Naoto Fukasawa designs minimal kitchen appliances for Muji

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Design brand Muji is releasing a pop-up toaster and an electric kettle by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa at stores in the UK, USA and Europe (+ slideshow).

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Toaster

Following success in Japan, Tokyo-based Fukasawa's white minimal appliances have recently launched at selected stores in the USA. They will be stocked in the UK from November and be released in other European countries next year.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Toaster

The collection includes a smooth-sided toaster that features round edges and functional flat sides to allow it to sit against a kitchen wall.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Toaster

A temperature dial is situated on the side of the appliance, along with a function for frozen bread and another button that pops the toast up. Hidden within the base is a tray that slides out for removing crumbs.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle

The designer discussed the new products during a recent talk held in Tokyo, and acknowledged how toasters had become "less angular" but still needed to remain square-shaped to optimise their functionality.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle

"Toasters have also become somewhat less angular, but they're still more square-shaped than rice cookers," he said.



"There are reasons for this. In order to toast the bread so that the inside's moist and the outside's crunchy, there needs to be a certain distance between the heater and the bread."

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle

Based on a typical jug shape, Fukasawa's rounded kettle is designed to be easy to hold and use. It is able to boil a cup of water in 80 seconds and automatically switches off to save electricity.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle base

The electrical lead can be neatly wound up underneath the base, which has a gap that allows the plug to feed through while keeping the appliance flat against the countertop.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle base

"The closer an object gets to the human body, the easier it will be to adapt to if it has a softer, gentler form," said Fukasawa.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle

"Our job, you could say, is not to give forms to objects, but instead to determine their positions. If it's going to be installed near a wall or used while in a human hand – that's what's important."

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Kettle

His rice cooker was originally designed for the brand in 2002, but is now also available in the USA. Its rounded body features a simple control panel and the lid has an integrated spoon holder.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Rice cooker

The kettle and toaster will be available from Muji's Tottenham Court Road store in London from November, while all three designs will be stocked at selected stores in the USA.

Naoto Fukasawa for Muji
Rice cooker

Fukasawa previously designed a wall-mounted CD player for the Japanese brand, which is known for its minimal home products offered at a relatively low cost.

Naoto Fukasawa CD player for Muji
Wall-mounted CD player

Fukasawa is also the founder of Japanese homeware brand Plusminuszero, which launched its first collection in the UK in 2009. The Infobar mobile phone and minimal dials to monitor air temperature, pressure and humidity for Italian brand Magis are among his recent product designs.

Naoto Fukasawa
Naoto Fukasawa

Watch the designer explain the impact of digital technology on furniture design in our exclusive video interview »

Other recently reimagined kitchen appliances include Royal College of Art graduate Ted Wiles' toaster that needs hugging to operate and Kingston University graduate Jake Rich's pod-shaped microwave on wheels.

  • dan

    I wanted to like these but I’m struggling. Some nice details as you’d expect but I find some of the proportions a bit jarring (unusually for Fukasawa) and the toaster is a bit too Apple Watch…

  • Guest

    Can’t wait for our toaster and kettle to pack up. Our iconic toaster’s been playing up, so shouldn’t be long.

    • I’m convinced that the ‘new’ toasters are made to self-destruct, no matter the brand. I’ve gone through several in the last couple of years. I long for the old Sunbeams that lasted through a generation, at least.

      • marmite

        That’s right. They have a clock that ticks down. If you have a one-year warranty I can guarantee that at one year and one day it will just stop.

  • housewife

    I love how Muji products look, unfortunately I don’t like how they perform. I had a few Muji products like a broom to wash the floor. It was hard to fix washing cloth to it and my fingers would always get scratched. It broke after two months of use and I am glad as I felt guilty of throwing it out when it was working.

    I have a Muji scent diffuser, which I use as a humidifier, and it is a pain to fill water inside because there is a plug on the bottom of the pot and it is hard to plug the plug when the pot has the water in it. I don’t use the cup because it is too small. I bought it because I like its minimal look but now I dread to use it.

    • iag

      I have both the broom and the diffuser (the little one) and have had no problems with either in the past two years. My one grumble is cleaning limescale from the diffuser, but that’s not a design flaw… that’s sh*tty London water.

    • zyo

      I have the CD player and as lovely as it looks and feels, the sound quality is just terrible for modern standards. And for the price point.

  • Mark Ambrosini

    Agreed, some nice detailing but looks like you’ll have no choice but to buy standard, sliced loaves of bread if you purchase this toaster.

    • iag

      Instead of what, sticking a full loaf in?

      • guest

        Instead of choosing the bread you like, slicing it and toasting it. If the bread is a smaller size than shown, there is no way to take it out after it is toasted and is hot. Damn, use your brain sometimes before posting stupidly pseudo-ironic comments.

        • Young Money

          Pow! Shots fired!

        • disqus_7jWyXLDe6i

          Difficulty in taking out small slices is a problem common to all toasters though.

          • guest

            Use a horizontal one, more commonly known as a mini oven.

