Emily Henderson

Night Shadows…Vintage Brass Karakusa Globe Lanterns

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The items I get inquiries about all the time are my vintage Japanese filigree globe fixtures. The pierced brass scrolling arabesque pattern, known as karakusa, which appears everywhere in Japanese decorative arts, from porcelain to textiles and more, creates the most playful shadows on the ceilings and walls at night.

The largest of these globes that I have seen is this 18 inch diameter one now hanging in my Doha living room with its lovely high ceilings. It lived in a box in Tokyo as none of the rooms had ceilings high enough to accommodate it. That story can be found here.

doha living room

I’ve never been able to source the original maker and the fixtures themselves are unmarked but I would confidently date them to the post war period around 1950. Other dealers seem to make the same assumption, although I occasionally see them listed as 19th century or art deco, but that is incorrect. These modern fixtures take their cues from the ceremonial lanterns found at Japanese shrines and temples in terms of their pierced design work, but the round globes are a simplified modern form, quite different from those more ornate lantern shapes – often hexagonal or even octagonal. That said, I have sold a few hexagonal versions that take their cues more literally from the old shapes. No examples to show here as those lights are awaiting installation in clients’ homes, but I will share when they are ready. I don’t know if the globes were used as temple lamps or made for personal home use (I highly suspect the latter), but perhaps one of my readers will.

japanese temple lanterns

Over the last few years I have noticed them popping up all of a sudden on the internet, from Emily Henderson‘s LA shopping haul, where she found one identical to mine…

brass karakusa chandelier from emily henderson LA shopping

…and subsequently hung in the entry of her old house. I haven’t seen it anywhere in her new house so I am wondering what may have happened to it. You’ll notice that this globe is the same giant size as mine and she has had to semi-flush mount it, instead of hanging it from a chain, as the ceiling height is too low. It looks a bit awkward like that, don’t you think? Both of our fixtures have their original hanging cap and O-ring, but sometimes over the years those get lost.

emily henderson house brass karakusa fixture

Like me, Emily chose not to polish it much and kept the patina, unlike this highly shined one sold on Etsy. The seller used the horrible come-to-mean-anything-and-nothing terms ‘Hollywood Regency’ and ‘Moroccan Modern’ when this fixture is absolutely neither. You’ll notice this one still has its rice paper lining, unlike mine or Emily’s.

karakusa globe via a storied style

The fixture above seems to be a mid-size version (it’s listed as having a 14 inch diameter), but definitely made by the same maker. I’ve shown you my small size pair (9 inch diameter) that I found at a shrine sale before and now one hangs in our stairwell in Doha. You’ll notice how having the rice paper lining creates a completely different effect at night, casting no magical shadows but highlighting the detail of the pattern.

brass karakusa globe lantern pair resized

I can’t resist showing these two Katie Ridder rooms again either, as each uses a pierced brass globe to great effect in the bedroom. The one on the left has a floral pattern added to the scrolling vines.

Katie Ridder japanese pendant lamp in guest room ED0306 and girls room

There is a plethora of shapes and sizes available right now on 1st dibs, including this one from Downtown at Profiles identical to mine for a whopping $4200. They also have a midsize one available, and both have been fitted with triple bulbs as opposed to the usual single. Both are missing their original hanging caps and loops.

japanese brass globe lantern 1stdibs

Another 1stdibs dealer called Duo has a series of trios available (from $4200-$5800), including this 11.5 inch diameter group and this 9 inch diameter group. You’ll note they both have their original hanging caps and rings, although the latter are different in style. I find larger fixtures came with the more half-loop shaped style on the left and smaller fixtures have the upside down vee-shaped loop as on the right.

karakusa brass lamp trios

Duo also has this wild and unusual mismatched group, which includes a barrel-shaped fixture adorned with an imperial chrysanthemum and an egg-shaped one with ume (plum blossoms) in addition to the standard karakusa globe. I am fascinated that in the couple of days since I started writing this post and noticed these trios for sale, all three sets are on hold, so clearly a buyer is choosing between them or perhaps a designer is planning on using all of them for a commercial project.

