finding opportunities to develop small wooden articles that enrich people’s lives in addition to furniture. We consider it our mission to provide richer lifestyles to people around the world.
Is there an environmental component to your business?
We participate in the forest certification programs FSC and PEFC. In addition, we actively participate in initiatives to more effectively utilize the wood waste that results from furniture manufacturing.
We also manufacture products that use wood waste, including our Animal Karimoku workshops—which give participants the chance to freely create whatever animals they want to—and collaborate with other companies.
What did you plan to debut at ICFF?
Since ICFF was going to be our first ever US exhibition, we were looking forward to introducing our specific style of made-in-Japan manufacturing to North America.
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