An interview with Yohei Ishikawa of the Pacific Furniture Service

Earlier this year we featured the Japanese furniture and space designers the Pacific Furniture Service – a unique outfit with a beautiful and minimalist aesthetic. Throughout the Pacific Furniture Service’s work there appears a consistent sense that objects are placed or designed with careful consideration. This gives everything they build or design, from entire retail and living spaces to small household goods, a comfortable but elegant quality. Founded in 1988 by Yohei Ishikawa, their work has brought them high acclaim around the world and caught the attention of a number of other designers. Recently, Daiki Suzuki, of Facing Page favourite Engineered Garments, collaborated with them to produce a set of armchairs. The minimalist aesthetic sense and goal to produce high-quality long-lasting goods, both fit in perfectly with our values at the Facing Page. We were lucky enough to have the chance to interview (with the help of the internet – we still look forward to being able to visit their studio one day) Yohei Ishikawa, the president, founder and head designer of the Pacific Furniture Service to discuss what drives the brand’s ideals and makes their aesthetic unique.


The Facing Page: Could you tell us a bit about the history of Pacific Furniture Service? What brought you into the PFS?

Yohei Ishikawa: When I was in my twenties, in the late 1970s, I could never find any furniture that I wanted to buy. Almost all of the European furniture sold in Japan was just a scaled-down and cheap version of the original piece. So I began to think about creating my own furniture. Furniture which suited my lifestyle and that I actually wanted to buy.

At the same time I was thinking about why human beings start war and why it seems to be that we can’t make the world without war. I ended up thinking that there are problems if we don’t have the same ideals. So that’s why I chose this work – you can set values free through our products.

TFP: Tell us a bit about the organization and structure of PFS as a brand. What are your goals?

YI: First of all, I doubt the effectiveness of Japanese mass production. If our values go toward mass productions they tend to fall prey to power. It can be efficient but at the same time dangerous. I believe that to create furniture or spaces with different points of view from current values can make a difference in this world. Therefore we plan, create and sell all on our own.

This sort of activity is very independent and challenging in Japanese society. I hope that challenging our ideals through furniture design can liberate people from their preconceived ideas about the world. Also I reckon that if there are more people like us, together we can make this world more meaningful and happy.

We haven’t set concrete goals like sales or the number of stores. Our goal is to be the furniture store who propose neither styles or trends but our own unique stance on furniture. Through this hopefully we can gain recognition around the world.

TFP: What influences the overall design aesthetic of Pacific Furniture Service?

YI: We take inspiration from everything. The shapes of the natural world, racing cars and the hand tools that have existed since ancient times. For us, it is important that shapes have meaning.

TFP: Do you prefer to design and build single pieces of furniture or whole living spaces?

Both of them. When I design furniture, I imagine the people who use it and when I design spaces, I imagine the details of furniture that will fill it.

TFP: What do you find inspiring about designing spaces that are meant to be lived in and used everyday?

YI: After the 1980s, I don’t believe in “ecology” production any more. There are so many “eco” products in Japan, but the “eco” is meaningless and is added only for marketing. It is impossible to live without consuming energy and therefore I always ask myself how I can be satisfied with consumption. For me, “eco” is to use things that I love for a long time. In the end, it isn’t the products or design that make you cool. If your lifestyle is cool, anything you have or do is cool.

I create things which didn’t exist until yesterday, and these products/spaces will still exist after myself and the owners die. That makes me think seriously about my creations.

TFP: Typically, Japanese living spaces are smaller than North American spaces. How does this limitation in available space influence your design?

YI: It’s a good limitation. It means if the products designed aren’t sophisticated or desirable enough, no one would choose them.

TFP: Is the influence of traditional Japanese design felt in the modern school of Japanese design?

YI: Yes, but it’s moderate. The symbolic beauty of shapes is influential, as is the way designs are expected to age over the years.

TFP: In North America, Japanese design is admired for its minimalist and considered aesthetic. Does this positive feedback reach you in Japan?

It does, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. We have no choice when we try to live cool, because of our space limitation.
TFP: If there was one thing you’d recommend to someone looking to start designing the interior of a space what would it be?

YI: To have realistic experiences, to do loads of hand sketching and to love people.

TFP: Where would you like to see the Pacific Furniture Service in five years?

YI: I keep our stance and have a showroom in overseas to let more people know about us.
I want to preserve our ideals and open a showroom overseas to let more people know about us.

The Pacific Furniture Service can be found at 1-20-4 Ebisu-minami, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo and is open everyday from 11.00 – 20.00 except Tuesdays.

Our sincere thanks to Kenta Ueda of the Pacific Furniture Service for his help coördinating and translating the interview.