With studios in Tokyo and Milan, Nendo is one of the most sought after design studios. Their products aim to bring small moments of “!” into everyday objects and they do it with both charm and élan.
Earlier this year, Japanese design studio Nendo was named ‘Designer of the Year’ at Maison&Objet 2015. For one of the world’s most sought after design firms, this was one more feather in their already crowded cap. From Cappellini to Moroso to Disney, Nendo has an enviable list of clients that support its brand concept: Giving people a small “!” moment.
The studio was established in 2002 by architect and designer Oki Sato and now has offices in Tokyo and Milan. Their portfolio includes award-winning furniture, lighting, products, graphic design, interiors and architecture.
Nendo furniture stands out among other contemporary designs. Many of their designs work with existing products, but these are usually turned on their head (sometimes, literally) and a new and beautiful item is created.
The Su range of chairs (2014), for example, was conjured out of the 1006 Navy Chair used by the US Navy’s ship and submarine fleet. Nendo took this much-loved aluminium chair back to its basic state and turned it into a simple stool in three varying heights. The seat of the stool can be removed with a coin and the legs stack together. How’s that for space saving?
The Sudare (2014) range is a collection designed for outdoor use. You might think the design is familiar, with its slats and folding legs. There is a twist, though (but of course). The Sudare seats and table fold and turn into a partition, like stand-alone window blinds or a screen. There is also a high-back chair and a lounger, plus trays and containers that fit onto the rods as well.
The Softer than Steel (2014) collection for Desalto includes flipped, wrapped and bent details to the metal furniture, as though it were paper or cloth. Still playing with texture, the Transparent Chair (2011) is made out of polyurethane film, which renders the seat of the chair almost invisible.
The intriguingly named Cabbage Chair (2008) is full of sumptuous layers of pleated paper that would not look out of place on an haute couture gown. The chair is shipped as a single roll of paper (in beautiful colours) with the user having to ‘peel’ back the layers to get to the chair.
Talking about twists, the Akimoku chair brought on board Japan’s only specialist bentwood furniture maker Akimoku (Akita Mokko). Nendo took pieces from the firm’s 102-year archive and modified them to create distinctive new designs by interchanging table legs, adding new upholstery and paint colours.
The Splinter chair (2012) is literally made from splintered wood where the backrest of a chair divides to become armrests and legs, and the top of a coat stand peels away to provide coat hooks.
The Fishline Chair (2012) uses dyed fishing line as a top layer over a wooden chair. The line gives the chair an added lustre and texture, and is an interesting exploration of new finishes.
The Aram stool and low table (2012) might seem familiar to Indian readers as it is inspired by the woven drum stool still commonly found in our villages. The Nendo version however, has metal wire woven around a metal frame, making it more durable. The Zabuton chair (2012) also takes its inspiration from traditional furniture, this time though from the Japanese futon. The chair is “in the form of a futon mattress casually draped over a wire frame.”
The Nendo stable has some interesting lighting designs as well. The Eigruob light (2014) was created for the tenth anniversary of Kartell’s iconic Bourgie lamp. “We created a new table lamp by inverting and rotating the Bourgie lamp’s silhouette so that when two of the new lamps are lined up together, the space between them forms the upside-down silhouette of the Bourgie lamp.” And to keep that sense of “up and down”, the lamp got an upside-down name too.
Other notable lighting designs include the Semi-wrinkle Washi lamps (2012) made from three-dimensional washi paper; the Nuno light (2013) with layered cloth over a resin-formed frame; the Surface lamp for Louis Vuitton’s first ever travel collection (2013) where the lamp can be rolled up for travel; and the Hood lamp (2012) that hides the light like a hood.
The twist-in-the-tale continues with quirky products like the Head or Tail series of dual-purpose dog accessories; Ume-play and Karakusa-play porcelain that is inspired by traditional Japanese patterns; the Sekki range of cutlery which recalls prehistoric implements but keeps your inner Neanderthal well-behaved and Bird-Apartment, a collective tree house with 78 nest entrances.
More recently, Nendo has made a foray into chocolate architecture and yes, they are all very edible. For Maison&Objet 2015, Chocolatexture showcased nine different types of chocolate morsels with various textures, fillings and tastes. From cubes to crowns, to mere slivers of chocolate walls, these intricate bits of scrumptiousness are works of art in themselves and you might want to photograph them before you eat one. There’s another “!” special moment in your life right there.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs (Various) Courtesy The Designer