Yatofu uses “honest” materials to revamp Teemaa teahouse in Helsinki

Design studio Yatofu has refined the interiors of a teahouse in downtown Helsinki with elements of brick, oak and oxidised steel.


The Teemaa cafe, which serves traditional Chinese and Japanese teas without artificial additives, was renovated to reflect both the craft of the brewing process as well as the raw tactile quality of the tea leaves themselves.

Teas are displayed in Teemaa’s retail space on shelves made of oxidised steel and oak

“A grounded palette of honest and textural materials was extracted from those used in the process of tea making,” explained Yatofu.

“These were reinterpreted into a contemporary space through the use of modern forms, with a focus on handmade qualities to create a visual dialogue that speaks to the markings of time and craftsmanship.”

Seating area of teahouse designed by Yatofu with oak bench, table and low stool
Oakwood was also used to make furnishings in the teahouse’s seating area

Visitors enter the teahouse via a retail area, where packaged teas are displayed on oxidised steel shelves suspended between live edge columns of oakwood.

Thick-cut blocks of oak also form the counter at the centre of the room, supported by a base made from grooved bricks.

On the other side of the teahouse is a light-filled seating area where visitors can relax with their hot drinks.

Wall nook with magazines displayed on shelves next to oak table setting in Teemaa Helsinki
Panels of oxidised steel form display shelving

Oak was used here again to craft a series of chairs, stools and tabletops, as well as a long bench seat.

Oxidised steel ledges set within a shallow wall niche showcase a selection of contemporary magazines for teatime reading.

Tea tasting room with red brick wall and paper lantern above weathered wooden table in Teemaa teahouse in Helsinki, designed by Yatofu
A textured brick wall can be seen in Teemaa’s tasting room

A gauzy white curtain screens off a tasting area towards the back of the room, where visitors can sample some of the brand’s most unique tea flavours and learn about the art of tea making.

The space is anchored by a weathered wooden table, above which hangs a bulbous paper lantern.

A textured feature wall is clad half in traditional flat bricks and half in the same grooved bricks that were used beneath the table in the retail area.

To cut back on waste, Yatofu calculated early on how many bricks would be required for these elements and sent any offcuts to be recycled.

Kitchen of teahouse designed by Yatofu with brick counter and tea paraphernalia displayed on steel shelves
The teahouse also has a small kitchen where drinks are made

Teemaa’s final room accommodates a putty-coloured kitchen suite where drinks are prepared, while various paraphernalia including teapots and ornate Japanese-style teacups is presented on the surrounding walls.

All of the room’s walls are rendered in beige plaster save for one corner, where a sliver of the building’s time-worn structural shell has been left exposed.

Teapots and cups in different colours displayed on black shelves above a kitchen sink in Helsinki teahouse designed by Yatofu
Tea-making paraphernalia is showcased on the walls

Last year, Yatofu founders Yihan Xiang and Angela Lindahl designed a mixed-use post office for the Chinese city of Ningbo.

The project was named small retail interior of the year at the 2021 Dezeen Awards, with judges praising it for being “playful, engaging and beautifully done”.

The photography is by Aleksi Tikkala.


Project credits:

Video: Mark Vicuña
Set design and styling: Piia Emilia

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