Entering the connecting rooms, going the rounds, one senses how different the flow within a space gradually becomes. Quiet thoughts and soft whispers grew, as new days dawned again, and through many assemblage and adjustments, into a little fortress that was built at last.
“It was the first time we drew a space by ourselves. We pondered many things over and over again, and then, like an infinite cycle, we overthrew them altogether. How to cover up the columns, how to achieve the right declining structure, the proportion of the connecting rooms, the angle of the door handles… every one of these took a long time to modify.”
From the arrangement of things to their positioning, all these are details that one can grasp only when he is standing inside the space. When did it occur to them most certainly that things were finally set and done? “I remember a few days before the opening, three o’clock in the morning and I had been walking all light and shaky already. But we just couldn’t leave until we had scrubbed off the tiny marks on the stone tabletops with sandpaper first.”
Kamaro’an, which we once interviewed in Hualien, Taiwan, makes use of long-standing tribal craftsmanship to make daily life objects that are compatible with modern living and can be used over a very very long time. Just last April this year, they established a home of their own — Kamaro’an House. Let’s hear about the anecdotes as Yun Fann, Tipus and Shane shared them.
“The houses where we lived were very long and narrow in shape, which was initially quite bothersome. But Jin (The owner of Ecru Studio, also the owner of Delicate Antique and Xiang Se) said it was beautiful that way, and suggested making them into symmetrical connecting rooms, like a museum, one room through to another. We loved that a lot and told Jin we wanted the same for the working space. He said it wasn’t a problem, that old houses in Europe were often done this way too.”
Seeing it closer, I realised that the tone and mood of this space change freely to the movement of objects. For instance, the light that enters the room reflects different facets of the room at any time. “We spent about four months, and in the end the space was quite bare, but each structure has its corresponding function. And because it is so bare, it can take in all kinds of possibilities.”
“Maybe we have reached that age. In these two years, our favourite shops have always been the kind where you get to brew a pot of tea, have leisurely chats with the owner, and get to know more about its story or history (Love MingtangBooks in Tainan the most!). The way the owners told their stories and their eyes sparkled as they did so, those remain our favourite memories. We ourselves have all kinds of small things that we can go on about nonstop too, and we look forward to talking about the furthest things we could cover under the sun with customers that come in here.”
“I think a space is like a part of the time-space context where an object comes into being. A relaxing space should produce more relaxing objects I suppose! The new home has a yard for growing plants. There is a lot of natural light, and you can feel how the daylight shifts from winter to summer. There is a little kitchen where you can make small bites, and also a lot of raw materials like marble, concrete, and furniture made of old logs. We hope to continue creating natural and long-lasting things here.”
To build often involves making a lot of choices and deciding what to keep, a process that slowly adds up into a sense of completeness. That process is constantly happening, however, and can develop new forms on its own.
“We drew design drafts by ourselves, then sought out our old pal Shin to make it together. Luckily, Shin is even more romantic than us. With a foolish grin, he would say keep the withered branches, keep the rusty metal roof, the floor-to-ceiling window needs to be curvy. And when the construction worker had removed the old stone bricks on the site, he even implored the worker to leave the traces on the walls as they were.”
“At first, we were unable to find the right lamps, and the two wires were dangling from the ceiling at the big entrance. In the end, Shin gleefully brought over an old glass lamp from his collections and lit up our house.” New and old time-spaces were interweaving together.
For the walls in the rooms, they seemed as though butter knives were used to wipe cream on it stroke by stroke, leaving some sort of natural specks on them.
“Dorian would always apply the paint while encouraging us to feel the patterns of the paint and acquire a feel of the space. He thought it was a process for both the paint and the space to get to know each other.” Dorian, a French installation artist now based in Taiwan, opened a fragrance shop “La Brume” in Taipei in late 2020. He spent about half a year’s time to complete the bricks, tiles, furnishing and decor in the shop all by himself. He is also a maker of organic paints.
“At the time when we went to Dorian to discuss the walls, we mentioned that we liked the feel of natural specks and blots in old buildings, but didn’t want to create an antiquated feeling deliberately. We wanted them to be natural traces of time past.” And Dorian replied, “That does take time, approximately a hundred years~” Then he thought of collecting and mixing sand and rocks in Taiwan, grinding and filtering them to create a paint, with no colouring added. It formed a wall surface that “corresponds to the climate and environment here and also ages over time”.
When Dorian first came, there were only the three connecting rooms that had just been partitioned, in such a way that people in the front yard and the backyard could greet each other. He wandered about as he murmured that the darker room in the middle was so beautiful, that there were changes of light and shades, that upon entering the work space in the third room there was a feeling of instant brightness (through dark willows and bright flowers, a village comes into view!), and that perhaps they could try having different patterns and transitions for the wall paints in different rooms, all of which were to be very subtle.
“In these few years, we always get responses like ‘this is the only way to do that’, which is sometimes a bit depressing. Yet, Dorian is the only one who pulled crazier all nighters than us, and with unsatisfactory aspects he made repeated revisions and overhauling way more than we did.” The day before the opening, having bid goodbye in the wee hours, they came later in the morning to see Dorian, who had worked all night already, lying on the floor and painting the table legs. Unfussed, he said, “Don’t worry about me. See? I’m resting as I work.” And just like that, he painted the entire room by himself.
“It is so painful in the process, but everything is good in the end.”
The purity of completing something together and the power generated through interdependence, these seem to illuminate all things in life.
In the rooms, marble tiles are arranged in different combinations and matched with different materials. A tilted ceramic vase has also attained a contented balance, almost like in egg balancing.
“Just the material already took us almost a month to discuss, from sleepers and blue tiles to the marble tiles that we managed to find finally. In the process, I often hated myself for taking so long to consider what should have been very simple things. But after they were completed, I often smiled at the stone tiles like a fool and felt very satisfied, thinking it’s not too bad that I’m like this.”
There is a stone tablet from Hualien stone suppliers that has served as a display platform at the Huashan Creative Park’s “Pacific Wind” and “Kamaro’an Shop”. Now at “Kamaro’an House”, they still ponder how to bring imageries of Huatung to the city in Taipei. “Even bits and pieces of small elements serve as little entry points to convey stories of Huatung. We don’t want to create a spatial style purposefully, we want friends who come here to discover objects that interest them, before we share about them in detail.”
“We have gathered more than four years’ worth of cultural archives. There are rattan weaving techniques, there is an archive of daily life objects from Huatung, like oil lamps, swimming goggles made of bamboo sticks and marble vases. We have also arranged the garments of several Amis tribes. All these we intend to turn into active, organic mini exhibitions!”
Beyond the walls, moss is spilling over, and rust is crawling all over the roof, “When it’s raining, a tiny stream flows out of a wall crack in the backyard, trickling and tapping, and as we work inside the house, it feels very calm.” “There is an old French wicker chair in the working area. We would sometimes take turns to take afternoon naps there, a rather serene affair.”
To develop along its inherent personality more, to be more delicate in observation, and, when the light is dancing, to be able to capture those subtle changes, these little elements might just be what forms this container that encompasses all kinds of possibilities.
As you feel it, it (the space) seems to be moving. Perhaps, the treading has made the path. At this point now, “everything resonates with each other silently.” How could they be sure in the beginning? Probably because when they stepped inside for the first time, they had already a vision for the space.
Keep the woods and the bricks and the tiles and the columns, keep the old specks and blots. Remove nothing, lest one should have to count a hundred years all over again.