A Tale about Our Product: RIKI Rocker

 

Collaboration Starting from Riki’s Attitude to Take on a Challenge

The full-scale drawing derives from the RIKI WINDSOR collection, which started up in 1981 as the first collaboration project with a late renowned Japanese product designer, Riki Watanabe. In the following year, this chair was adopted in a hotel of which interior he designed. When receiving an offer from him, CONDE HOUSE’s president at that time was so moved in deeply feeling that the company finally got recognized as a quality furniture maker by the designer he always admired. It has become a mystery why Riki placed such an offer to us still nameless and young then, but as his first impression, “CONDE HOUSE has already had a strong policy of working closely with designers, and every member, from the president down to craftspeople, has shared the same,” said he.

Perfect Balance by Riki’s Magic

Usually, rocking chairs require at least two or three trial productions because of the difficultly in meeting the center of gravity and rocking balance. One day, Riki visited our factory with the full-scale drawing. To our surprise, the prototype we made based on the drawing had the perfect balance in just one go. “The drawing was thoroughly considered and developed with our staff, and so, I was relieved about and proud of the outcome,” he later revealed. Riki-design distinguishing features can be seen in the slightly lower upholstered seating, the armrests trimmed off in the middle of the curve, etc. Riki commented, “I didn’t intentionally design the chair to be oriental, but it just resulted in a Japanese-style design.” This story reminds us of past days with him. He always enjoyed fresh fish and local sake when coming to Hokkaido, which, we believe, would have enabled him to be active throughout his life.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Detail-Oriented Nature and Furniture


Detail-Oriented Nature and Furniture

I know there are individual differences and it might be a kind of pointless to generalize national characters, but still, I can’t help thinking that we Japanese people are generally (too) detail-oriented, and that the national character might be one of the reasons for the low labor productivity in Japan which actually has been least in the G7 countries for these 50 years. No worries. Today’s topic is not about Japanese working environment or structure to create such low productivity. I’m just sharing how the national character influences our furniture production.

Source: https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/saskatoon-police-make-one-of-the-largest-seizures-of-fentanyl-and-methamphetamine-we-have-ever-seen , https://www.iza.ne.jp/kiji/events/photos/171003/evt17100318310037-p1.html

Detail-Oriented Anytime, Anywhere

Drugs, guns, counterfeit goods, etc. I often displayed those kind of contraband goods neatly and carefully as per the detailed instructions of my bosses without any doubt when working as a customs officer. I recently found out that the difference of national characters can be seen even in the way of such displays. The right image is of an official display by the Canadian police; the left by the Japanese police. Did you notice that the seized stolen baseballs were placed with their seams facing the same way? No offence, Canadian friends. I didn’t mean the Canadian police is sloppy but that the Japanese are detail-oriented in nature.

A Factor of High-Quality Furniture Production

As I may have said before, we give factory tours to anyone (reservation required), and I was surprised to see many people coming from overseas were interested in and took pictures of the tools neatly aligned on the walls or shelves, like ones shown in the above images. Some even said that they would be a proof of quality. On the other hand, there have been much more Japanese visitors, but no one pays any attention, probably because it’s natural for them, I’m guessing.

It may look too detail-oriented and a factor of low productivity, but taking such small steps would enable us to realize our high-quality furniture production, I believe. Now, we can’t hold factory tours but will do after the dust of COVID is settled. I look forward to welcoming you here soon!


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.



A Tale about Our Product: IPPONGI Table

“Could you engrave the names of all sever family members on the back of the tabletop?” This inquiry well expresses the character of IPPONGI, one of our table collections. People who order this collection seem to want something more for furniture than what mass-produced products can offer. IPPONGI is a wooden table made with trees that have lived for over a hundred years; made for people who can enjoy the figures and knots of the trees as their unique characters. Sometimes, customers come to our factory to handpick their own special pieces out of the pile of wood materials in the drying process. Every piece of wood has its own expression: cracks, holes, etc. made under severe natural circumstances, and those special pieces chose by customers are then created into the one and only pieces of furniture in the world.

 

Before starting to process wood, our craftspeople carefully study it, taking a look in all directions; touching the surface, etc. This is the important process of getting to know wood correctly, as they say. Furniture using this kind of wood (with strong natural characters) tends to be rustic and bulky, but they devise ways to create a delicate design while accentuating the definitions of such wood.