trio of karakusa fixtures

Also worth looking at is this wacky three ball fixture with cracked ice and ume pattern here on Etsy, although it is sold. And if you are looking to buy a karakusa globe and your budget isn’t up for these prices, there is a lovely one available from Kodo Arts in Kyoto on Trocadero with its cap, hanging loop and rice paper intact for $1400. Or just drop me a comment or a note and I’ll add you to my waiting list :-)

Related Posts:
Expat Decorating…Getting Lucky and Making Do
Katie Ridder, Eat Your Heart Out (Over My Latest Shrine Sale Find)

Chicago Project…Inspiration Photos for the Office Guest Room

Those of you who know me a long time know I’ve been pitching for years that you should always save inspiration photos (and have the bulging tear sheet folders to prove it). These days it is so easy – Pinterest being the key tool – that everyone knows what their dream bedroom/bathroom/renovation/house looks like. As a result, it has become so easy to work with people long distance in that ideas for spaces can be communicated visually almost instantly.

Case in point. Claiborne Swanson Frank’s study was one of those most pinned rooms from Elle Decor back in 2011. I think it was the combination of affordable mass market items (like the Ballard Louis Daybed), the absolute “it piece” (Madeline Weinrib’s Indigo Brooke rug) and the fresh mix of accessories combined with the effective and functional use of a small space that made this room popular. Who doesn’t need a space like this, especially when it is so recreateable?

Claiborne-swanson-FRAN ED11-2011-06 pc Simon Watson

In the Chicago project I’ve been working on this past year, we found just such a need. Two apartments had been combined to make one, so there is both a formal living room and a large den, but no guest room or study. The living room was long and awkwardly shaped, with a separate square area set off at one end. It was an easy decision to simply put up a wall with French doors, adding bookshelves for display on the living room side, and enclosing a study. My client adored the room above and had saved it in her inspiration photos, so we turned to it for the design. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Since then the Louis Bed has come from Ballard and the Madeline Weinrib Brooke rug is on order. The room is basically square and the desk will go opposite the daybed in the window.

Chicago study

Weinrib’s Brooke dhurrie, particularly in Indigo, has become almost ubiquitous, but I would argue that it has crossed the trend borderline to absolute classic (I can see them being avidly searched for in vintage stores 50 years from now). Among others, Emily Henderson keeps featuring them in her designs, not because she suggests it, but because everyone keeps asking for it!

Emily Henderson rachnas-house

We are shopping for a desk in glass/lucite to keep the room airy, much like in the inspiration room. One of the issues we are facing is the daybed cover and bedskirt. Swanson Frank’s has a custom cover in a Rogers & Goffigon linen, but we are trying to keep this as one of the low-budget items on our list.  We’ve scanned all the catalog/internet options, but no one seems to have anything we like. Suggestions? If you have any please let me know.

The reason to keep the cover price to a dull roar is the key to accessorizing the bed and bringing the space to life is gorgeous pillows in antique and special textiles. From previous posts you know I am obsessed with the daybed (and striped dhurrie) in Alayne Patrick’s Brooklyn apartment, which is piled with amazing pillows from her shop Layla.

We love the pillows from Turkey (and frankly everything else) in Claudia Benvenuto’s guest room. Because our space is also tight, we are thinking of some small moveable side tables. I love this bench!

06-Claudia-Benvenuto-Design-Solutions-0912-xln

Designer Karen Cole has a tight little guest space with pocket doors out onto the stair landing.  Again, I think it is the exotic textile mix that makes the room (and a little base of ticking never hurts either).

Our answer may simply be to find a reasonably priced fabric and have a custom cover made -”couture” details to dress up an off the rack piece. Then the pillow fun can begin!

Image credits: 1. Elle Decor November 2011, photo credit: Simon Watson, 2. client’s snapshot, 3. Emily Henderson, 4. Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo via Style Court, 5. Elle Decor September 2012, photo credit: Joe Schmelzer, 6. Canadian House & Home March 2011, photo credit: Angus Fergusson.

