“A good design is something you can successfully explain to your mother over the phone”-Nendo. 

Nendo is a design firm established by the Japanese architect Oki Sato in 2002. Oki Sato’s main inspiration for the firm originated from the cartoon character, Doraemon. Doraemon’s ability to produce anything from just a pouch was what inspired Oki Sato to do the same. Sato’s first office was situated in Japan while the second one was situated in Milan. Nendo is famous for the appearances it makes in several exhibitions, like ‘Streeterior’, ‘Ghost Stories’ and ‘Bloomroom’, along with conceptual built forms like the ‘Stairway House’, ‘Culvert Guesthouse’, and ‘Siam Discovery’. The firm is also known for its products which consist of a creative range of furniture, glassware, lamps, etc. 

The word Nendo in Japanese means ‘Clay’, thus bringing out the abstract touch in most works. Nendo comprises 40 architects who have collaborated with numerous design brands to achieve a unique set of furniture pieces. They have also created retail interiors for Starbucks, Camper, Issey Miyake, and La Rinascente in Milan. Here’s an interesting collection that made it to the top design magazines: 

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Ghost Stories_©nendo.jp
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Stairway House_©archdaily.com

1. NO2 Recycled Chairs

No2 Chair_©pinterest.com
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Chair Arrangement_©designmilk.com
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Line Sketch_©nendo.jp

These chairs were designed for the Danish furniture brand, Fritz Hansen. The chairs have been recycled from plastic waste produced in seven different colors. The concept evolved from exploring different ways a fold line can be generated on paper. Nendo uses its famous capsule figures to explain how they arrived at the form through a simple line sketch, a signature style of representation the firm has adopted with time.  The chair has been designed to provide a comfortable backrest that is molded into a scoop-like shape. It takes on a curvilinear form, giving it a bold yet smooth look. The plastic material used here creates a matte finish making it soft in the eyes of the beholder. These chairs can be stacked one on top of the other in a matter of seconds and can be used anywhere from cafés to offices.

2. Ribbon Stool

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Ribbon Stool_©nendo.jp
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Line Sketch_©nendo.jp
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Mickey’s Ribbon_©disneyeveryday.com

The Ribbon Stool was designed for the product design brand ‘Cappellini’. Their idea was to introduce an avant garde stool like many other furniture pieces they have. The form was a representation of how three ribbons looped around each other in a criss-cross pattern to form the base of the stool, similar to that of a ballet shoe. An alternate iteration consisted of a backrest shaped like Mickey’s head, a cartoon character picked up from Disney. This made the stool children-friendly as it could be added as seating in play areas. The original version of the stool could be used in public dining spaces or at a breakfast bar. 

3. The Pooh Table Collection

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Winnie the Pooh_©designmilk.com
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Conceptual Sketch_©pinterest.com
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Knitted cloth_©dezeen.com

A table collection based on ‘Winnie the Pooh’ was designed for Walt Disney, Japan. The tables were designed based on the characters who were Pooh’s friends. The different forms symbolize the identity of each character, such as the knitted cloth represents the clothes worn by the characters, the elliptical table with the red cloth represents Pooh, and the circular table with a third leg and an orange cape represent Tigger. The Folded table with the Grey cloth represents Eeyore while the other folded table with two pieces of yellow cloth represents Rabbit. The Egg-faced table with the purple cloth represents Piglet, and the Double table represents Kanga and Roo. The tables are made of maple wood and are user-friendly for children

4. Thin Black Lines Chair and Table Set

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Coffee Table_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch_©nendo.jp

The collection was based on a theme called ‘Outlines’. It was displayed in an exhibition held in the Saatchi Gallery, London, which was by Philips de Pury and Company for the Frieze Art Fair. The chair was made of metallic black wires folded into a zig-zag pattern to connect the lines to the base and the backrest. The marvelous piece looks like someone has drawn through thin air with perhaps a magic pen to form the outlines which create a volumetric composition. On the other hand, the coffee table is just two pieces of glass supported by clean and straight lines.

5. Semi-Wrinkle Washi Lamps

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Semi-Wrinkle Washi_©dezeen.com
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Washi Lamp_©archilovers.com
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Conceptual Sketch_©pinterest.com

The Semi-wrinkle washi lamps were made using the traditional technique of passing a fine screen through a solution of the plant pulp and water usually done in Japan. The pulp is then collected on a surface in the form of sheets and left to dry. Nendo wanted to give a soft and tensile look to the lamp, as it would appear wrinkled at the top and smooth on the bottom surface. A hole was made at the bottom to give the floor a light-washed effect. The fixture can be made to be a table lamp or a pendant lamp based on the user’s choice. The design of the fixtures gives the room a dramatic touch.

6. The Bambi Table

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Bambi Table_©archiproducts.com
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Conceptual sketch _©pinterest.com
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Office arrangement_©madeindesign.co.uk

The Bambi table was designed for the brand Cappellini as a part of office furniture. The top surface is made of a folded laser-cut aluminum plate which is supported by a cross-legged metal base. The desk has a matte lacquered finish in different colors like blue, white, black, and mud. 

7. Cabbage Chair

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White Cabbage Chair_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch _©nendo.jp
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Process of making_©nendo.jp

The Cabbage Chair was designed for the XXIst Century Man exhibition where the concept was about the concerns of how waste, when produced by man, could be used to make something creative and functional out of it. The idea was to portray the ‘relationship between the human body and the way things are made ’ according to the 21_21 Design Sight. The challenge was to transform a roll of pleated paper into a chair by cutting through the layers and folding those outwards, one layer at a time. This gave the chair a cushion-like surface without any support required. This gave the firm the flexibility to mix up different colors of fabric to design a unique number of chairs.

