INUA is located on the ninth floor of a new KADOKAWA building in the Iidabashi area of Tokyo. Thomas Frebel, the former chef and head of research and development at noma in Copenhagen has devised an ever-changing menu that reflects Japan’s seasons, rich culture and diverse landscape. OEO Studio, in collaboration with Frebel, have devised a design concept for the new 700m² restaurant that fuses Japanese and Nordic sensibilities, to bring about a refined blend of craftsmanship, materiality and architecture.
OEO Studio has worked with local materials as well as Japanese-inspired details interpreted with a Nordic twist in novel and unexpected ways. The result is a Japanese/Nordic aesthetic and atmosphere.
Due to the architecture of the building and the journey from street-level to the ninth floor, OEO Studio were tasked with seamlessly designing the diner’s journey, from front door to table. As a starting point, the designers stripped the space back to its core structure, keeping only the original glass façade that offers mesmerising panoramic views of the Tokyo skyline.
For the restaurant design, OEO Studio reinterpreted Japanese characteristics and modern Scandinavian design to produce a sophisticated urban feel. A welcoming and unexpected space in the heart of bustling Tokyo, the design provides a dynamic backdrop to showcase the INUA spirit and celebrate the colour scheme, textures, and unique compositions of its menu in a transformative environment where guests can feel at ease.
On the second-floor entrance area of the restaurant, OEO Studio has constructed a 30-metre wall featuring a diagonal pattern created using a dense and highly textured super matt Japanese plaster technique. The subtle pattern gives a hint of direction and guides guests down the long hallway that also features cloud-like celling lamps by French artist Celine Wright.
The concrete floor features a graphic and bold interpretation of Japanese stepping stones – the pattern is fluid and designed to guide the guest to the ninth-floor dining room.
Upon arrival at the restaurant, guests are met with an open-topped tactile wall comprised of a seemingly random structure of solid and semi-open bricks offering glimpses of the dining area beyond. This element of playful architectural is designed to add life to the space.
Paying careful attention to the qualities of the space, OEO Studio has balanced the bustle of a busy restaurant, kitchen and bar with a bespoke acoustic ceiling using exquisite Nishijin fabric from Japanese textile maker, and long-time OEO Studio collaborator, HOSOO.
Enhancing the overall interior design, the ceiling grid and design are inspired by the mathematics and lines of tatami flooring and the ceiling uses a transitional colour scheme that varies from the welcome area, lounge and bar to the dining area and the private dining room.
A colour palette of muted warm grey hues, blue, green and burnt clay tones run throughout all areas of the restaurant, with darker and lighter shades used to divide the space and provide ambient zoning.
Throughout the restaurant, OEO Studio has utlilised superior materials, including high-quality wooden planks from Dinesen for the flooring in the main dining room, alongside local ash, Hinoki Cypress, Spruce, and Caesarstone.
Kinnasand hemp curtains from Kvadrat have also been incorporated alongside metalwork in brass, copper and hot-rolled steel. Using locally sourced Uji clay and wood, bespoke artworks have been introduced across the restaurant and bar to elevate and enhance the dining experience.
Signature to the approach at OEO Studio, INUA features the highest level of bespoke design. From the functional wardrobes in the welcome area to the waiter stations in the restaurant, every detail has been carefully considered and executed. These custom designs and handcrafted pieces of furniture are a nod to the proud traditions of Danish cabinet-making.
The restaurant and bar design, which can seat 60, comprises a mix of dining-height and high counter seating offering a range of views out across the city skyline. In the restaurant, OEO Studio designed the new Jari dining table series with table tops resembling pebbles softly shaped by water and nature over time. The Jari tables were designed to complement the Hiroshima and Kamuy chairs from Naoto Fukasawa in new bespoke colour ways.
In the private dining room, the Jari dining chair, also designed by OEO Studio, offers the utmost level of comfort and durability for 12 guests around a 4.5m long bespoke table. The bar also features the OEO-designed Pauline barstools alongside celebrated designs such as the Japan chairs and sofa by Finn Juhl.
The Jari chair and collection of tables are the latest pieces of furniture designed by OEO Studio with Danish brand Brdr. Krüger. This ongoing collaboration with the 5th generation furniture maker combines Brdr. Krüger’s understanding of materials and woodturning skills with OEO Studio’s signature and contemporary design language.
A considered restaurant lighting scheme is comprised of both mood and technical solutions, which blend perfectly to support the entire spatial experience. Custom-designed directional spotlights made in Japan are teamed with soft mood lighting. Black oxidised copper lamps crafted by Kyoto-based Kaikado sit above the bar and the restaurant’s open plan kitchen counter and elsewhere there are designs by American Apparatus, iconic lamps by Frank Lloyd Wright, Akari lanterns by Isamu Noguchi, and lights by Santa & Cole and Frank Gehry.
OEO Studio’s vision for the restaurant was influenced by Thomas Frebel and his travels around Japan and his time spent in Denmark, and they set out to design a warm and welcoming space celebrating this fusion of Japanese and Nordic heritage. The result is a fresh, beautiful and embracing dining experience that for Japanese natives is notably Nordic and for guests from overseas has a palpable Japanese soul.