Family-owned Miya Shoji creates artistic, handcrafted wooden furniture with an extra dose of style—and nature.
Insider Exclusive Offer:
“The wood already has design, has a shape, and knows what it wants to do. We help translate it into something for the client’s home,” says Zui Hanafusa, proprietor of the Chelsea-based interiors shop Miya Shoji, which sells handcrafted Japanese furnishings.
Miya Shoji originally operated as an importer of Japanese novelty items and was later, in 1955, credited with inventing the first double-sided shoji (Japanese-style walls or doors made of wood latticework and rice paper). Zui’s father, Hisao Hanafusa, began working at the shop after he came to the U.S. in 1963 to pursue painting. About 10 years later he bought the company, and Zui spent his childhood watching his dad at work. Today, father and son work side by side along with six carpenters.
For custom work, Hisao and Zui first visit a client at home to get a feel for the space their work will occupy and for the client’s vision. After a piece has been decided on, the team of carpenters creates the wooden furnishing, meticulously following Japanese traditions, in Miya Shoji’s Long Island City workshop. Each craftsman specializes in just one part of the process and uses only single-stroke hand tools, working with the wood’s natural grain, never against it. In the finished product, all the pieces fit together as in a jigsaw puzzle; they’re held in place by wooden pegs at the joints—no screws or nails, just wood on wood.
Items range from a standard desk or table to traditional tatami—reed mats used in Japanese tea rooms. Though the actual production process typically takes a month, a piece often begins life many years earlier. Miya Shoji collects and stores trees like fine wine, allowing wood to mature into its ideal form for as long as 10 or 20 years before working with it. The shop uses primarily local wood (from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and upstate New York) and aims to find homes for the resulting pieces in the areas where they originated, the idea being that the wood will be less likely to warp or crack if it’s in its natural environs.
The stock is heavy in maple, cherry, walnut, and elm, among other trees indigenous to the Northeast, but Miya Shoji can procure wood from all over the world. “We design for you and will create what you want,” says Zui. “We want to create something that can become part of your history, and your family’s history. Then it becomes an item with a spirit.”
Miya Shoji: 145 West 26th Street, 212.243.6774. Prices range from $400 for a standard shoji to $80,000 for select tables.