In 2002 Canadian-born Oki Sato traveled to the Salone del Mobile in Milan with five fellow architecture graduates from Wasaeda University, Tokyo. Amazed by the way architects and designers worked freely between disciplines, Sato and his colleagues decided that they too wished to experiment with new techniques and forms through whichever medium inspired them, without restraint. Later that year Sato established the design studio Nendo, expanding three years later with an office in Milan. Since then, Nendo has transformed spaces and inspired lives across the globe with projects in the fields of architecture, interior design, furniture, products, events and graphics.
In Japanese, Nendo means free-form clay, a soft, fluid substance that signifies the flexibility with which the design team executes their projects. Nendo’s design concept reflects a specific aim: to inspire. The studio philosophy stems from recognizing those ‘!’ moments hidden in the everyday that enrich life and make it more interesting. For Nendo, the simplest ideas and the smallest designs create the most unusual experiences. The narrative of each piece is also important; these stories are, in fact, the starting point for most projects. Tiny earphones that look like jellyfish are packaged in plastic containers that resemble specimen jars. A roll of pleated paper, often by-products of Issey Miyake clothing, unravels to become Cabbage, a chair as beautiful as it is comfortable. The 1% product line limits manufacturing numbers in order to experiment with cutting-edge technologies or handcrafted techniques that are not yet suitable for mass production.
During a visit to Lasvit, a traditional Bohemian glass works in the Czech Republic, Sato discovered that glassmaking was not a practice of precision and restraint but rather a process so powerful that it was impossible to control. The experience lead to a recent collaboration with Lasvit, where Sato could work with glass blowers to experiment with the unpredictability of glass and create pieces that would inspire a “!” moment in others. The exquisite collection “Still and Sparkling” is Nendo’s most recent collaboration with Lasvit, and was shown this past April in Milan. Two elements of this collection, the Press Lamps and Growing Vases will be on view at Luminaire’s Chicago showroom this June.
Receiving recognition at home and abroad, Newsweek magazine named Oki Sato one of the world’s “100 Most Respected Japanese People” in 2006 and honored the firm in 2008 as one of the “Top 200 Small Japanese Companies.” Most recently Sato earned the title of “Designer of the Year” by both Wallpaper* and Elle Decor magazines. Nendo has also collaborated with many of the manufacturers Luminaire represents in addition to Lasvit including Established & Sons, Cappellini, Moroso, DePadova, Maruni and