The relationship with nature and the organic are key to the principles of Zen that are at the core of Japanese interior design. The traditional layout of the Japanese home consists of a main living space which is divided by sliding screens with adjoining kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall. The size of the spaces is determined by the dimension of the tatami mat (0.955 x 1.91 m), originally made of rice straw and soft rush. There is no room hierarchy and so any space can be considered a bedroom or a lounge in the Western sense of the term. Furniture is usually minimal and close to the ground level. Ever since Marco Polo established trade routes with the East architects and designers have been fascinated with its traditions of harmony and peace. Nowadays the introduction of Japanese style into western home décor is more popular than ever.
Natural light and threshold
The connection between inside and outside is another common thread running through traditional and contemporary Japanese interior design. Using sliding windows, roof lights and framed views of the landscape the boundary between inside and outside is blurred. However the diving threshold is also governed by specific rules, it is common in Japanese homes to remove shoes in the entrance hall and change into slippers. The space should be fitted with adequate storage, simple lines and provided with good light.
Zen is a state of mind
Order is at the heart of Japanese design, furniture elements are few and generally simple and the provision of storage is critical. This approach is at odds with the western tradition of filling spaces with furniture, accessories and decorative objects. The minimalist home however can be achieved through harmony, peace and simplicity. The clean lines and lack of clutter should be matched with a suitable palette of materials and colours. Wood is ubiquitous in the Japanese home through window frames, internal partitions and furniture elements.
The addition of planting or flower displays also evokes of the spirit of Zen. The selection of plants should reflect the style of décor bearing in mind that the Japanese avoid colourful, showy displays.
The bathroom and bathing also represent specific rituals celebrated within the traditional Japanese home. Deep soak tubs are common in the Japanese bathroom, converting it into a home spa. Becoming increasingly popular in the West the home spa should ideally have natural light and feature natural materials such as stone and wood.
Hybrid Japanese design trends
Over recent years two popular interior design phenomena have come together within the world of interior design; the quality and solidity of Nordic style combined with the minimalism of Japanese design, known as japandi. The style can be achieved using elements with a clean silhouette, quality fabrics and materials and neutral colour schemes that feature natural and organic tones.
The notion of wellbeing is fundamental to the Japanese aesthetic, being in touch with the natural world and the inner world. The yin and the yang of the material and the spiritual worlds that perhaps now more than ever represent contrasting concepts that require resolution.