Red Cross Decor


One of the most distinct logos in the world, the chunky bars of the Red Cross have been on my mind lately for obvious reasons, and not so obvious ones. I think I am not the only one either – ironically, the interior design world seems quite interested in it too. Maybe it’s just these constant disasters have worked on people’s subconscious and turned it into a larger decor trend?

I have been inexorably collecting design images featuring that red cross shape since the earthquake and tsunami here in Japan. And then one of the things I noticed from my post the other day was how much Ben Pentreath liked his red cross pillows, shown here in his old New York apartment around or before 2003…

…and then here again just the other day in his new London flat. He obviously really likes them (and his sofa) because while other things have changed, he’s kept them in rotation. Of course it’s not really the pillows that grab your attention in his new apartment – it’s that amazing map grouping (a re-print of John Roque’s Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster, and Borough of Southwark from 1746) against the wall. But more on maps some other time!

Interior designer Brian Paquette boasts a pair of the cross pillows in his 220 square foot Seattle studio.

The collage of vintage photos and the framed Japanese mail bag are amazing and imbue the space with a masculine kind of romanticism.

He likes the cross motif so much he even has it here on a stored blanket. Frankly, the entire space has a ship-shape/found object vintage military vibe – it’s a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s what makes it work!

I’m not sure where Ben or Brian got their pillows, but Angel Dormer got hers from Jonathan Adler. I had started to feel that this trend was distinct to men, but this photo disproves that theory.

Jonathan Adler offers the pillows in a variety of fun colors.


I am always discovering great things on Emily Henderson of Secrets From a Stylist‘s blog. As an antique dealer, it drives me a bit crazy that she is so inaccurate about naming items she uses (calling a Louis style chair Victorian, for example) but as a stylist and designer she has a way of knocking your socks off. Here her red cross (actually a vintage Swiss flag) provides the exclamation point to a funky couch and warm brown furniture.

A red cross pattern is not uncommon in traditional quilting. Love this modern usage – graphic, but sensible – you can pull it down if you get chilly.

Red crosses seem more literal in bathroom spaces, like this one tiled in a kids bathroom. Love that trough sink – it’s everywhere these days!

Or this vintage medicine cabinet.  You always know where the band aids are in this home.

Love love these gray cabinets and slab marble counter but not sure how I feel about the subtle cross on the backsplash under the hood.

I’ve seen my fair share of official old Red Cross items at the shrine sales, like this large square carrying trunk at Kawagoe. I think Brian Paquette would love it, don’t you?

And others are interested in this trend too – this Red Cross army box sold quickly on One Kings Lane.

Is it just the graphic punch the cross gives that makes people like it? Or do you think that is so because it represents succor and security in an emergency?  Any which way, if I have helped you feel like making a donation, of money or blood, here’s the link: RED CROSS. At the end of the day, they always show up to help.

Image credits: 1. Red Cross, 2. The Financial Times, 3. via Ben Pentreath Inspiration, 4-6. Rue Magazine January 2012, photo credit: We are the Rhoads, 7. Lonny Magazine January/February 2011, photo credit: Patrick Cline, 8. Jonathan Adler, 9. Emily Henderson, 10. Limilee, 11. Martha Stewart Living October 2010, 12. Country Living, October 2011, photo credit: Bjorn Wallander, 13. via Willow Decor, photo credit: Jamie Salomon, 14. me, 15. One Kings Lane

Shrine Sale Stories…Yamamoto’s Steamer Trunk

First there was Yamamura’s suitcase, now there is Yamamoto’s trunk. With its bottle green leather exterior, fine strap work, brass fittings and nailhead detail, it is a handsome example of that species better known as a steamer trunk.

My estimate on date as I bought it was 1920s or 1930s based on its style and materials. Thanks to reader Mary Doveton, who had helped me decipher the hotel labels on Yamamura’s suitcase, we seem to be confirming that date. A quick search of the names on the label - Tajimaya 但馬屋 (Tajima which is the family name and ya which means shop) and Hiroshima 広島 – yields a shop of that name specialising in luggage and bags that has been around since 1919. Keijo was the name for Seoul when it was under Japanese occupation from 1910-1945, so it seems as if they had a branch there as well and that further confirms the time period. I have actually written to Tajimaya and attached photos of the trunk, so we will see if we get a reply!