8. The Tape Collection

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Single Sofa_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch_©nendo.jp
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The Tape Collection_©nendo.jp

The collection was designed in collaboration with Minotti and consists of a lounge chair, high-back chair, armless chair, ottoman, sofa, and dining chair. The legs of the chair seem to have been taped to the back and front of the base rather than what we normally see. The tape is either made of leather along with the sofa cover or it’s made of bronze to hold together the bronze legs. The Tape Collection provides different possibilities of how the set can be arranged, be it in an office or a residential setup. The cushiony appearance is what highlights the style usually adopted by Minotti.

9. Mimicry Chairs

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Gallery Arrangement_©nendo.jp
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Vertical Arrangement_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch_©nendo.jp

The Mimicry Chairs were a part of an installation for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Each unit constitutes a chair made of two abstract rectangles joined together. The modules branch out in a horizontal, vertical, or scattered pattern. Some of them are even joined together by a common backrest while the others are conjoined with some of their features subtracted from the whole. The chairs continue along the staircase to break the continuous movement of the visitors. The concept of this installation was to keep the visitors engrossed while they sit and observe each masterpiece. 

10. Tokyo Tribal Collection

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Tokyo Tribal Set 1_©nendo.jp
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Tokyo Tribal Set 2_©designboom.com
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Conceptual Sketch_©nendo.jp

The Tribal Collection is an assortment of 22 furniture pieces consisting of stools, chairs, tables, and shelves. Nendo created this crafty set for the Singaporean Brand ‘Industry+’ who had a vision of blending traditional craft with manufactured items. Nendo’s concept was to ‘meld furniture and miscellaneous interior goods into one’ to form this unique furniture set. The chairs and stools were made using solid oak for the structure and hand-woven bamboo rattan baskets from Asia were used as backrests due to the good elastic properties of the material. Volcanic sand plaster was used to give table tops a smooth finish. In some furniture pieces, the baskets provide storage, while in others they’re merely used as decorative elements. The drawing features the tube figures holding the three different materials to form an integrated whole. 

11. Drop: Double-sided Plate Bookcase

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Drop bookcase_©nendo.jp
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Bookcase iterations_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch_©nendo.jp

The Drop Bookcase was designed for Cappellini as a part of the dancing squares collection. Hollow square blocks are arranged vertically with the top-most square tilted and supported at one of the edges. The inclined portion gives us the flexibility of either keeping a book open for display or holding a bunch of them on one side. This two-sided bookshelf can be used from both the front and rear sides providing a variety of spatial arrangement options. The bookcases are available in three different sizes of which the smallest one can be used as a bedside table. 

12. Straddle

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Straddle Single armchair_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch _©nendo.jp
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Straddle armchair rear view _©nendo.jp

The straddle chairs achieved their name from the way the steel frame of the sofa straddles a bunch of cushions into a comfortable niche. The cushions are arranged into an inverted Y and plopped into the two-layered frame. The armchairs are available as two and three-seaters as well along with an ottoman. The fluffy cushions give the armchair a soft and voluminous look. They are available in a variety of colors like black, beige, brown, and grey.

13. Andon Lantern Table

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Andon lantern table-Circular_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch_©nendo.jp
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Andon lantern table-Rectangular_©nendo.jp

The Andon Lantern Table was designed for the Italian Company ‘De Padova’ based on the concept of providing floor lamps for the Japanese lifestyle where most of the activities were done on the floor. ‘Andon’ means an ancient Japanese lantern, hence the name of the table. It is designed to illuminate the floor rather than the walls or the ceiling. The shape of the lantern can either be rectangular or circular. Nendo has managed to combine both lighting as well as furniture to create a unique design.   

14. Soft Brick

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Soft Brick: Sofa arrangement_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch _©nendo.jp
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Soft Brick: Staggered arrangement_©nendo.jp

The design was inspired by the traditional method of stacking bricks. It consists of cuboidal cushions that can be arranged in multiple ways to create a single sofa or a table and numerous sofas. This gives the user the freedom to customize their living room or office spaces by just shifting the cushions. Soft brick was designed for the Japanese brand ‘Ichiko’. 

15. Watercolour Collection

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Watercolour Chair_©nendo.jp
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Conceptual Sketch _©nendo.jp
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Watercolor Shelves _©nendo.jp

The collection was made for the New York Gallery Friedman Benda constituting eighteen furniture pieces made of metal. The design replicates paper cut into different shapes and folded together to form furniture. The thin paper-like form is then hand-painted to give the surface a watercolor effect. The color blue is used extensively along with white so that the furniture seemingly blends into the background. The process of making the surfaces included repetitive sanding after which primer would be applied along with white paint to give it a matte finish. The blue paint would then be applied slowly to create the effect. 

Nendo remains to be one of the most iconic firms known to produce what we never realized we would require.                           


  1. https://www.nendo.jp/
  2. Designboom
  3. Dezeen

Adiya is an architecture student pursuing her studies in BMS College of Architecture, Bangalore. She believes that architecture can not only be expressed through form but through words too which help evoke certain emotions in the readers. Her passion for art and writing is what peaks her interest in the field of architectural journalism.

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