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Interior Design and Visual Arts


Japanese interior design can be described as Zen - a school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures. Steeped in thousands of years of tradition, this ancient style, known as “Kanso”, is not only calming but a cultural representation of the Japanese way of life.

All Japanese homes mirror the outside world and often embrace sustainable materials mixed with natural fibres. 'Wood, bamboo, and rattan are materials often used for different interior features. Insets, walls, frames, lofts and screen grids are usually made of natural wood such as cypress and red pine. The seven principles practiced in interior design are as follows:

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1. Multi-functional and versatility

​Multi-functional and versatile shared spaces, which holds a large amount of openness filled with the ether element. You would often find that a space can be turned from a bedroom, to a dining room or a working station. This is usually done by designing features such as furniture that been stored away and again slide out when required.

2. Inspired by nature 

Much like Japanese architecture, the design is deeply connected to nature and natural light. One of the characteristics is how to bring in natural and sometimes even raw materials such as wood, greeneries into the home – Cottagecore trend is a movement which rejects the modern stress of living and coming back to nature’s rhythym. Young adults popularised the celebrating of an idealized rural English, European life. This was popularised by young adults in the 2010’s. The ways to integrate nature and light into the Japanese home are like using large windows and sliding doors, they are crucial to allow natural light to flood into the room. One of the main reasons why many of the Japanese opt for sheeted window shutters is because they highly value privacy. The “Shoji” (paper screens) allows the light in but keep the eyes out.

Photo by Home Lane
3. Minimalism

Shibui is a Japanese aesthetic of organic minimalism and deliberate restraint. It is a controlled understatement that reveals itself slowly over time. In the context of interior design, it refers to simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. The practice of simplicity and not to clutter your space is used. This is also intimately connected to keeping one’s mental state calm, light and transparent. When choosing objects and features it is often symbolic and deeply connected with nature.

4. Neutral colours and a reflection of nature

Japanese wood is sometimes tainted but never painted as is seen as masking the quality of grain. By choosing neutral colours, borrowing natural elements such as wood, paper screens, plants, orchards, water features and stones we are simply keeping the connection of mind, body and nature within our homes. This has a tremendous affect to our health and well-being – physically, mentally and spiritually.

Photo by Architecture and Designs
5. Void

Void is another key characteristic within Japanese interior design. However, rather than the western notion of void as ‘nothingness’, the Japanese understands void as ‘emptiness’; a vessel waiting to be filled, or a blank page awaiting the artist’s brush. Alternatively, think about the way composers have described music. Knowing that the culture is enriched by mindfulness and Buddhism, this concept of void can also refer to emptying our mind so we can experience the vastness of multi-dimensional experiences of space abundance.

6. Detail of thought

There is a profound achievement of being able to show simplicity yet hide the sophistication of design. A good craftsman is one who pays attention to the details and makes them invisible. It is easy to make something seen, but great skill is required to make one unseen. An example would be the intricacy of Japanese wood joinery; the lengths taken to make two entities seem like one. The Japanese perceive true simplicity as a form of luxury. Modern wood furniture can appear simple in construction yet the engineering inside is deeply considered.

7. Symbolic Decor

Symbolic ornaments are placed symbolically with intention. "Traditional Japanese-style rooms have an alcove (tokonoma), which is the space for a hanging scroll (kakejiku) and ikebana flowers," Kaneko says. "Paintings and decorations are not often placed on the walls other than between the alcove." Keep walls spare except for something unique. He suggests installing a symbolic ichirin-zashi (single flower insert) or an art panel on a large empty wall. "Symbolically, decorating with your favorite artisan's work may enrich your lifestyle."

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