The roots of modern trunks lie in the ancient forms of Asian travel boxes which had iron handles on either end in which to thread a carrying pole, in contrast to Europe and America, where chests were made for storage and kept in the house, such as a trousseau or hope chest a bride would take with her to marriage. It was only later, in the romantic age of travel and with the success of a young Frenchman named Louis Vuitton (and all his copycats even then) in the second half of the 19th century that trunks took on such a Western form and association.

While I have only recently discovered Yamamoto’s trunk at the Kawagoe shrine sale, I had already saved some screen shots of the huge curated sale of vintage and antique steamer trunks on One Kings Lane in November. The pictures are fascinating in their variety of shape, color, material and price.

Obviously few people travel with trunks anymore these days, but they have taken on a popular new life as coffee tables. Their boxy shape fits with different decor, the simple flat top is easy to style and perhaps, best of all, they offer spare storage space.

Scott Currie creates a gorgeously elegant room with a fantastic nailhead edged ship captains chest. Make sure to look at that coral aquarium atop the Dorothy Draper style chest (it is a beach house after all) and the bottle lamp in the corner.

In contrast to the vibrantly colored beach house above is Victoria Hagan‘s study in white, again punctuated by a fantastic trunk rimmed in nailheads.

And another similar one in this wood-paneled library, also by Victoria Hagan.

The combination of trunk, clock, industrial lamp, along with the needlepoint pillow (more on those soon) and Union Jack on the velvet Chesterfield strikes a perfect eclectic mix. I love how casual but interesting this room is.

On the other hand, a vintage trunk can soften even the most formal of rooms.

If you know me and my obsessions, I am sure you’ll realize that I am as captivated by those glass bottles atop the secretary as the creamy trunk.

There were numerous metal clad chests in the OKL photos above. Here Emily Henderson from Secrets of a Stylist uses a similar one in this light filled LA living room.

She also uses another trunk, this time in rich aged leather, to anchor the den in the same house.

For the most part I have avoided the whole luxury trunk market (i.e. Louis Vuitton) in this post as there are lots of images out there on other blogs and websites, but I couldn’t resist this one doing double duty as storage in the small NYC studio apartment of Nausheen Shah as this 1890s LV trunk has labels from Japan and Singapore. If you do want to see more images with Louis Vuitton trunks, take a look at my Vintage Luggage board on Pinterest.

In terms of trends, you can’t imagine how many of the images featuring trunks are laid across zebra or other animal hide rugs like the ones above. I think the trunks bring up romantic images of 19th century travel to far-flung exotic places, so I get the combination, but I actually prefer the perfect global mix below. That canopy is amazing!

Coincidentally, in terms of Japanese influence on the world, did you know that the Louis Vuitton monogram was a Victorian invention derived from the Japanese motifs so popular in Europe at that time? Think about it – kamon anyone?

I hope you enjoyed this week of shrine sale stories, featuring something high-end (the French bar cart), something low-brow (the laundry hangers) and now something in between!

Related Posts:
If Only This Suitcase Could Talk
Research From a Reader…More On Yamamura-San’s Suitcase
Yamamura Really Got Around…More Details on His Suitcase Travels

Image credits; 1-2. me, 3-5. screenshots via One Kings Lane, 6. via The Meadows Antiques and Interiors, 7. Elle Decor July 2009, photo credit: Roger Davies, 8. House Beautiful June 1999, photo credit: William Waldron, 9. via Victoria Hagan, 10. via style-edition.com, 11. House Beautiful June 2002, photo credit: Carlos Emilio, 12. Country Living October 2010, 13-14. via HGTV, 15. via A Shah’s Life, 16. House Beautiful October 1993, photo credit: Richard Felber, 17. via louisvuittonaddicted.com.

Tokyo Jinja

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