I am in this months Frankie magazine in the homebodies section! It's a little article about my teeny Tokyo apartment and daily life in Tokyo. I'm so excited to be in Frankie Magazine because I really love that magazine. When I moved to Tokyo I subscribed to it so I could get my Aussie fix. Thank you Frankies for including Sandwich in your mag. xoxo
Thank you so much to Boco-chan who photographed my portrait for me! Boco-chan also photographed our Kawaii Wrapping Materials Book! She is the best!
What do you do?
I am an Australian designer, artist, crafter and zine maker living in Tokyo. Before I moved to Tokyo I worked at VOGUE Living magazine for 11 years most recently in the position of Deputy Art Director. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make leaving my job as I loved it dearly, but Tokyo is such an incredible city and I’m so happy living here.
Describe the flat.
Hello Sandwich HQ is a teeny 38square meter apartment on the third and top floor of a small apartment building in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. It’s South facing which in Tokyo means it’s super sunny. According to the Japanese real estate system it’s 2DK (two rooms plus a dining area and a kitchen area) which is quite standard for a Tokyo apartment. The thing I love most about this apartment is it’s location. It’s only 4 minutes on the train, or a ten minute bike ride to Shibuya where I like to hang out and go shopping.
How long have you been there?
We’ve been living here since I moved to Tokyo in June 2010. I picked the apartment from a Japanese real estate search website while I was living in Sydney. When I arrived it was so much smaller than I thought. I remember thinking it was like a Barbie dolls house (like many things in Tokyo that seem to have been shrunk). My tall guy friends can touch the ceilings and have to duck under doorways!
What’s the neighbourhood like?
Shimokitazawa is a buzzy and creative neighbourhood frequented by students. It’s little side streets are dotted with vintage clothing stores, cute cafes, izakayas, and we have our own Muji here. It’s the kind of neighbouhood where you can get to names basis with the café staff, pick up a handmade present from a zakka shop, stock up on essentials at the supermarket, see a band at night and enjoy a few drinks at a cute six-seater bar. You could get by day to day life without ever leaving this neighbourhood.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sydney. Before moving to Tokyo I lived in Darlinghurst and afterwards in Annandale.
How is your current location different?
Ooo - everything is so different. I think that’s part of the appeal for me. The streets near my apartment are teeny and windy and when I first moved here it took a few weeks to work out how to get home from the train station. At 5pm every day there is a bell which always brings a smile to my face, the supermarket stocks vegetables I’ve never even heard of, and there is always a new shop or street to discover. When I have free time I walk around or ride my mamachari (grandma style bike) around taking photographs of these details that are so unique to me.
How would you describe your decorating style?
I like to collect retro pieces from the 50’s and 60’s particularly those in coral, mint and lemon yellow colourways. I love collecting quirky pieces like my Goose lamp and I have a soft spot for ditsy florals, table cloths, crochet blankets and polka dot ceramics. Unfortunately when I moved to Tokyo I had to put all of my furniture in storage and I desperately miss my checkerboard pastel coloured tiled coffee table. I’ve always wanted one of the mini ice cream cone lamps that you see outside shops in Japan for my apartment. If you see one for sale can you let me know pretty please?
Where has most of your stuff come from? (secondhand, local markets, handmade?)
When I was living in Sydney almost all of my furniture came from second hand shops but in Japan it’s become a bit of a mix of old and new. In my Shimokitazawa mini-me apartment pieces from Muji and Nitori (Japanese Ikea) are mixed with local retro secondhand furniture shop finds.
What’s important to you in a living space?
First and foremost is light. For me it’s essential to have good natural light.
I would really love to have a little garden, and one day it’s a dream of mine to have a garden studio shed, but in Tokyo it’s impossible for me. At the moment, just living in Tokyo is incredible enough!
What’s your favourite item in the flat and what’s the story behind it?
My little Goose Lamp is my favourite item in my Tokyo apartment. I picked it up from a second hand furniture shop near my house. There is a restaurant right near my house which has the identical (but with a yellow beak) one outside their shop front. I wish mine had a friend…but I’m not one to steal!
What’s your favourite memory that’s taken place in the flat?
This February 17th I woke up to a white winter wonderland outside my window. It was amazing to see snow covering my balcony and all of the rooftops visible from my window. I got dressed as quickly as possible and rushed outside to take photos and listen to my footprints crunching the snow. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
The scariest memory here was March 11 in the giant earthquake where my entire apartment shoot and things were broken everywhere. It was terrifying.
What goes on in the flat – do you work from home at all?
I work from home so after my morning coffee and reading my favourite blogs, my apartment becomes Hello Sandwich HQ. Here I make craft projects, photograph projects for my new book, write trend reports, design, update Hello Sandwich and work on various other design projects.
How about entertaining, are you able to get many friends in? (describe some of the parties/events you’ve been able to have)
Some of the first guest to arrive in my apartment was a team of BNN book editors and a photographer who came to photograph me for their Girls Zine book. It was the morning they were due to arrive and I suddenly realized I didn’t have slippers for each of them to wear in the apartment. I felt very un-Japanese and spent the start of the meeting apologizing to them with a very awkward bowing action.
I’ve since bought about 8 pairs of slippers for a Christmas party I had last year. For our Christmas party I transformed our study desks into a makeshift large dining table by joining them together and covering them with a giant table cloth. I didn’t have enough chairs for the 8 guests who came so some guests ended up sitting on the edge of the bed. Ah – Tokyo life!
It’s my dream to have a nabe party…a popular style party in Japan as the months get cooler where everyone sits under a kotatsu (heated coffee table with blanket attached) and eats nabe.
Since moving to Japan, what have you learnt about the art of living in small spaces from the locals?
The good thing about Japan is, because of the limited space, they have devised so many great storage solutions, boxes and compartments all which are beautifully designed in a quintessentially Japanese style. I’ve had to buy some pretty clever storage solution furniture such as stackable boxes from an online shop. The 100 yen shop has been a great help with sorting all of my craft things.
I imagine storage is an issue – have you come up with clever space savers or just gone minimal in your possessions?
Sadly, neither. I’ve just got pretty good at tetras! I can slot boxes of craft goodies into my cupboard faster than you can imagine.
What is ‘home’ to you?
Home for me is Sydney, where my family and best friends are. It's like the Qantas ad ‘I still call Australia homeeee’.
(Thank you to Kiera for posting the images on Instagram)