As we browse through a spotless retail space, it’s easy to forget that even the most polished products come from a cluttered, often dirty workshop. Nendo’s own designs, a motley assortment marketed under the ‘by | n’ brand and showcased in principal Oki Sato’s Backyard design for spaces at three Seibu Sogo department stores – two in Tokyo, one in Yokohama – remind us of the link between atelier and boutique. The resemblance is triggered by a simple yet sophisticated trick: Nendo has left the lower areas of the display units unpainted, deliberately exposing the plywood surface. The effect is not only conceptually striking; bare wood also makes a lovely contrast to the predominantly white environment. It interrupts the museum-like aura of objects under glass or neatly arranged on shelves, easing the first-time visitor into the space and setting the stage for a leisurely, fun-filled shopping experience. If meant to evoke the image of children playing, a pristine retail zone called Backyard may be a bit far-fetched, but the sight of unfinished plywood is in itself surprisingly effective.

Photos Masaya Yoshimura