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Considered Minimalism: Fog Linen Founder Yumiko Sekine at Home in Tokyo

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Considered Minimalism: Fog Linen Founder Yumiko Sekine at Home in Tokyo

March 12, 2021

We’re longtime fans of housewares company Fog Linen, so when we heard that founder Yumiko Sekine had moved into a new house in Tokyo designed with her partner, architect Wataru Ohashi, we were intrigued. “My lifestyle and aesthetic—simple, minimal, a mix of Japanese and Western influences—is common here in Japan, but it may not be familiar to people outside of the country,” Yumiko says. “I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to inhabit this new space.

“Wataru has been my biggest inspiration in the pursuit of living comfortably with less. As an architect, he lives with very little; in fact, he could probably fit all of his belongings into a single suitcase. I don’t think I could ever achieve that level of minimalism, but I have fewer things than I did before. I call my approach ‘joyfully minimalist,’ because I believe that with less, you can find greater enjoyment in what you do have.”

Located in a quiet neighborhood, the three-level house serves several functions. “We planned the house not only for us to live in but also as a space where we could have photo shoots for Fog Linen. The first and second floor are designed to be open spaces for friends and staff, and our bedroom and bath are on the third floor to allow us privacy.”

N.B.: Read about Yumiko’s new book, Simplicity at Home; to order a copy, go to Fog Linen.

Join us for a tour:

Photography by Masao Nishikawa.

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Above: The street-facing exterior has a trio of folding doors.
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Above: The flooring is oak and the walls and ceilings are board-formed concrete. “I often forget where I put things,” Yumiko says, “and when everything is on display, it’s easier to find what I’m looking for with open shelving.”

Yumiko and Wataru built an office and store in Tokyo for Fog Line a decade ago. “For that project, we spent a lot of time selecting materials and fixtures; door knobs, etc., ” Yumiko says. “So when we started designing our new house, we found that we still liked the same things. The Fog Linen store and offices are painted white, but for our house’s interior we decided to leave the walls unfinished concrete. We love the texture and the way the interiors feel slightly moody, as in old European houses—a little dark with soft, filtered light. And I can make the visual distinction between my work space and my domestic space from the quality of light in the rooms.”

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Above: The shelving and some walls are plywood. “We wanted to limit the number of colors for the house, so we chose a neutral palette,” Yumiko says.
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Above: “The stainless steel kitchen matches well with the concrete walls and the oak wood flooring,” Yumiko says. “And it’s easy to keep it clean!”
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Above: “These are our living room shelves,” Yumiko says. “We keep photography books, other large books, and magazines on the bottom shelves. I always try to leave the top three shelves open to display artwork.”
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Above: A bedroom on the first floor opens onto the small garden. “I believe a very pared down bedroom is best for sleep,” Yumiko says. “One of the easiest ways to make a space feel uncluttered is to limit the color palette to neutrals.”
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Above: The entry to the private areas of the house.
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Above: Wataru designed a sunlit stairwell with a cast concrete railing.
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Above: Another study area.
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Above: The brass shelving brackets are from Yumiko’s Fog Linen brass accessories line.
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Above: “One of the ways I make the house feel warmer is by covering the floor with various textiles,” Yumiko says, “including kantha quilts, which I recently started importing from India to sell in my stores.”
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Above: One of the baths has a DIY mirror made from a skirt hanger.
Considered Minimalism Fog Linen Founder Yumiko Sekine at Home in Tokyo portrait 3_31
Above: “When we moved into our new house, we finally had the space—about 160 square feet—for a little garden,” Yumiko says. “We chose old railroad ties to delineate a path in the middle of the garden. They won’t rot, even in the damp ground, and they haven’t been treated with chemicals, which could leach into the soil.”
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Above: “When we have friends visit, we find we gravitate toward our rooftop terrace,” Yumiko says.

See more favorite Japanese dwellings:

Shaker/Japanese Simplicity at Ace Hotel’s New Sister City on the Bowery

Box Hotel in Hakone, Japan: A New Boutique Lodge with Views of Lake Ashi

A DIT (Do-It-Together) Renovation in Hayama, Japan

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