by Sunena V MajuDec 06, 2022
Conferring visual identity and interior design as a single holistic aesthetic should extend beyond branding. Capturing the ethos of a brand through materiality and detailing communicates a deeper understanding of the correlation between space and function. Teemaa Teahouse in the city centre of Helsinki, by Finnish design studio Yatofu Creatives, does just that. An innovative retail space, the concept of the teahouse established by its founders, was to bring the tea culture to a country known to have the highest consumption of coffee in the world. Yatofu Creatives was tasked with the complete redesign of Teemaa’s branding and teahouse interior. The Finnish studio chooses to delve into the stories behind the craft of tea-making itself.
Angela Lindahl and Yihan Xiang, the founders of Yatofu Creatives elaborated on how they conceived the spatial experience of the teahouse saying, “Tea is a big part of the Asian culture, similar to what coffee is to the Nordics. Teemaa was established with the purpose of introducing tea culture to the Nordic scene in a curated and accessible manner. Instead of an afternoon coffee at the café, we wanted to create a teahouse where people could meet up after work or intuitively embed a visit into their daily schedules. The main goal is to introduce tea as a natural part of daily life, and share the values and stories behind tea and its culture in a comfortable and inviting setting.”
As a brand, Teemaa places a strong emphasis on sourcing its raw materials ethically. It is an aspect that Yatofu focused on when defining the visual language for Teemaa’s branding and interiors. Defining values in a textual format is perhaps simpler, but how does one emphasise the ideas of ethical procurement spatially? This is where careful and thoughtful detailing on the interior becomes important. Certain columns within the space feature a raw, unfinished seam. This subtle detail which seems to follow the natural contortions of the base plank is placed facing each other. There is an important distinction between creating a seam and a crack. By virtue of repeating the detail in the retail section of the space, it draws the eye to the rawness of the material itself.
In addition to the wooden planks, Yatofu wanted to reference both the rawness of tea as an ingredient, and the sophistication and complexity of it. While the background of tea and the culture of consuming it has a long history, it was important for the studio to present the experience through a modern and refined lens. Using a grounded palette, the textural and tactile elements of the materials used were extracted from those used in the tea-making process. Materials such as weathered steel, textured bricks, and smooth wooden surfaces create the tactile narrative.
These rustic and utilitarian materials were reinterpreted into a contemporary space through the use of modern forms, with a focus on handmade qualities to create a visual dialogue which speaks to the markings of time and craftsmanship. Prioritising environmental responsibility was paramount to both the clients and Yatofu, and it was a guiding tool in relation to material and production decisions. In order to reduce and even eliminate the waste created by offcuts or leftover materials, the material quantities were calculated meticulously, and excess bricks were recycled, while metal fixtures were oxidized post-fabrication to avoid unusable discarded offcuts.
The teahouse is divided into three sections: the Tea Shop, the Tea House, and the reception and kitchen area. While the overall atmosphere of the interior was designed to create a calm sanctuary-like space, Yatofu Creatives wanted to embed and combine elements of playfulness, accessibility and approachability in both the brand identity and space. The overall visual identity, including the product packaging, uses bright and sophisticated colours, combined with hand-drawn forms and shapes over a neutral and minimal black base. In combining the brand visuals with the raw materiality of the interior, Teemaa Teahouse bridges contemporary tea culture with the Nordic lifestyle.
Name: Teemaa Teahouse
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Year of completion: 2021
Interior designer: Yatofu Creatives
Design team: Angela Lindahl, Yihan Xiang, Sheen Tao