Several words come to mind when we hear the word bank: old, cold, money, stress and fees, just to name a few. But the power of design was on full display last month when Higo Bank, a regional bank in Kyushu, opened its newest branch and completely transformed all our preconceptions of how a bank can make us feel.

In 2006, Higo Bank acquired 52 hectares (128 acres) of forestland in Kumamoto with the objective or preserving nature for future generations. The bank manages the forest by supporting sustainable activities that include planting but also periodically thinning trees.  Much of this thinned wood is what the designers at FIL, a local design firm known for their environmentally friendly and sustainable approaches, used when sourcing wood for the interiors and furniture of Higo Bank’s latest Kokaibashi Branch in Kumamoto.

“The bank’s entrance, lobby, waiting areas, and ATM partitions were all transformed with the featured wood to promote a warm and welcoming atmosphere,” says FIL. Copper metal touches and carpeting also echo the natural landscape.

FIL also created original wall art for the bank, which features branches from the trees of the forest and prints of annual tree rings. “The end product encompasses both the source of the wood and antiquity of the land on which the bank sits.”