All about how to create a stylish and modern Japanese design in your home.
In the wake of the popularity of minimalism in the arrangement of housing, Japanese interior design attracts special attention: it corresponds to the basic principles of restrained and practical design but looks very impressive. How to repeat the traditional style of Japan in your home and give it a modern sound?
Japanese Interior Style: History and Modernity
The traditional Japanese style in interior design originated a long time ago – around the end of the XVI century. Just at this time in Japan, the number of wealthy families who could build full-fledged houses increased. However, in accordance with the traditions of this country, homes were designed very budgetarily: regardless of the prosperity of the family, the main values have always been proximity to nature. Much more important was not the interior of the house, but a careful attitude to the surrounding garden. The interior remained restrained, without lush décor and decorations, only with the furniture necessary for everyday use.
The “turbulent” climate of Japan had an important role in the formation of a special style: frequent earthquakes and natural disasters forced to build of light modular houses on a collapsible foundation and without internal walls (instead of them there were screens and removable partitions). Such a house easily collapsed, but it was also easy to restore or move it to a new place, and in the event of a collapse, light structures did not cause serious harm to others.
Since its inception, the Japanese interior has changed little stylistically, but still technological progress and interethnic interaction have had a certain impact. Several directions in this design appeared, it became more comfortable and technologically advanced (now modern household appliances are skillfully integrated into it), and a laconic decor was added, but in general, the design retained restraint and asceticism. Now the principles originally intended for a house in nature are successfully used in the arrangement of urban apartments.
In the traditional Japanese style of the interior, only wood, stone and paper were used for decoration, but in modern versions of materials there was much more: concrete, glass, artificial coatings with imitation of natural ones.
Japanese design: characteristic features
The Japanese interior style is often compared with minimalism and Scandinavian design: it has a number of features in common with both, but still, it has pronounced features that are characteristic exclusively of it. Among the key ones are the following:
The use of natural materials in raw form – unpainted wood, stone, and bamboo (their high-quality imitations are also appropriate);
The simplicity of furnishings – geometric furniture and décor of a “rough” natural shape;
Light shades – beige, brown, white, gray and natural shades of wood and stone in all design elements;
Maximum free space – the minimum of walls is compensated by translucent sliding partitions and doors, as well as folding screens;
Functionality – all interior items should be used regularly, no “random” furniture, except for the necessary one every day;
Low furniture – beds and cabinets are devoid of legs, they stand directly on the floor, tables and chairs are also quite low;
Multi-level floors and ceilings – various podiums (often with hidden storage) and similar techniques for additional zoning are actively used;
Small inclusions of wildlife elements – an aquarium with fish, a potted tree, bamboo and other greens.
The main directions of the Japanese style
In our country, the Japanese style in the interior of an apartment and a house is rarely used in its pure form. In modern design, its individual directions are more relevant, which are a mix of several styles. The most popular are the following substyles:
Wabi-sabi – this direction pays special attention to the aesthetics of imperfection: to the traditional brevity are added objects made of raw rough wood, clay, stone, for example, stone baths, tables and headboards of beds made of saw, chairs made of solid stumps and the like;
Zen minimalism (or simply Zen) – a combination of classical Japanese design with Indian elements: absolute minimalism, restraint, and lack of decor on the walls are combined with an abundance of floor mats, Buddha figurines, and objects for aromatherapy (aroma sticks, candles, etc.);
Japandi is a mix of Japanese and Scandinavian style, the most modern direction, which is actively gaining popularity: soft and cozy elements with hygge aesthetics (fluffy carpets, fur capes, plaids, etc.) are added to strict and practical furnishings.
The japandi style is great for those who want to bring more color to Japanese design: this interior design uses terracotta, ochre, olive, mustard, gray-blue and other muted bright shades.
Working with space: colors, zoning, structural elements
All the principles of traditional Japanese design are focused on maximizing the expansion of space and freeing it from everything superfluous. For these purposes, several techniques are used.