        • iag

          Do you cut teeny tiny little squares of toast? If you choose to cut bread into star shapes or other pretentious ways so be it, but how is this toaster different to other toasters in regards to reclaiming your toast?

          Most standard toasters have a standard opening width (for a standard slice of bread). You can push the lever up a little to gain extra access (again, as per most standard toasters) or if you are unable to achieve that simple task you can resort to the ole ‘angle the toaster and slide it out method’.

          OR, if you can’t manage to get a slice of toast out of a toaster maybe you shouldn’t be near electrical objects that make things hot.

          • guest

            No I don’t cut my bread into tiny stars or any other pretentious ways. I like to eat a variety of bread that doesn’t come in large square slices.

            I don’t personally use a toaster like shown on the image as I believe it to be obsolete for the reasons listed above. Expand your horizons, it will be very hard to adapt to life with such square-cut mind.

          • iag

            You’re right. I’m wrong. It’s a wonder I’ve made it this far in life to be honest. Thanks for highlighting the dangers of small bread not fitting in a standard toaster aperture and be damned with Fukasawa.

          • Aaron

            What irritates me is that I bought a mini-oven and used it to try and bake bread. You should have seen the mess! The dough slopped everywhere, the outside was all burnt and the inside still uncooked! Whoever designed that mini-oven should be fired.

            And don’t get me started on what happened when I tried to scale a fish with my carving knife!

        • marmite

          That’s a problem with a lot of toasters. You just use some chopsticks to remove the bread. I’ve been doing it for years.

      • CAB55

        Agree with Mark above, you stick with eating your sugar-filled Tesco white sliced bread.

        • iag

          And you stick to oven toasting the bread you are unable to cut to fit in standard toaster apertures (still unclear why the Muji toaster is any different to any toaster with regards to the size of the opening).

          You know that most bakeries have a bread slicing machine, right? And they can cut your bread to standard (thin, medium or thick) sizes, right? Such slices that fit in standard toaster openings – like the Muji one above.

          That way you don’t need to toast in the oven. Or you could be incredibly fancy-pants and purchase one of those little bread ovens. Fukasawa designed one for his premium brand Plus Minus Zero: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/6e/e5/1c/6ee51cd11b36407082a2c8e301486c38.jpg

          • marmite

            Hate to be pedantic but those shop machines won’t cut anything with nuts in. Yeah, Plus Minus Zero are great but I had voltage issues when I tried to buy one.

  • design junkie

    At the time when it is common to get a household item that performs multiple functions in a small house, Fukusawa and Muji decide to release single-function gadgets. It seems that they are out of touch with today’s consumers and their needs.

    • S. Saff

      Sometimes performing one function well is more important than performing multiple poorly. If you look at the history of these objects and their inherent archetypes, there isn’t a prescient, nor a particularly swaying use case, of multi-functionality. In a time when our lives are continually getting cluttered, wouldn’t it be perhaps more useful to draw a line and accept one object for its one purpose, and come to terms with the idea that you may not need a bagel cutter/toaster combination after all?

    • marmite

      The problem with multi-functional gadgets is they tend to do a lot of things badly and in the end you never use them all. A bit like mobile phones, where millions of people use all the earth’s resources to charge a machine every day that they only on average use 40% of. I prefer the simple life!

  • Ethan Bryan

    This is how technology is interacting in our daily life and making our work more efficient and desirable.

  • iag

    A voice of reason in a sea of hate.

  • marmite

    I have loads of Muji products and they are amazing. The desktop plug-in fans are the best. The CD player sound is not the best but it’s not meant to be a main sound system, but one you can use anywhere.

    I will be buying the kettle as there are just no nice designs anywhere. I just hope it has got a UK plug and is 240 volts. What’s wrong with Apple?

  • marmite

    Really glad to hear about the 240-volt formats.

  • Gail Hepburn

    You can buy them on eBay. Some shops even have free shipping. http://stores.ebay.com/fromkyotowithlove/

  • marmite

    I am a huge fan of Muji but I have to be honest having used the kettle. Firstly, it looks great but does not work so well. The cord that is supposed to store away in the base unit is not big enough. I can only think it has been designed for Japanese cables, which may be thinner. So a large part of the cable shows.

    You can only fill to a maximum point, which is very difficult to see inside. It will not work if you go over this. It pours VERY, VERY slowly and only enough for one cup of tea before you have to take off the lid. Then it takes ages to find the point that it will connect with the base in order to boil more water.

    The instructions say you have to unplug every time you refill! Whatever, it’s a real faff to use. A case of style over substance. It is not a kettle in any functional way and I am minded to take it back.

  • marmite

    So we are not allowed to comment on bad design now? What are you the design police? I love Muji but I think we all now have to accept they are not as perfect as we thought.

    They are not home basics. Home basics have to be firstly functional and unfortunately the kettle is not. You cannot pour the water without taking off the lid and even then there is some water that just cannot come out because of the design. Just buy one, pay all that money and just be very disappointed.