ELEMENTARY is an interior furniture store located in Shoreditch and born from an appreciation of designs that embody the modernist movement.
Founded by husband and wife team Kotaro Kanai and Athena Peletidou in 2014, the store pays homage to minimalist, simple and utilitarian design.
The unique collection is carefully curated by Kotaro and Athena, inspired by history, contemporary concept and future vision, including a range of their own handcrafted furniture and objects created at Athena’s family-run workshop in the north of Greece.
In a recent collaboration with Yauatcha, ELEMENTARY were given a brief to create a series of objects that would both illustrate the season and provide a functional role, displaying the new range of patisserie in the restaurant.
Kotaro Kanai and Athena Peletidou talk about the inspiration behind the recent collaboration, their diverse backgrounds and the ELEMENTARY store.
What inspired your recent collaboration with Yauatcha?
A: Our work is usually quite monochrome, so it was nice to work on something that was outside of our comfort zone, a collection that is more colourful and vibrant, inspired by organic forms. We learned a lot, most importantly, by being more expressive.
What inspired you to work with the materials you did?
K: It was the sense of organic life that the wood emanates, its colour and texture, as well as the way that it can be curved. We were inspired by the softness of our objects’ presences and the visible yet gentle contrast to the Yauatcha restaurant window front, which is sharp and clean.
What challenges did you face?
K: The main purpose of the project is to attract people’s attention when passing by, and the macarons and cakes are quite small, so we wanted to make sure we properly displayed them while still creating something with a strong, visible effect.
Also, being that patisserie is something that you eat, the choice of material we used to display it is very important, as it does have an influence on the audience’s perception.
How did you get into the design industry?
A: I studied interior design in Milan and completed an MA Industrial Design course at the Central Saint Martin’s College in London. I then returned to Thessoloniki, my hometown in Greece, where I started working as Design Director at the family business, developing new collections and sofa pieces as well as exhibiting and showroom design. At the same time, and for a few years, I was a member of the CORE design group, together with designers Athanassios Babalis and Tommy Papaionnou.
Having grown up within the family sofa business, I developed an interest in materials, forms, textures and colours early on. To me, it was a natural decision to work in the industry.
K: I studied physics at the University of Tokyo. However, I felt I wanted to get more involved with people outside rather than remain inside in the laboratory, so I decided to move to Milan to study design at the Domus Academy and work at an architectural studio.
There isn’t anything specific that made me decide to work in the design industry. Perhaps it has to do with my mother’s influence: she used to decorate our home in Tokyo with modernist objects, and when I was a teenager she started to collect 70’s and 80’s Italian design pieces. Although I was very young, it was at that moment that I started seeing that there are very different concepts and personalities behind all those objects, and it was then that I started getting intrigued about the industry.
How would you describe the ELEMENTARY store?
A: Starting out as a small business, we made the conscious decision to create a store that represents our individuality as owners and decided against stocking items that are considered universally trendy or popular. This is why we chose to open our store in Shoreditch, an area that encourages creativity and individuality, as it fits our approach.
How do you go about curating the collections in the store?
K: Our curation is based on the idea of combining the decorative with the utilitarian, two aspects we feel are equally necessary in modern life.
It used to be that these two things were in constant contradiction, throughout design history. However, we realised that there have always pieces with these two characteristics, both in the past and the present, and we choose to showcase these pieces.
How does collaborating with brands such as Yauatcha differ from curating your own store?
A: It’s a very different process. Curating our store is a work in progress, and always based on our main concept. Working with Yauatcha, we start with a specific brief, develop an initial idea which we discuss with the in-house design team, and arrive at the final project result.
It’s a more interactive creative process, which is one of the things we enjoy.
Which designers are worth keeping an eye on in 2016?
A: We think, from a creative point of view, that there are many different approaches to design, based on design field, style and individual philosophy, so that’s a difficult question. However, one designer we feel we share the same values with is Joel Muggleton from Listen Studio.
Who inspires you?
A: I find furniture and interior designers Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand’s work very inspiring, mostly because of their sober yet expressive use of materials and forms. Fashion brand Comme de Garcon’s boldness and elegance inspires me, as does surrealist artist Alberto Giacometti’s early sculptures and sense of otherness.
K: Adolf Loos, Gerhard Richter, Jill Sander and Carlo Molino to name a few.
Where will you be displaying next?
K: We will be introducing our new side table collection at the London Design Festival in September 2016.