Furniture Designer, Mile End
“You know, to me, a good chef is somebody that can open their fridge and see leftover ingredients and whip up super awesome stuff. To me it’s like that, make something out of nothing. Sometimes your limited resources makes you more creative.”
Mitz Takahashi knows a thing or two about resourcefulness. At 27, he found himself working various unglamorous odd jobs to pay the rent. New to Quebec, by way of Calgary, Mitz struggled to make ends meet while awaiting his Canadian citizenship. Once his immigration came through, unable to speak French but with dreams of being his own boss, Mitz enrolled in a cabinet-making course at Rosemont Technology Centre. Inspired to make use of his peers’ leftover wood, Mitz began to experiment with the Japanese technique of Yosegi, a type of parquetry where various wood is combined to create a decorative effect. Harmoniously marrying scraps of mahogany, oak and cherry, Mitz developed a signature style that differentiates his mid-century modern aesthetic and gives seemingly scrap materials a glamorous second life.
“I buy off cuts from some stores in town, leftover wood from different projects. I know how to fix my mistakes, it’s trial and error for me. I guess my work looks pretty traditional but I take care with the details… When all of the elements are balanced, there’s a magic to it.”
Takahashi, 33, grew up in Osaka, Japan, moving to Canada solo at 16. The middle child of three boys, he shares his parents’ love of creating, mom practises Ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arranging, and dad, a flight engineer, was a do-it-yourselfer, “making gliders, models or renovating.” While completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge, Mitz fell in love with mid-century Scandinavian design, particularly the works of Danish architect Finn Juhl and German industrial designer Dieter Rams. Their clean lines and deceptively simple silhouettes are now hallmarks of Mitz’s furniture and homewares.
“I [always] go back to classic, it doesn’t go out of style. Wood is timeless. Styles, I keep it minimal and simple – so people can enjoy it generation to generation.”
Mitz’s offering ranges from luxe cabinets, with stunning doors composed of layer upon layer of thin strips of scrap walnut, cherry, mahogany, birch, and maple, through to guitar stands with tongue-in-cheek etchings like, ‘Failed Musician’ or sets of ‘Medieval Asshole’ coasters, that reveal his left-of-center humor. Although environmentally minded, (along with upcycling 80% of his materials, most of his products pack flat for minimal packaging), Mitz is neither hippy dippy tree hugger nor Buffalo plaid wearing mountain man. Quick witted and congenial, he openingly admits to sometimes growing tired with the sights and sounds of the sawing and sanding. He seeks rejuvenation and inspiration in guilty pleasure tunes (there’s no shame in his Billy Joel game) and embracing his A.D.D. tendencies.
“Things get tedious in design, I’m forever sanding! I try to work on several projects at once…so I design, then I check Facebook, Twitter, watch some cat videos, then go back to work… Sometimes I’m like I’m so tired I need to go home and I’ll deep fry tempura. So I can do that. But at the same time, I know it’s only me and the project needs to finish so I’ll stay till 3am. It’s responsibility too, you have freedom but you need to finish your work on time. It’s my own name; it’s my reputation.”
Mitz’s reputation has been steadily growing with glowing features on notable lifestyle sites such as Design Milk and TrendHunter, a steady stream of commissions and stints at Smart Mart and Puce Pop. He wants to experiment more with new materials like steel, potentially introduce colour and is continually striving to make his creations more accessible without compromising on quality. For now, he is a team of one designing, creating and marketing and it suits him just fine.
“All my life, oh this sounds so cheesy – like a TED talk or something – but since I can remember, I’ve been making stuff. It’s in my soul.”
Check out Mitz’s website here.