Sori Yanagi, 96, whose designs for stools and kitchen pots brought the simplicity and purity of Japanese decor into the everyday, died Sunday at a Tokyo hospital, Koichi Fujita of Yanagi Design Office said Monday.

Mr. Yanagi's curvaceous "butterfly stool," evocative of a Japanese shrine gate, won an award at La Triennale di Milano in 1957 and helped elevate him to international stature.

The work later joined the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris.

Another typical design of Mr. Yanagi's was the stackable plastic stool, humorously called the "elephant stool," because of its resemblance to the animal's chunky feet.

The lines and curves of his designs were as distinctly Japanese as they were universal, winning him fans - and a place in homes not only in Japan but also around the world - for his teapots, ceramic cups, and even the lowly whisk, which became artwork with his touch.

Mr. Yanagi chose design for his career after falling in love with the work of architect Le Corbusier while studying at a Tokyo fine-arts university.

Credited with paving the way on the international stage for younger Japanese designers, he also took up more monumental pieces, such as bridges and the Olympic torch, as well as a motorcycle and toys.

He supported Japanese traditional art throughout his life and was head of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo, which his philosopher father founded. - AP