When Nalata Nalata first opened its brick-and-mortar store on the western edge of New York City’s East Village, Google Maps mistakenly classified it as an art gallery, which is only kind of off-base.

The brainchild of partners Angélique Chmielewski and Steve Aung — the former a fashion designer, the latter an industrial designer — is quiet, small and filled with natural light. It is not, however, stuffed with products. In its 500 square feet of space, there are roughly 40 products on display at any given time. More often than not, each product is handmade by a Japanese craftsman and comes with a small placard that provides context on the maker, the region it came from, materials and process.

The couple is from opposite Canadian coasts, but they met at school in the middle at Edmonton’s University of Alberta. Each was surrounded by incredible designers and artisans for work, and as such aspired to surround themselves with a similar level of genius elsewhere. And so they did.

Nalata Nalata started as an e-commerce platform hellbent on doing more than just selling incredible products. They wanted to tell the stories of the people who made them (browse through the journal on the site for dozens and dozens of original studio tours in far-flung regions of Japan).

Its brick-and-mortar store on at 2 Extra Place opened four years ago, and Chmielewski or Aung can both be found manning the storefront. Refreshingly, they don’t come across as salespeople as much as they do curators. The store’s inventory is largely home goods — Takayoshi Narita’s hand-hammered stainless steel and wrought iron kitchenware; Tajika Haruo’s fourth generation father-and-son made, hand-forged scissors, brass takes on everyday homewares from 121-year-old Futagami and so on.

Angélique Chmielewski, October, 2018.

“For some of these brands, it’s the first time they are showing their works outside of Japan,” Aung said, “let alone in America, so we often feel like we have an immense responsibility as curators.” We asked Aung and Chmielewski to name three products they feel define what Nalata Nalata is all about.

Saito Wood Co. Kalopanax Waste Basket

Photo: Nalata Nalata

“Usually trashcans are hidden away in corners of rooms away from view but when you come across a wastebasket this beautifully made it becomes an integral design feature and can set the tone for a space. We like the Kalopanax wood version of the basket especially because it adds a light feeling and natural aesthetic to a space.”

Makoto Koizumi Tetu Kyusu Teapot

Photo: Nalata Nalata

“Makoto Koizumi is a designer we’ve always admired. We’re having an exhibition with him during design week this coming May. Long story short, the older sibling of this product, so to speak, is the Tetu Cast Iron Kettle, one of our all-time favorite products. Koizumi-san designed the Tetu Kyusu as a smaller version that could act as a teapot with a built-in strainer. The proportions and balance of the piece are simply perfect.”

Nalata Nalata x Tajika Blackened Household Scissors

Photo: Nalata Nalata

“We worked with father and son scissor brand, Tajika, to develop different textures and colors on a pair of handcrafted household scissors. The symmetrical fluid form the scissors take on is worth mentioning but for this project we were really inspired by materials and how they transform over time. When we discovered that copper could be blackened in a really dynamic way, we challenged ourselves to create the deepest, saturated black possible.”

Want a Japanese Chef’s Knife? Check This Tiny New Orleans Shop First.

Get a knife made by a 750-year-old name that used to make swords for the Emperor. Read the Story

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