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Articles on stone appreciation by Thomas S Elias and other authors are available from the VSANA Article Archives categorized by year. See list on the right for links to each article.

Modern Display Spaces: Post Tokonoma


By Tom Elias

Having a good display area is essential to fully appreciating a nice viewing stone. Often, collectors spend considerable time and effort obtaining a quality stone and making—or having someone make—a suitable base for it. Usually, too little time is devoted to developing a display area that will highlight and set the stone display apart so it can be enjoyed. Most stones are kept in homes and only rarely are displayed in a public exhibition. Thus, collectors should seize the opportunity to enjoy their stones throughout the year. Many collectors miss the opportunity to truly enjoy all aspects of their valuable collections on a daily basis.

Many collectors believe that they have to build a Japanese style tokonoma in order to adequately display a viewing stone. The tokonoma, a traditional interior alcove designed for the display of art, may be formal, semi-formal, or informal in style. Each style has its own specific requirements as to size, materials, and layout. While these styles are well-suited for traditional Japanese homes with tatami mats and shoji or fusuma sliding doors, they can appear out of place in modern-styled homes, especially in the West. Furthermore, to properly build an accurate tokonoma in a Western home setting can be expensive. This article will describe and illustrate an excellent alternative display space that better fits Western style architecture and furnishings and which can be built at a more reasonable cost.

This display space has a modern appearance, yet with simple elegance for a traditional Japanese display.


Yvonne likes to sit in this chair and enjoy her display while sipping a cup of tea.


The primary objective of a good display area is to separate or isolate the work of art so it can be appreciated without distractions. The height, width, and depth of this space can vary and should be in appropriate scale to the interior room in which it is located. The back wall should be plain and neutral in color, preferably an off-white or light tan in color. Avoid backdrops with designs such as clouds, flowers, or landscapes as these can detract from viewing the stone. The lower area where the art objects are placed should be approximately 60 to 80 cm deep and from 150 to 250 cm wide. The dimensions can vary so the display area depending upon the size of the room.

An excellent example of a modern display area was designed and built by Yvonne Graubaek in Denmark. Graubaek is an ardent fan of traditional Japanese susieki. She and her husband bought a new home last year in Denmark. She wanted a display area that would be suitable for this new Western style home. As a result, she constructed a display area that is 236 cm wide and 60 cm deep. The shelf is about 48 cm high, about the height of a Western coffee table. The brown curtain extending from the shelf to almost to the floor conceals shelves for storage. Graubaek changes the display of stones, scrolls and other accessories regularly so she can enjoy different displays throughout the seasons. She encourages people to spend more time looking at and appreciating their stones in their homes, and less time making displays for photographs to be placed on Facebook. This type of display area is better suited for Western homes than trying to faithfully recreate a Japanese style tokonoma. Also, it is suitable for displaying stones from different countries and in varying display styles. Variations of this display area can be made to fit the interior architecture throughout the world.

There are many other ways to successfully display viewing stones in cabinets, shelves, and other interior spaces. The illustration here is but one example of how to obtain a clearly defined space for displaying and appreciating excellent viewing stones.

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