The fashion for decorating houses in the Japanese style came to us in the middle of the 19th century, when trade between Europe and the Far East began to develop actively.
Since then, the traditional Japanese philosophy of Zen has never ceased to inspire us with its simplicity and naturalness, which are embodied in minimalist design and architecture. Line, form, space, light and material play a major role here. With their help, a unique balance is achieved between the room and all its contents (furniture and accessories), and it is this balance that creates that special, free and calm atmosphere in the house, for which we appreciate the Japanese style so much.
Want to bring Japanese inspiration to your home? Later in this article, you will learn what details help to embody this widely popular style in the interior.
Zen’s philosophy, open floor plans, natural materials and neutral color palettes are the main features of Japanese interiors. Let’s take a closer look at them.
- Open floor plan
Unlike Western civilization, people in the Far East have been trying to avoid the abundance of furniture in the interior for centuries. Moreover, they also take care to reduce the number of internal walls, favoring thin and light modular partitions. This makes the space feel more open and creates an organic flow between interior and exterior – in the best Zen tradition. Not being cluttered with furniture also allows our eyes to capture more of the view, and this contributes to better well-being and relief from fatigue.
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- Natural materials
Japanese interiors may include natural materials such as bamboo, wood, dark metals (such as iron) and stone. They should be given preference not only when buying furniture and accessories, but also when choosing floor and wall coverings.
Bamboo or wood floors, flagstone or river stone walls, and simple architectural lines will perfectly emulate Japanese aesthetics in your home.
As for the furniture, it should not only be natural, but also minimalistic and simple. At the same time, it is recommended to give preference to multifunctional products, because the efficient use of resources is a fundamental part of Japanese culture. The population density of Japan is very high, and therefore free space is at a great price. So, for example, instead of beds, the Japanese often use “futons”, which, after sleeping, are folded and put away in the closet.
Also, in furniture, and for the internal organization of space in Japanese interiors, it is welcome to use not doors, but sliding partitions. Traditional Japanese shoji and fusuma are made from translucent washi paper that is attached to a wooden frame and can be hand painted.
In addition to being a nice light diffuser, these sliding partitions also save space that swing doors would take up and are often used to separate rooms instead of walls.
- Unity with nature
From a Japanese garden near your home to wide windows, Japanese-style interiors must have a connection with nature. Whether it’s a physical connection or just a visual one, with sliding glass doors, fusums, or glass walls, consider adding these details to your home.
Also, be sure to use greenery, stones, “rock gardens”, fountains and other natural elements in the interior. In a real Japanese home, a person should feel his connection with nature very well.
- Neutral palette
Japanese interior design often uses the natural colors of materials such as wood, bamboo, paper, and rice straw. The rest are usually taken from a neutral palette that includes black, cream, gray and brown.
Please note that all tones should be soft and muted. For example, you should not use a bright white color, even though it is neutral. It is better to choose a warmer shade of it, with an admixture of beige or gray.
If you want to focus on one of the walls or on a soft corner, then you can choose a deep and rich chocolate brown, black or natural green for this. In smaller volumes, accents of turquoise, pink, mauve and red are created.
Also, when decorating the interior in the Japanese style, the use of any patterns is not allowed. Only traditional Japanese painting. This also applies to textiles and wallpaper. Walls should be simple and concise. Instead of ordinary paintings, it is better to hang Japanese dark wood frames, as well as paper or straw scrolls with paintings.
- The lower the better
If you are interested in Japanese-style interiors, then perhaps you are also interested in Japanese films. Then they probably noticed that the Japanese set the table almost on the floor itself, and instead of chairs they prefer to sit on pillows or even on rugs.
Of course, we do not have to go to such extremes when decorating our home. And yet, it is recommended to choose furniture as low as possible – just enough to make it convenient for you.
Applying traditional décor will help bring the authenticity of Japanese style into your home. Above, we have already introduced you to the shoji partitions, the fusuma door and the futon bed. Now let’s look at a few additional details that will allow you to quickly transform your space into an oasis of Eastern civilization.
As said, Japanese interior design has a very simple appearance. However, despite the minimalist concept of the Japanese style, today it allows the use of beautiful and ornate elements. The main thing here is that they are added in moderation and are correctly spaced.
How to do it?
Japanese décor tends to become the centerpiece of a room, just as it often is a fireplace, plasma, or other coordinating element in our home. Objects are collected in groups of 3 (or other odd number) objects to create a natural and organic picture. Less often – 4 (or other even number) – if you want a more ordered or disciplined look.
We also note that such decorative “corners” are usually created for one season, after which new decorations are put in their place, and the “old” ones are put away in the closet and wait in the wings.
Tatami are traditional Japanese rugs made from rice straw. In the past, most Japanese covered the entire floor of their home with them. Today, an ordinary apartment or house in Japan may have only one or two tatami rooms. They are not only a beautiful background, but also have a very pleasant texture for the feet.
The standard tatami size in Tokyo is 88 cm x 176 cm, but may vary by region.
Tokonoma is a niche that the Japanese place in the reception room or living room for the tea ceremony. Taking center stage, the tokonoma is usually adorned with several pieces of Japanese art, such as calligraphy scrolls, prints, flower arrangements, or an incense burner.
In the previous article “Interior decoration with natural elements” we already told you about bonsai – amazing miniature trees that are grown in pots according to ancient Japanese technology. In addition to these very expensive works of art, mini gardens in glassware, bamboo stalks and live orchids are great for Japanese-style interior decoration.
Ikebana is the traditional Japanese art of arranging beautiful arrangements of cut flowers and other plants. Unlike bonsai, making ikebana does not take much time and effort, since all it takes is the right utensils and inspiration. By the way: this lesson is included in the geisha training program.
It is a common practice in Japanese interior design to use as much natural light as possible. As for artificial lighting at night, there is one fundamental rule – the light should not be too bright. Creating an atmosphere of a true Japanese interior is only possible with low or medium lighting levels. To do this, you can use candles, paper lanterns, bamboo lampshades and simple lamps in a modern style.
We mentioned earlier that decorative corners are central to Japanese interiors. What kind of objects can they consist of? In addition to flower arrangements, bonsai, incense burners, and a miniature garden, they can also include beautiful antiques, Japanese tea sets, kimonos, umbrellas, okimonos, and more. However, it is better not to use more than 3-5 such objects at the same time. For example, it will be enough to hang a scroll with calligraphy on the wall, and place a plant and a figurine under it.
“Less is more” is the motto of Japanese interiors, implying that the fewer objects in a room, the easier it is to appreciate and feel the beauty of each of them. Use this as your top tip and you’ll be sure to infuse your home with a subtle Japanese aesthetic.