We may earn income from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
In us Ask a shopkeeper series, we tap the coolest shop owners we know for a tour of their space and to ask them what items are trending right now—and beyond. For this installment, Tina Koyama and Hana Tsukamoto—the co-founders of POJ Studioa decor store attached to a cafe and vacation rental in Kyoto, Japan—takes us inside their traditional Japanese townhouse—turned retail store.
How do you hope the machiya [traditional Japanese townhouse] design will have an impact on the experience for customers shopping at POJ?
Tina Koyama: It was important to us that the space feel less like a gallery, as Kyoto tends to have a lot of shops that feel a bit unapproachable, detached from our daily lives. Bringing a dining table and lounge sofa into the space was to make it easy to imagine your living room and dining room, and for our clients to have a place to sit and have a cup of tea while they just enjoy the moment.
Hana Tsukamoto: Having that cozy feeling of a home has always been an inspiration of ours. We want to help our customers see how our products will look within their own locations. In addition, the concept for this project is that all four areas (the store, restaurant, and two apartments) act like our big house, and the customers are our guests—POJ is our living room, Maana is the bedroom, and Kishin is the kitchen. Our customers can really experience our products being used everywhere.
You started POJ (Pieces of Japan) as an e-commerce site. What made you want to launch a brick and mortar space now?
Tsukamoto: We felt that, especially after the pandemic, it was important to reconnect with people and feel the craft in your own hands while shopping. We also believe that it is important to showcase our products, not just in one environment, but in every type of space. We want to inspire our customers and show them that these products really look good everywhere.
Koyama: We’ve created a place where you can not only shop, but also experience the pieces in a rustic yet contemporary setting—while staying at Maana Homes and grabbing a toothbrush from the convenience closet, or enjoying breakfast from us boards at Kissa Kishin, for example.
Tell us about the process of restoring the machiya.
Tsukamoto: These houses were in terrible condition when we first saw them, and we were unsure how much of the original structure we could save. Every layer we peeled back we discovered something new, so every step of the way our design direction would be influenced by these discoveries. We had to remain flexible. Our goal was always to keep the essence of machiya—the rustic materials and the structures—but we wanted to make it modern. To achieve this, we increased the ceiling height to bring more light into the space. For our kintsugi workshop room upstairs, we brought in more light again by removing the walls and putting up custom koshi (Japanese lattice panels).
Koyama: During the restoration, we discovered old clay walls with beautiful textures that we decided to keep instead of covering them with plaster. All the pillars as well as the roof were kept, and we brought back the garden.
Why was it important to bring the green space back to life?
Tsukamoto: When we first bought these houses, the gardens were completely gone, but we knew they were something essential in the life of a machiya. In the process of reviving them, we focused on the native plants you would see in the mountains, but we kept the garden design modern.
Koyama: Bringing the beauty of the four seasons into our daily lives is also a key aspect of Japanese culture and qualities that have inspired many architects for decades.
What are some of the traditional Japanese techniques that buyers can expect to see or learn about at POJ Studio?
Koyama: Our pieces feature more than 20 traditional crafts starting with urushi lacquer techniques that are the foundation of kintsugi, traditionally made incense, natural indigo tie dye techniques, sashimono woodwork, and more.
Tsukamoto: In addition to all the beautiful crafts, we carry our original DIY kits, so our customers can learn how to make them too!
What are some of your best selling home pieces?
Koyama: Our Kintsugi Kit. It can be studied with self-paced classes as well as in person or virtual sessions. Our incense and indigo wall pieces are also loved by our customers.
Music that is always playing in our store: Instrumental lo-fi jazz.
Dream person to walk into POJ Studio: Colin King, Athena Calderone, Norm Architects, Alex Kerr, Axel Vervoordt.
Favorite nearby store that is not our own: Old.
Favorite home piece currently in stock: Orioki.