The discreet charm of Japan
Westerners are always drawn to the discreet, understated allure of Japanese culture, to its ethereal artistic, architectural and design projects with essential, clean lines, as if forged by the water and wind.
The renovation and expansion project for the Muji flagship store in Via Torino 22 in Milan, the city where the brand first made its European launch in 2004, has enhanced these qualities through a choice of neutral colours for the interiors. The use of Dwell tiles from Atlas Concorde in the colour Gray (and Off white for the bathrooms) creates a relaxing and welcoming ambience that complements the elegance of the products, enhancing them without interfering in terms of colour but instead creating a sense of continuity between the different areas.
The store renovation project was awarded to the practice of architect Roberto Murgia, who has been collaborating with the brand for twelve years and has designed a number of stores in France and Italy. The brand’s continuous store upgrade policy is part of its strategy of maintaining a fresh global image, while the choice of displaying its vast product range in each outlet means that the spaces have to be constantly expanded, in many cases – as in that of the store in Via Torino – reaching a floor space of 1,000 square metres or more. But what are the basic principles behind the design? « The basic design principles shared by every store focus on the use of natural materials, pale colours and matt surfaces, » explains the architect. « These guidelines come straight from Tokyo and underpin all design choices, which are discussed both with Muji Italia and with the Japanese parent company », creating a bridge between the Far East and the West.
The choice of the Dwell Gray series fits in perfectly with this approach to renovation because the floor and wall tile collection is itself inspired by the world of trowelled concrete and synthetic resins, prompting the designer to create modern, almost post-industrial spaces that are both contemporary and utterly original. The 60×60 cm size welcomes and guides customers as they step inside, allowing their gaze to roam around the store. The luminous grey of the floor tiles brings to mind the gravel of Japanese coastal villages in the far north of the country, while the air of essentiality and imperial minimalism conjures up images of a more remote and classical Japan. This unnostalgic journey into the past allows for a new way of being, an association of materials that creates a modern, contemporary image, albeit one that changes constantly according to the different store locations and cultures. The customer is not just a customer, he is a guest.
The Dwell collection tiles are also adopted in a special 30×130 cm size on the stairs, further contributing to the sensation of continuity of the interior design and the high degree of customisation that is a central part of the store’s image. In keeping with the inclusive retail design project, they are also used on the walls alongside handmade bricks and a wood wall made from old reclaimed timber. The tiles stand out for their versatility and ability to interact with the other materials, in turn enhancing their natural beauty. Along with their intrinsic technical characteristics, the tiles also have the capacity to enhance the natural light flooding in through the large external windows, helping customers appreciate the true colours of the products on display. The result is « a three-dimensional wallpaper, an ordered visual display that interacts directly with the outside world, a perfect showcase that communicates with the city and with the global design culture that must be taken account of in the design stage », added Roberto Murgia.
Atlas Concorde, Dwell
30x60, 60x60 cm
Gray, Off white
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1 %
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 150 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): R ≥40 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant