A reserved structure sits in a small village of southern Japan. There is no signage or window displays, and only a small plaque by the front door denotes the resident of the building: nottuo. The building, called Drill Store, houses the headquarters and showroom of nottuo, a Japan based design studio specialising in branding. Drill Store was named such to represent the studio’s value of pushing boundaries and breaking the norm. From the unconventional location of the headquarters to the interior materials, Drill Store encourages us to question our preconceived notions around design.
Drill Store is located on an unassuming village street in the Okayama Prefecture of Japan. From the outside, the structure looks quite traditional, and could easily be mistaken as another residential dwelling. While they have offices in multiple cities in Japan, nottuo chose Nishiawakura Village specifically for their headquarters and experimental store. The location of the offices in the small village of Nishiawakura reflects the studio’s belief that great design is not limited to large cities. In choosing this village, nottuo opens the office to the perspective of the countryside, thus creating a new world for rural design. The studio explains:
While going back and forth between the countryside and the city, I would like to return the knowledge I gained in the city to the countryside and convey the essential value of the countryside to the city, thereby creating “cool” from the countryside.
Drill Store is composed of two levels. The first floor is a showroom for nottuo’s products. The space is intended to be a place for visitors to touch and feel studio’s homewares: Japanese pottery, artful furnishings, and other goods curated by nottuo. The name “drill store” was chosen for the definition of drill; meaning to break through. Like all nottuo’s ventures, Drill Store is a space for the creators to push boundaries, in this case boundaries they have set themselves in business.
The offices were not constructed for nottuo but were a renovation of an existing structure. As a result, the interior retains some of the character from the original building. On entering the store, one is greeted by a traditional stone wall contrasted by polished concrete in the form of benches and counters. The ceiling and exterior-facing walls feature unfinished wood. The other walls are finished in white-painted sheetrock. There are a lot of materials, and the space is not particularly large, yet the design does not feel overwhelming. Rather, there is a sense of harmony within the contrasting elements. This design feels very symbolic of the work that nottuo does; an unexpected combination of old and new, and a lifting of the mundane into something extraordinary.
Intentional mistakes (often described as wabi-sabi) are left in the construction, designed to be discovered like easter eggs. White paint appears on some of the wooden walls, but with no apparent pattern. Markings on the exposed beams of the ceiling may have been left behind by contractors but are given new importance by the nature of them not having been covered up. These curious traits tell a story about nottuo and their values. The space may leave us with more questions than resolutions, but I have a feeling that is exactly what the designer’s intended.