Japanese design is steeped in history, culture and tradition and its influence on home aesthetics can be seen across the world. The Western world in particular have been obsessed with Japanese exports for centuries, from ceramics in the 17th century to minimalism and Marie Kondo’s organisation method today.
So how can you bring a little bit of Japanese zen into your home? Read on to discover how you can recreate that simple beauty in your own spaces.
Clockwise from top right: Photo credit: @houseofhaz, products: Boucle Knot Fleece Cushions, Mongolian Sheepskin Cushion, Jasper Herringbone Throw | Japanese home | Sinarama Duvet Cover Set (similar)| Boucle Knot Fleece Cushions | Symphony Wallpaper
Minimalism is probably what Japanese home design is best known for. That serene feel, achieved through a rustic simplicity, soft neutral colours and organic materials. It’s centred around the concept of wabi-sabi, which means finding beauty in imperfection. When applied to the home, it means being intentional, living authentically and finding peace.
Simplicity is key. Choose off-white for your walls, natural wood for your furniture and tactile materials for your soft furnishings. Curate your decorative items. Think big vases adorned with twisting tree branches, coffee table books on your favourite subjects, and photographs of your loved ones. There’s no need to over complicate it. Ground the room with touches of black or very dark brown. If you wish to add colour, opt for muted earthy tones, like brown, clay or sage.
bring nature in.
Clockwise from top right: bonsai tree | 3 Drawer Natural Pine Drawer Unit | photo credit: @home_at21 products: Tanza Duvet Cover Set, Inca Jacquard Cushion | Danae Table Lamp | bamboo
Minimalist Japanese living spaces have an appreciation for the natural world. This means that you’ll see lots of materials like wood, stone and plants. Think bamboo and rattan, as well as materials like ceramics, concrete and cast iron – they’re seen as ‘of the earth’. Add in carefully curated and placed house plants, like bonsai trees if space is at a premium, or a fiddle leaf fig tree if you’ve got lots of room.
Japanese design always makes the most of the nature outside. So if you have a great view, make sure you’re not covering it up – you could even forgo window dressings of any kind. If that’s not practical (you might want privacy, cosiness or the option of making the room totally dark), hang curtains high and wide. This will ensure that you won’t block any of the view, and it’ll make the window look bigger too.
take it down low.
Clockwise from top right: photo credit: @1930sarang products: Mohair Check Duvet Set (discontinued), Weaver Herringbone Throw, Mossa Cushion, Medina Velvet Tasselled Cushion, Shearling Circa Printed Cushion, Dune Cushion, Romilly Tasselled Throw | photo credit: @interior_mama_ products: Paradise Velvet Floor Cushions | cherry blossom on a Japanese street | Ettore Coffee Table | Outdoor Floor Cushions
One sure-fire way of giving your space a Japanese-inspired feel is using low furniture. In Japanese homes, dining tables are usually about 70cm high, so you can sit on the floor to eat at it. The idea behind it is around socialising, as the Japanese people believe that meal times are an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. It’s not only the table – much of the living room furniture is low to the ground too.
Low level furniture helps a room feel bigger, giving the room breathing space. Look at bringing in floor cushions to your living room, combined with a low level coffee table and sofa.
add in Japanese-inspired furnishings.
Clockwise from top right: photo credit: @layered.home products: Claybourne Mélange Duvet Cover Set, Hanging Garden Cushion, Cosmo Cushion, Delphi Cushion, Aspect Throw | Geisha Floral Cushions | maneki-neko or lucky cat | Demoiselle Botanical Duvet Cover Set | Japonica Cushions
You might just want to make nods to Japanese home style through your interiors, rather than trying to recreate the minimalist design philosophy. And there’s lots to appreciate in Japanese design. Whether you love the depth of black lacquer furniture, the intricacy of highly decorative ceramics or the peacefulness of crane patterns, bringing it into your interiors adds warmth, depth and personality.
If you want to avoid a maximalist feel, pick one pattern and stick to it – use it once or twice in your curtains, wallpaper or bedding and leave it at that.
Clockwise from top right: Geisha Floral Wallpaper | Japanese architecture | Kyoto Duvet Cover Set | Olsen Table Lamp | Kensho Cushions
While Japanese style is known for minimalism, opulence is also in their wheelhouse, especially for the more luxurious styles. Although it might be the total opposite of the wabi-sabi concept, it’s just as beautiful. We’re talking gold gilt, black lacquer and colourful, traditional patterns.
Go bold with a beautiful Japanese-inspired wallpaper, like our Geisha Floral wallpaper in ochre or blush, and take your colour palette from that. Add in shiny fabrics like sateen and velvet cushions, faux fur throws and, if it’s a bedroom, soft 100% cotton bedding. Add in gold accents in your lighting and other hardware for a luxe look.
Alternatively, lean into that black lacquer look and go for black wallpaper, accented with Japanese-style patterns like our gold floral Kyoto bedding – it’ll look stunning against the dark wall.