1. Light color scheme. In any direction of Japanese design, the basis is light colors – white, light gray, cream, and natural shades of wood, which are used not only in decoration but also in furniture, decor, and textiles. This technique allows you to visually “dissolve” the design elements in space, keeping it spacious and airy. In addition, light shades make the room visually more illuminated.
2. Zoning with partitions and screens. The “Japanese” room is often very spacious, and it accommodates several functional areas. To divide the space, light wooden partitions with translucent inserts of glass or paper are used (in the style of japandi, partitions can also be metal). Also, sometimes screens are used – laconic wooden, with Asian motifs, with rattan or wicker inserts or fabric decor. Screens often separate the dressing room area in the bedrooms, or the bedroom itself from the living room (in studio apartments).
3. Windows and doors. In traditional Japanese houses, the windows are usually very large, occupy a solid part of the wall, and are not closed by curtains, so the room is filled with the maximum amount of light. As for doors, the most interesting is the sliding partitions of shoji – structures made of bamboo or wood with inserts of rice paper. Lightweight models allow you to zone a private space but retain illumination. As an option, in modern interiors, ordinary sliding doors made of wood are used without unnecessary decor.
Finishing materials for a room in Japanese style
As already noted, traditional Japanese design is distinguished by a special love for nature: houses are filled with natural materials or their high-quality imitations. What kind of finish is typical for such interiors?
1. Walls. Often the walls remain simply plastered. It is also permissible to cover with matte paint, preserve the untreated concrete surface (especially in the direction of wabi-sabi), and monochromatic light wallpaper without a pronounced texture or finish with wooden panels.
In modern versions of this style, sometimes one accent wall is distinguished, for which a colored coating is chosen (for example, paint in muted shades), wallpaper or painting with an unobtrusive natural motif – birds and dragons, trees, mountains, cherry blossoms.
2. Floor. The traditional option is a wooden floor covering (parquet, high-quality laminate or engineering board). In the wet areas of the bathroom and kitchen, natural stone or tiles imitating it are also used. The color scheme is preferably light and natural.
3. Ceiling. Often, spacious “Japanese” rooms with an open plan are additionally zoned with the help of multi-level ceiling coverings, but this technique is appropriate only in apartments with high ceilings or country houses. Plaster, concrete, paint, and wooden panels are popular as finishing materials, and stretch fabric ceilings also look original. In all these cases, harmony with the shade of the walls is preferred: the space should seem solid.
Japanese-style room design: details
Neutral design and natural materials are not enough to withstand any style of interior – it is obvious that without details it will be incomplete. How to furnish a room to create a Japanese atmosphere in it? What furniture and décor to choose?
The main thing you need to know about Japanese-style furniture is that it should be low and made of wood. A low bed, chests of drawers and cabinets instead of cabinets, all kinds of poufs, benches, and stools on low legs – all these are the key details of such an interior. Upholstered furniture should also be low: give preference to models without legs, standing directly on the floor. Of the flowers, options in shades of natural wood are suitable, the upholstery can be made of fabric like canvas, cotton, or linen in gray, white, or beige (in the style of japandi – also in mustard, olive, blue). Choose the forms of furniture as simple and concise as possible – a circle, an oval, a square or a rectangle.
Since this style involves the maximum freeing of space from unnecessary things, ceiling lighting is mainly used here – spotlights in combination with chandeliers, the lampshades of which are made of smooth glass, fabric or paper. Wall sconces with lampshades made of the same materials are also sometimes used.
Traditional Japanese design is not characterized by table lamps: more often they are replaced by low floor lamps of rectangular shape made of wood and rice paper or white frosted glass, which give a soft diffused light.
The interior in the Japanese style is not replete with textiles. Basically, the rooms are supplemented with mats, tatami mats, and rugs made of jute or any other coarse fiber, the windows are left without curtains or Roman curtains, and blinds made of paper, canvas fabric, straw, or bamboo are used. Bed linen can be linen, cotton, or silk, more often – monochromatic in a general calm color scheme. Several decorative pillows made of coarse natural fabric are placed on the sofa – monochromatic or with an unobtrusive print in the form of hieroglyphs, bamboo, or cherry branches. It is permissible to add 1-2 pillows with silk pillowcases.
