Though he has never been to Japan, Tim Burd has a long-standing fascination with that country’s culture and design history. "When I was ten years old, I saw the miniseries Shogun and it completely blew me away," he says. "Ever since then, Japanese arts have really appealed to me visually." This passion led the architect and furniture maker to open Studio Otori (, 312-371-9235), a South Side workroom where he creates minimalist Japanese shoji screens. Burd, who is self-taught, uses traditional tools and techniques to make the screens (from $23 per square foot) out of Port Orford cedar, a sturdy yet lightweight wood that smells faintly of ginger and closely resembles the rare wood used to make the screens in Japan. "People have been making screens this way for more than 1,000 years," he says. "The techniques amaze me."

Photography: Anna Knott