An Interview With Setsu & Shinobu Ito

8 years ago
5 minutes had the privilege to chat to Japanese-power-design-duo Setsu and Shinobu Ito. The Japanese design pair, now based in Milan, promote their concepts and designs as honest and adaptable - and are now available in select stores across Australia.

Hello Setsu and Shinobu! Thanks for your time!

Hi! Hi!

Your designs seem honest. Does form really follow function? Or do you believe it works both ways?

Yes, I agree, but function for the client is always changing. It is not only physical and ergonomic functions, but also mental functions. In our designs we are trying to create new functions, like how the furniture can have centripetal force for the consumer, or how it can create an impulse for the potential buyer to touch the piece.

How important is functionality combined with versatility?

The important thing for a design is for it to have the possibility to change or create the ambience it is within, or that it has, in fact, created. Designs offer a different perspective and feeling for each different person. Even in busy, chaotic areas, a well structured and well planned designed space can create a sense of calm - the influence of design is underrated.

How do you know what you want when thinking about interior design? What rules should be followed when you have limited space?

Follow your desires and mental tastebuds. When you are looking at the plans, or walking through the display, it is important to conceptualise what will fit and will not, and whether or not that fits with your taste.

What influences you? Are you two story-tellers? Do your pieces mean anything to you?

We find our influences come from nature, or when we are out having a relaxing day off work. But we often find ourselves within our city apartment, but nature is still a large influence on our being. So with all the pieces we have in our house, that we have both created and bought, it is important for it to reflect our journey as people. Furniture and design pieces can trigger a journey for you to take, as well as reflecting a previous journey you have explored.

Design changes a lot, but some pieces stay the same and are timeless. Where do you  see your designs going?

Designing furniture is becoming more and more interactive, we are relying on its interactivity. Technology now gives both the designers and the consumer the ability to see a design before it is made - ultimately, a perfect product. We call it ‘intelligent furniture’, and we want this to relax our clients, and make the transaction safer in terms of expectations.

Design is subject to the individual. Some like the taste of something, whereas someone may not enjoy it as much. How relative is taste? How do you match this to an environment?

Designs will always be relative as long as the reflective. Reflective of a life experience or a desire. This will always be relative. A piece of furniture grows when it is in contact with a person - it adapts and evolves - its utility and usability changes as you discover a new need for the piece.

What is your favourite piece of design in your home/ apartment and why?

One of our last designs, "Dabliu" low tables and the coat hunger. These are light and useful, but at same time they are, to us, a remarkable piece of art. This is one of the pieces we are most proud of.

How important is it to establish a strong relationship with the client?

We want to make sure the expectations are set for us and the client. We discuss a lot, and we love questions and demands - it sets the tone for our work, and all we want to do is improve.

If you had to summarise your designs in one sentence what would it be?

When we design we ultimately shape an interface that triggers tactile sensations, gestures and emotions, an object that seems to animate and communicate the nature that is in our inner being.

Australians are more increasingly beginning to adapt and embrace the concept of apartment living, something that Europe and Asia have done now for decades, what are some of the challenges that you think face apartment living and how has design helped to overcome them?

We think design can help to minimise the space, what you really need and what you don't need, what you can select and how you can enjoy in your space. Japanese traditional houses can teach us more about our modern apartment living and how you can use one room to serve different functions through the use of adaptable furniture designs. You can keep the room as neutral as possible and give it multiple functions with certain pieces of furniture, such as our "ISOLA" Kitchen or “AU" sofa.

Thanks for your time Setsu and Shinobu

Thank you very much, Jordan!

You can see Setsu and Shinobu Ito’s work at