Recently, it becomes difficult to procure wood in low grade which no one wanted to use for furniture a few years ago. More and more people have become aware that wood with strong natural characters can be made into beautiful pieces of furniture. We don’t think its an obstruction for us, but are pleased to know that the new value of wood created by our IPPONGI collection has started to grow. It is a sound community where people use wood thoroughly having respect for wood materials as one of the blessings from the forest. We are sure that the aforementioned customer will cherish our IPPONGI table for many generations to come, and expect there will be a request to engrave the name of a new additional family member in the future.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Furniture Production and 3D Data

CNC Machines and a Zebra

When I first saw CNC machines working at our factory, what came up to my mind was a zebra. To be more precise, the machines reminded me of a sense of superiority to AI that I had when knowing that AI couldn’t recognize a zebra. This was one of the biggest problems AI had, but I later learned it had already been solved by 3D CG data, and my sense of superiority soon turned to that of awe, though.

The product development team scanned the prototype and transferred the data to the CNC machine.

Symbol Grounding Problem

This is the name of the problem propounded by Professor Stevan Harnad, though it is sometimes called “a zebra problem” from the example of a zebra he made. With cameras installed, AI has come to process visual information, but it couldn’t recognize a zebra because the verification data that AI had were character string data. Let’s say a zebra is defined in the data: “a horse with stripes.” Even if we’ve never seen a zebra before, we can recognize a zebra only with the definition, but AI can’t because the definition is just a set of 17 characters for AI. The core of the problem is: AI can store and process a lot of data, much more and faster than us, but none of them makes sense to AI.

Innovation Made by 3D Data

Now, the image processing algorithm of AI verifies visual information with its stored 3D data, and recognizes a zebra from its shape and surface pattern, though AI can’t understand the meaning of any data the same as before. This innovation has also improved our furniture production. CNC machines work according to numerical data each of which we had to input, but now, computer calculates it out from 3D data created by scanning prototypes as shown in the above image. However, our production doesn’t get much easier because there’s no margin for error in placing parts in the CNC machine, for example. Expert skills are still required.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

A Tale about Our Product: BOLS Sofa

We Restore it but Don’t Make it All New

Our long-seller “BOLS” sofas often come back to us from around the country for restoration. The one in the above image was sent to us by a customer who fell in love with this sofa and purchased it several decades ago. Urethane foam cushions wrapped in cotton appeared from under the worn-out nu-buck upholstery. They have lost their resilience especially in the center part, and been stained from the leather. We are always pleased to see worn-out sofas return because that means the users love them and want to keep using them further.

We Intentionally Leave Memorable Scars as They Are.

However, restoration could be somewhat challenging even for our craftsmen. In fact, it’s a lot harder than making one from scratch. Craftsmen must be able to determine to what extent the piece of furniture needs to be restored and which elements should be left untouched. It’s not as simple as making it look brand new. Scars and stains made on wooden parts over the years may tell stories, and well-used ambiances produce rich warmth in the living room. Such unique histories alive in furniture must be left even after restoration. For this BOLS sofa, we decided to use the existing frame, apply a new coating on the architrave and arm rests, change the old cushions to a molded urethane foam which is more resilient, and upholster the new cushions with new leather, which should prolong its life for another good bit.

Not for Profit but for Hearing Customers Saying “Welcome Back!”

To tell the truth, there’s not much profit in restoration work. Every piece of furniture has its own condition made in long-term use. We must exam each and every one of them, remove the upholstery and coating carefully, and decide on how it needs to be restored, which takes time and is unable to be streamlined because no two conditions are the same. But this is something we are willing to do: To utilize limited wood resources for as long as possible, and to show our gratitude towards our customers. Any hard work is worth it when we think of those who are looking forward to having their restored furniture back. I love it to hear our customers say “Welcome back!” to restored furniture when we deliver it to their home.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Daily Me

Google Search Results

Your Google search results are different from mine even if we use the same search words. You may believe that news popping up in your computer screen (or smartphone) is information many people are also interested in, but actually it may not. This is “Daily Me” where people reinforce their way of thinking and avoid to communicate with people with different values; freedom of choice in information will be lost. Cass Sunstein, a jurist in the US, coined the words with concerns that democracy may be destroyed by the Internet.

Perspicuity

This is the biggest advantage of newspaper over the Internet. People can get an overview of general social trends by browsing news headlines, even though the contents of the news are not very interesting. However, it seems young people can’t put up with news imposed by old authorities (newspaper companies), saying “If the news is that important, it’ll find me.”

Our Newsletter

Today, completely different from the past ones, I’m writing about this newsletter itself. We’ve been sending newsletters to people who are in the interior- or design-related industries. We are a furniture manufacturer but don’t stick to the promotion of our products here. Differentiation from many other newsletters is one reason, and another one is my small resistance to “Daily Me.” I hope you enjoy “Daily Someone else” once in a while, and may be interested in us as well.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

 

A Tale about Our Product: LAPIS Stacking Chairs

Source: https://www.condehouse.co.jp/?lng=ja_en

A Group of Challenge Addicts

“Wow, this should be difficult.” This was the impression we got when first seeing the sketches of the chair, but the stunningly beautiful design intrigued us. Furthermore, someone said with enthusiasm, “We can learn a lot from overcoming the difficulties!” The chair, LAPIS, has a conventional Finish look, designed by a Finish designer couple, Sirkka and Timo Saarnio. This simple chair is composed of only three parts, and is as light as three kilograms with a backrest of beautiful grains, an ergonomic seating to fit the body line, and sturdy legs to firmly support body weight, which became feasible by the latest technology (at that time) of wood molding press.

