6 Inspiring Interiors, From A Rain Room To A Cardboard Cathedral

Interior design isn’t just about pretty wallpaper: These innovative rooms reimagine what an indoor space can be.


Room: Inside Contemporary Interiors, a coffee table book out this month from Phaidon, features 100 stunning interior design projects from the past five years, including popup shops, a cardboard cathedral, and even an orthodontist’s office. Chosen by 10 prominent critics, creators, and curators, they challenge assumptions of what’s supposed to happen inside a box, whether they’re built from unorthodox materials (newspapers, twigs) or take their design cues, quite literally, from the outdoors (a room that rains). Here, six of Room‘s most innovative rooms:


IWI Orthodontics, Tokyo, 2010, Contemporary Architecture Practice

Nacása & Partners Inc

This is not your average orthodontist’s office, with creepy glass cases filled with cast teeth and tools that are clearly medieval torture devices. Tokyo-based orthodontist Dr. Yasuhiro Itsuki wanted to architecturally represent the advanced technology that characterizes his work. So he hired CAP to transform his office into a sleek all-white space, complete with white leather examination chairs. Laser etched-glass doors look out onto lozenge-shaped grass planters and the soothing outdoors. So while you’re getting your palette excruciatingly expanded, at least you can look around at this futuristic space and feel like you’re a character in a sci-fi film on a mission to get beautiful teeth.

Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand, Shigeru Ban Architects

Stephen Goodenough

The Cardboard Cathedral opened two years after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch left the city’s previous cathedral severely damaged. Ban’s structure is temporary, built primarily from cardboard tubes designed to last for more than 50 years. (It’s not the first time the Pritzker Prize-winning architect has used cardboard in his buildings–he was the first architect to build a house from paper in Japan.) The Cardboard Cathedral’s design reflects the geometrical proportions of the original 19th-century building. Its A-frame structure uses 98 cardboard tubes with eight steel shipping containers as foundations. Inside each tube, laminated lumber is inserted for reinforcement. The chairs, pulpit, tables, candle holders, and music stands are also built from cardboard tube and timber. Forty-nine triangular stained glasses add gorgeous pops of color.

Liyuan Library, Liyuan, China, 2011, Li Xiaodong Atelier

Beijing-based architect Li Xiaodong is at the forefront of a movement to revamp China’s rural areas, which are often overshadowed by the country’s rapid urbanization. This dreamy haven of quiet in the mountains, two hours from Beijing, is made of unusual local materials: its glass facade is wrapped in more than 40,000 untreated twigs, which the villagers gather as firewood for their cooking stoves. Inside, natural light filters through these twig screens, some of which are pulled away to frame views outside. The gridded, laminated timber structure also doubles as cubbies for books and cozy nooks for sitting.


Aesop, New York, 2011, Tacklebox Architecture

Jon Otis

This Aesop store, which sells skincare products, is literally bound like a book: 400,000 sheets of New York Times newspapers were sent to a local Korean archival bookbinder and and pressed and cut and glued together to create the walls. The sales counter, too, is made from 2,800 repurposed editions of the New York Times, stacked, torn, and bound in wooden boxes to form what resemble paper bricks. Tacklebox designed and built the whole thing in seven days.

Rain Room, London, 2012, Random International

Miles Kemp

This 100-square-foot immersive installation makes your whole body magically water-repellent: you walk through pouring rain without getting wet. When you enter the space, it’s entirely filled with falling water, but a camera-tracking system and management software stop the flow of water directly above each visitor. It’s the inverse of a little black rain cloud following you around. Visitors can speak to each other through a curtain of water or create little havens of dryness by standing close.

OHWOW Book Club, New York, 2010, Rafael de Cardenas/Architecture at Large

Nacho Alegre

This hybrid art-book shop, publisher’s office, and gallery features zigzagging shelves that seem to explode from the walls, a black ceiling affixed with white fluorescent beams of light like piano keys; and a turquoise backdrop that gives it a modern-1960s, Miami Art Deco vibe.


Room: Inside Contemporary Interiors is available from Phaidon here for $80.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.