At Shinto shrines across Japan, free-standing gateways called torii connect heaven and earth, marking the transition from the mundane world to the sacred. They are icons of Japanese culture, and even a minimalistic homage to their design conjures up the Japanese spirit. Such is the concept behind the Minotti furniture collection called Torii, designed by Oki Sato, Chief Designer and Founder of Nendo.
The metal structure of the legs belonging to the seats and tables is Sato’s nod to the image of the torii. The horizontal metal elements are laid on the vertical supports with extended crossbeams that give the pieces a visual lightness with thin profiles and a detailed design characterized by couture craftsmanship.
“The ends of the horizontal elements are designed to look like they are biting into the seat, recalling the traditional wood joinery often seen in vernacular Japanese wooden architecture,” says Sato. “The design goal was to maintain the visual lightness while expressing a sense of security, with each component firmly locked together in unity.”
The Torii collection of Minotti furniture includes sofas—with high or low backrest and a linear shape rounded at the arms—inclined sofas with a combination of two different depths, armchairs, dining chairs, ottomans, coffee tables, and a slender, oval-shaped console table.
The craftsmanship of Minotti furniture
Born in Toronto, Sato followed his family back to Japan when he was eleven years old. Growing up in the East and the West gave him a unique perspective on both cultures that continues to come through in his designs and helps him to understand clients and markets around the world. As he went through school, he developed a deep appreciation for Japanese traditional craftsmanship, which he says became a major influence on his aesthetics and work ethic.
In 2002, he opened the architecture and design firm Nendo in Tokyo followed by a Milan office three years later. His projects have included furniture design, graphic design, art installations, and architecture. Sato joined Minotti’s design team in 2018, and has since created some of the brand’s most captivating collections.
Speaking about the beginnings of his relationship with Minotti, he recalls, “I was invited to the opening party of the Minotti Aoyama flagship store in 2017, which is where I met the Minotti family for the first time, and I was offered to start a collaboration with them. When we visited the Minotti factory in Italy, I was really impressed by the craftsmen working there.”
“The attention to materials and details that characterises the Minotti brand and its delicate craftsmanship is similar to that of Japanese craftsmen,” says Sato.
The Torii collection is Sato’s most extensive, and he is continuing to expand it. Each piece has incredible detailing, and the unifying design theme combines round volumes with thin profiles, while highlighting the haute couture approach in Minotti’s distinctive sartorial craftsmanship.
The Minotti family founded its company in 1948, and for three generations, they’ve worked to create enduring quality. Central to the Minotti identity is the concept of “Made in Italy,” which means that even as technology advancements have aided its production process, the company has always relied on the skilled hands of artisans to finish its products and balance out the industrial precision with sensitivity and emotion.
Sato says he’s proud to be part of the Minotti tradition and is busy working on new designs for 2022. Whether it’s his next furniture collection or an art installation in some far flung corner of the world, Sato’s fresh and minimalist style always comes through with a vibrant personality and a poetic touch.