NIPPONIA No. 42 September 15, 2007


Living in Japan

New Age Design from Okinawa

Xavier Moulin

Written by Torikai Shin-ichi  Photos by Ikeda Tsuyoshi


Xavier Moulin with his wife Izumi and son Akira on their terrace.

Moulin sometimes does design work in a hammock in his garden, swaying in the sea breezes.

His house is elegantly modern, situated on a small rise of land with a view of coral reefs underneath a blue sea. The living room overlooks the water, and from the terrace and bedrooms you can see subtropical trees and shrubs, shimmering in the sunlight. The house lies open to the sea breeze. We are in the Chinen district of Nanjo, a small city near the southern tip of the main island of Okinawa.

The house was designed by the owner, Xavier Moulin. He designs everything from furniture and fashion wear to buildings. He works at home, in the garden if the weather is good. He sits in the hammock and swings back and forth with his laptop. Actually, the laptop is the only piece of equipment he uses when designing.

“I really like the sea. Sometimes I’ll go out to some uninhabited island by boat and have a quiet lunch out there, maybe wine, bread and cheese. It costs next to nothing, and what could be better?”

What, indeed! He was born in Marseilles in the south of France 38 years ago, and was brought up near the sea. His parents were high school teachers, and they moved around a lot. He went to elementary school on a small island in the Caribbean, and to junior and senior high school in a quiet seaport in Brittany, France.

He studied design at a university in Paris, then began working for a company in Milan. There he met a Japanese woman, Izumi, and married her. They visited Japan in 1999 to meet her parents. It was his first time there, and he was amazed by Tokyo and Kyoto.

“Old temples next to modern, showy office buildings, a bustling city next to peaceful nature—to me it was a kind of chaotic wonderland. When I studied urban design my main focus was chaos, so when I saw all that ‘urban chaos’ in Japan it was like, hey, this is what I imagined!”

They returned to France, but he kept remembering Japan. “It got under my skin,” he grins.

They were back in Japan the following year, and visited Okinawa in 2003. It was love at first sight. “Right away, I knew this was where I wanted to live. I felt I belonged here.

“The ocean around Okinawa is as beautiful as the Caribbean, where I spent part of my youth. Okinawa has a distinct culture of its own, and the natural surroundings are invigorating. And best of all, the people here are really, really friendly.”

Moulin’s recent design creations have “live life slowly” as their theme, reflecting the slow pace of life in Okinawa. He says that his family’s home and lifestyle are integral parts of his design concept.

“People have moved here from different parts of the world and, surprisingly, quite a few of them do design work.”

Moulin recently established a network of designers, people from abroad now living in Okinawa. He calls the network “Zero,” which is something of a misnomer because the group members have many different talents. When they get together they come up with some impressive design concepts, perhaps because of their different backgrounds, and their ideas create interesting job opportunities.

Moulin’s search for new design concepts continues, inspired by the place he loves.

Above left: Moulin’s “up and down” ladder with storage. His design aims to give the user many views of the surrounding world when using the storage space.
Above right: The living room is a work of art in itself.