Facet Studio in Sydney

Sydney-based Facet Studio, established in 2008 by co-directors Yoshi Kashiwagi and Olivia Shih, build upon an impressive portfolio of interior design and architecture.

Having lunch together almost every day in the same restaurant for two years is what led Yoshihito Kashiwagi and Olivia Shih to their first job as Facet Studio. As Kashiwagi explains: finishing my architecture degree in Tokyo I came to Sydney, where Olivia and I started working on a project together in another architectural practice. The owner of the restaurant where we used to have lunch just ended up asking us to do his restaurant fit-out for him.

Although a small project both Kashiwagi and Shih saw the Thai restaurant fit out as an excellent opportunity and so quit their jobs to pursue their plans on a full-time basis. It was long before the owner of the Vietnamese restaurant next door asked them to fit out his interior too. In four short years, Facet Studio impressive portfolio has also expanded to include residential, retail and commercial work, with their award-winning Sneakerology retail fit-out receiving so much media coverage last year, it has to be regarded as somewhat of a watershed moment for the emerging practice.

Why Sneakerology captured the imagination of the blogosphere, and the general public alike is evident: it is an outstanding example of well-resolved and exactingly executed interior design. Decided that we wanted to create a space that would not be quickly forgotten, Shih says. The thinking was to use one single component and multiply it many times over, and this repetition is what makes it so compelling. The component, in Sneakerology case, was a shoebox, and 281 of them were utilised to create the beautiful display wall unit.

This concept of great design achieved through repetition is something Kashiwagi and Shih use to great effect in the recently completed M House. Situated in northern Japan, this family home architecturally plays up the importance of the roof, that most first definition of architecture. A child draws a house; they draw a roof, and it looks something like this, Shih says. We wanted to take that form and try to make the roof into something that memorable. In M House, the roof rafters are repeated approximately 60 times from end to end, achieving a quietly sublime beauty that is visually appealing.

With an office in Japan, administered by Kashiwagi father, a retired architect, Kashiwagi himself visits his homeland on a regular basis and is thus well placed to work directly with builders and engineers on local projects the studio undertakes. On M House, as with Sneakerology, there was a lot of prefabrication made off-site, and much time spent on deciding what type of bolt should be used. Guess we were always talking about that bolt, says Shih, smiling. When using repetition, you amplify whatever is magnificent, but you also amplify the smallest impurity, so we had to get it right to get the good effect.

Another recently completed residence is Seatondale Heritage in Sydney Ash-field. It a heritage house, Kashiwagi explains, needed to minimise the disturbance to space, but we had to upgrade the living quality. So what we had to achieve was a coexistence of old and new, and what we ended up creating was not new, but not old. Of all of Facet Studio recent projects, this one best articulates the practice paired-back clean aesthetic. It is an elegant study of simplicity, and how to respect a space, two design attributes both Kashiwagi and Shih consider to be of utmost importance.

Inherent in this notion of respect is Kashiwagi and Shia understanding of the projects they undertake. As Shih explains, always ask, is the character of the project? Because it is something that is somehow given to us in a way, we ask, do we enhance it? For Facet Studio, creating a comfortable space that people can inhabit freely and without spatial restriction is the answer to both those questions.

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