Meet the Designer - Mentsen

Mentsen is a London-based design practice established in 2011 and a partnership between two Japanese designers, Yasuyuki Sakurai and Risa Sano. The studio name, meaning surfaces and lines in Japanese, references to working in different mediums and scales.


Your studio's name Mentsen means surfaces and lines in Japanese, how did you come to choose this name?

As a studio, we design 2D to 3D. Surfaces and lines sort of represent the starting point, like drawing on paper or cuts and folds on sheet materials. Equally the most basic forms of furniture could be expressed with surfaces and lines, like table top (surface) and legs (lines), or chair seat and back(surfaces) with legs (lines).


You work as a design duo, how do your skills complement each other?

Our skill sets dont really overlap, as Risa comes from graphic design background, and Yasu from furniture and industrial design background. Risa is much more sensitive to colours and materiality, whereas Yasu is more drawn to structures and manufacturing processes. We share aesthetic ideas, but often look from different viewpoints."


Tell us more about the Genie Chair you have designed for VG&P and what you wanted to achieve?

Its an armchair with a steel frame and a sling seat and back, and wooden arms. Structurally its a very minimal chair, each element of the chair has structural functions. We wanted to avoid the use of PU foams that are so common in upholstered furniture, and were exploring ways to make non rigid seating surfaces and VG&P were on the same page. We suggested a sling chair with quite a rounded outline, taking inspiration from Aaltos Paimio chair and Breuers Isokon Long chair. The profile references to classic armchairs soften the impression of potentially rather hard materiality, the steel frame almost disappears and supports the seat like a fabric draped on an invisible lounge chair.


Which elements of Japanese design and culture have the strongest influence on your work and ideas?

Theres a strong sense of essential forms in traditional Japanese culture that is very elegant. Balance of aesthetics with efficiency and economy."