Anyone familiar with Japanese design would appreciate that it is deeply rooted in tradition and has influenced Western architecture and interiors. While Nordic designers have found a natural affinity in Japanese minimalism, Japan’s influence is more nuanced and goes beyond the clean aesthetics. We caught up with interior designer Ikuhiro Yamagata, who spoke to us about how this style evolved.
“Many people come to consult us if they want a modern style. It hasn’t changed in the past and now. However, this modern style has a different image for each person. Because modern style equals “modern style”. In other words, it’s an advanced interior that requires a mixed-style finish. It can be said that the keyword of this interior is genuine. I think that the idea of using good furniture for a long time has not changed in the past, now and in the future.”
Elements of Japanese-style interior design
The foundation for modern Japanese interior design can be found in Shinto and Wabi-Sabi. The Shinto belief system revolves around spirits (kami) which inhabit all things, living and nonliving. Wabi-Sabi refers to the beauty of imperfection. Every Japanese-inspired space, if it’s authentic, should showcase a deep respect and appreciation for the natural world. This translates into the use of modest and honest materials such as wood, stone, ceramics, cast iron objects and concrete surfaces. Bright white walls, large windows and uncluttered spaces help to create a serene atmosphere.
Japanese Living Spaces and Japanese-style Decor
Typically, when one thinks about Japanese houses and apartments, minimalist design comes to mind. Yet some of these modern living spaces are not minimalist or have much in common with traditional Japanese homes. The compact apartments in Tokyo or concrete masterpieces created by Tadao Ando are a testament to that fact. Some traditional elements have been adapted with a modern twist. Tatami mats, for example, now appear as raised elements in a room which enhances seating comfort.
Decor that draws inspiration from modern Japanese interior design only takes some elements from this style. An example can be found in black lacquer surfaces and bamboo panels used in the modern minimalist room. Simple, minimalist vases that highlight the beauty of the flowers or a tasteful pairing of wood furniture and stone flooring are decor elements that can bring a classic touch of Japanese style to a home.
Decorating in Japanese-inspired Style
In order to recreate this beautifully minimalistic style choose wood furniture that showcases traditional craftsmanship and clean lines. Oil finishes enhance the textures of timber. Natural fiber rugs can add even more texture to a room. Bear in mind that shelves which keep items out of sight are preferable, especially for the entrance area. Beautiful bamboo accents and screens and Japanese-style ink illustrations can add authenticity and atmosphere to a space. Minimalist vases may just encourage you to explore your ikebana talents while adding a touch of serenity to the space.
While the previous tips will add a bit of understated elegance to any room, the Japanese-style bathroom requires a special approach. From sentos to onsens, bathing is an essential part of Japanese culture. To style a bathroom in the Japanese way, a freestanding bathtub is a must. The bathtub will form the centerpiece of the bathroom and can be finished in a white porcelain coating. For a truly authentic touch try a bath made from teak wood. For those who can’t install a freestanding bath, the feel of a Japanese bathroom can be recreated using wood and stone paired with light or muted colours. Multi-functional stools can double as decorative accents while clean lines and minimalist accessories in an uncluttered space complete the look.
“I think design isn’t something I create, it’s something I create with my clients. Rather, I think that the essence of design is that the client has, and I think that it is the role of drawing them out through hearing and communication. Therefore, my design philosophy always starts from zero base. We believe that the highest priority should be on the clients who live there every day.” Mr. Yamagata shared with us.
Many contemporary homes offer a different take on traditional Japanese homes. They also feature an array of creative design solutions such as flexible shelving and built-in storage. Whether the home was built in the traditional fashion or after a contemporary taste, Japanese homes are always tranquil. Natural wood furniture, few decorative items and a focus on outdoor spaces helps to define these unique interiors.