Patience for the Egos of Wood Pieces

The biggest difficulty we faced in developing this chair was wood warping. Each piece of wood has its own way of bending and twisting. Wood may continue to change its shape for a certain period of time even after molding press is applied. In most cases, it stays still after that, but sometimes it becomes grumpy and gets out of hand. We can hear them complaining; “Hey, it’s too humid,” “What’s with the weather here?” Nevertheless, we struggled to convert the beautiful design into a product by establishing a more sophisticated wood molding press technique and widening the distance between the legs for more stability.

 

DANGER DO NOT SIT

The chair in the photo is the first prototype produced only to check the style, and so, strength tests had not been conducted on them yet. We needed to place a notice on the chair for our other staff who is always thrilled to try out new chairs. I know that they love wood so much that they won’t get mad even if chairs break and they tumble down on to the floor, but you know, just in case!

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

A Tale about Our Product: Our Best-Selling Chair (WING)


Savior after the Great Financial Crisis

In 2008, the great financial crisis started from the Wall Street and struck the whole world. Many companies faced business difficulties, and so did Conde House. A successful product was wanted immediately in order to survive, when our best-selling chair, the WING Lux, was born (2009).

Product Changing the Character of the Lux Collection

What if we gather all our technologies and make furniture without any thought of cost? This is the starting point of our Lux collection. The development of the Wing had already started as one of the Lux collection products, but the crisis drove us to change the concept of the Lux collection itself. Even though how much quality was improved, the market conditions didn’t allow luxury goods any more at least in Japan, where we needed to apply the technologies to cost reduction as well.

Design Overview

The designer of the collection aimed at furniture design to express the pulse of life and nature. The origin of the collection name, WING, can be seen in the chair backrest of which shape was inspired from bird’s wings. The shape of the chair mostly comprises curved lines, which makes it look more natural and consequently contributes to comfortability. In exchange for the advantage, we resulted in having a lot of technical challenges, though.

Technical Challenge 1

Making curved lines is not so difficult, but it makes all the processes difficult and complicated. For example, it’s getting more difficult to position a reference point for parts assembly. The rough shaving of the most parts is done by CNC machines, but it requires time and millimeter-precision for our staff to set a jig tool to position parts precisely at the machines.

Technical Challenge 2

In addition, there were two more difficulties we faced to develop the WING chair: the joint of the backrest and rear legs; the joint of the seat frame and rear legs. The joint of the backrest and rear legs is completely seamless, which requires some additional processes and advanced technology. This is proof that we go to great lengths if it’s for a good design.

 

Technical Challenge 3

Another challenge is the joint of the seat frame and rear legs. The joint is, different from that of the seat frame and front legs, designed to make the seat frame look like biting in the rear leg, which requires to shave the joint part of the leg exactly the same as the edge shape of the seat frame.

Now that you get to know about the details of the chair, it would be more interesting. Why don’t you come check it in person at our shop near you?


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.



A Tale about Our Product: Golfer Dining Chair

Golfer Dining Armchair (Oak)

You will find it in the line from the rear leg to the backrest; it resembles a golf club, which is the reason why it was named “Golfer”. This design came from a rough sketch drawn by a new girl.

One day when Conde House was just starting up with full of hopes and dreams to catch up and overcome European modern furniture brands using wood grown in Hokkaido, our executive director looked through the design proposals of the employees, and one of them caught his eyes. The director felt in his bones “This must be good!” saying later “It reminded me of MODUS, the masterpiece chair by Khristian Solmer Vedel.”

While studying furniture manufacturing in Germany, he saw the chair at a furniture shop, of which impression made him determine to make a chair exceeding its perfection. The director soon got started before forgetting his inspiration, made a full-scale drawing with care not to make it too similar to MODUS, and gave the drawing to the new girl making the rough sketch.

In 1973, Conde House launched the Golfer dining chair, and has been still selling with many updates, such as using molded urethane foam in the seating and backrest. The application of molded urethane foam was first time for us and cost about 1.8 million JPY for a mold block, which was a big deal at that time. Meeting our expectations, the Golfer sold very well, and Conde House got on track to grow.

It was the new girl who left the company due to her marriage only 4 years after the launch that gave a design clue of the item selling for more than 40 years.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.