As already noted, the decor in Japanese design is used in a very dosed manner – 1-2 items per room. It can be:
Vases made of porcelain or clay (ceramics);
Engravings in traditional Asian style;
Bamboo trays and napkins;
Figurines with Asian motifs;
Paper décor in the origami technique – lanterns, figures;
Bamboo, cherry blossom branches in vases;
Bonsai in a clay pot.
Japanese style in the interior of different rooms
Despite the fact that this style involves the most open layout, functional areas will still not be ignored, and each of them will require compliance with the general principles of the chosen design. How to maintain the style in the spirit of Japan in each specific room?
The main thing in this design is practicality and minimalism, which means that laconic functional elements must be present in the hallway. Give preference to wooden objects: a massive low chest of drawers, a rectangular mirror in a restrained frame, a simple bench, a wall hanger. For trifles, you can add a wicker basket to the interior. Finish the decoration of the hallway with a compact jute mat at the entrance.
Decorating the living room in the Japanese style, free up space in the center of the room as much as possible by placing a sofa against one of the walls. The sofa itself is better to choose low and geometric, without legs and voluminous armrests, with white, gray or beige fabric upholstery. You can abandon the chairs (use floor cushions instead) or choose several light folding models (as an option – one soft, but squat). Pay special attention to coffee tables: choose models from natural wood saw or from real stumps, as well as hybrid options for a table and a stool. As a décor, floor vases with branches, wall engravings and pillows with an Asian pattern are suitable.
The concept of Japanese design, aimed at rest from the outside world and contemplation, does not imply the presence of a TV in the living room. If you don’t want to give it up, try to disguise it behind sliding panels or use a projector.
The kitchen in this style is characterized by open storage without upper cabinets: household items are exhibited on wooden shelves and kept in perfect order. The lower facades are usually smooth, without handles and are made of wood or its high-quality imitation. The table top can be both wooden and stone. The apron is not laid out with tiles: it is left painted or simply plastered. But tiles can appear on the floor – for example, imitating natural stone. Just a concrete floor is also appropriate.
The table is chosen from solid wood, square or rectangular shape, the chairs are also wooden and with a hard seat (instead of them there may be low stools or benches). Sometimes the function of the table is performed by the kitchen island: it is also used for zoning the kitchen and living room. The countertop can be decorated with boards, trays and napkins made of bamboo.
The Japanese-style bedroom is the most minimalistic room in the house: there is usually nothing but a bed. The bed itself is low, wooden, with a laconic headboard, and can both stand directly on the floor (without legs), and be fixed on the wall and create a “levitating” effect. A jute mat can be placed at the bedside. For storage, as a rule, a full-fledged dressing room is allocated behind sliding doors or a screen, but as an option, you can use beds with a lifting mechanism or a low massive chest of drawers.
The nursery is the room in which it is most difficult to withstand Japanese design: since this style involves complete rest and relaxation, it is not easy to harmoniously fit a schoolboy’s workplace or a baby’s toys into it. Give preference to the direction of japandi: let only a low bed, jute rugs, and restrained decor remain from the classic style of Japan, and other elements will be made in Scandinavian aesthetics. A massive wooden table, a wardrobe at the full height of the wall, a chair of legendary design (Eames, for example) and a fluffy blanket will provide the child with coziness and comfort.
In the culture of Japan, water procedures are of particular importance: this is a time dedicated to deep relaxation, so the interior of the bathroom should be adjusted to a meditative mood. The bath in this design is usually free-standing and quite large. Stone, wood, and concrete models are preferred. The material of the shell corresponds to it, and the shape is often naturally uneven, like a real solid stone. The interior of the bathroom is complemented by wood or its imitation in decoration, and instead of massive furniture, open shelves and countertops without a cabinet are used. The function of a towel hanger is often performed by a bamboo or wooden ladder-stepladder.
Japanese design is a minimalist and functional variety of ethnic styles in the interior, which looks stylish and modern both in a city apartment and in a house in nature.
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