A Design Guide for SANAA Enthusiasts


We love the Pritzker Prize-winning architectural team of SANAA because they gave us the New Museum, a whimsical steel stack of a building that sits at the intersection of Bowery and Prince Street in New York’s Lower East Side shouting out a rainbow colored “HELL, YES” to everyone who walks by. We love them even more for their minimal houses filled with light, quirky furniture, and lots and lots of plants.

SANAA is Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa. Based in Tokyo, their architecture has been described as metaphysical, dreamlike, and ethereal. A reaction to the chaos and cluttered complexity of the modern world, says Kristine Guzmán, architect and curator at MUSAC, “SANAA’s houses are capable of transforming a person’s way of life.”

Taking cues from our favorite houseplant loving design icons, here’s our guide to bringing a little SANAA into your world. Click through to check it out and let us know what inspired you the most in the comments!

1. Houseplants, plural

“A constant infiltration of architecture into nature, and vice versa, is one of the characteristics of SANAA’s work,” writes Guzmán in SANAA Houses . Creative groupings of potted plants are a simple way to bring the outdoors in. The more the better. Don’t worry about the pots matching, but make sure they’re all a similar, clean design. Mix in fresh cut flowers like amaryllis or stargazer lilies in galvanized buckets.

Ryue Nishizawa, House A (detail), 2006

2. Branches

How often do you get design ideas that are free? Get out of the house and head for the woods to look for fallen tree branches. They should be skinny and twiggy so that you can prop them up in a pot of sand.

Ryue Nishizawa, House A Living Room, 2006

3. Alvar Aalto’s Savoy Vase

We had fun playing our own design inspired version of Walter Wick’s I Spy with the SANAA interiors. What’s the first thing that caught our eye? Alvar Aalto’s classic Savoy Vase. Put one nonchalantly in a corner of your living room. Fill it with flowers, or don’t. Colored glass is preferable. Find one here in Rio Brown.

Kate Keller, Savoy Vase, Museum of Modern Art, 1936

4. Red Taper Candles

Red candles aren’t just for the holidays. Put them in a glass candelabra next to your Savoy Vase. While the pretty Conran versions below are currently out of stock, find alternatives here and here.

5. A Quirky Wooden Table

SANAA celebrates the natural aging of things. A vintage wooden table is a reminder of the passing of time. Place it strategically in your space. Find the one pictured below here.

6. A Single Protea

Put it casually on your quirky wooden table. It’s affordable living art. Find them at your local Whole Foods or Farmer’s Market.

James Elliot Bailey, Protea, 2011.

6. A Black Radio

’90s electronics just became retro, and the unplugged radio in House A’s living room is almost sculptural. Look for a simple, sleek design. Bonus points if it doesn’t have a DVD player or batteries. It makes for a nice grouping with your Savoy Vase and red taper candles. Get the one shown below here.

7. A Crocheted Doily

The handmade doily (aka ornamental mat) is a nod to SANAA’s traditional values. Put one anywhere the floor’s bare. Find this one here.

8. A Plywood Chair

Place it arbitrarily anywhere. This one can be found here, but the old IKEA Bertil standby works too.

9. Noguchi Akari 1N Lamp

Put it on the floor. Get intimate around the soft glow at night and listen to music. Find it here.

10. Floral Fabric

House A’s bathroom does it, and so can you. Bring a wildflower meadow indoors by making pillows and shower curtains out of a happy floral fabric. Buy it by the yard here.

11. Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona Daybed

An investment piece that you will never regret. The caramel leather is the only way to go. We’re eying the one at 1stDibs, but check your local Craigslist. You just never know what might turn up.

Dual Modern, Barcelona Daybed, Mies Van Der Rohe for Knoll, 1950

12. An Ugo Rondinone Declaration

We want one so badly. Don’t you? Inquire here.

Ugo Rondinone, Dreams and Dramas, 2001.