The Japanese arguably have the most calming interior design styles known to man. In our hectic 21st century, it’s no wonder more international designers are taking a page from traditional Japanese aesthetics.
Upon walking into a Japanese home, visitors are usually struck by its lack of ornamentation and elegant simplicity. On top of minimalism, Japanese designers are well known for tactfully incorporating natural themes throughout their homes.
Incorporating principles from Japanese design will surely help declutter your decor. Please check out the images below to help make your living spaces a bit more zen-sational.
27 Japanese Home Décor Ideas
1. Less Is More: Place An Emphasis On Minimalism
Before getting into specific Japanese décor ideas, it’s imperative you always keep the saying “less is more” in mind. Japanese designers always favor minimalism over extravagance, so every object you place in your living space should serve a definite functional or aesthetic purpose.
2. Leave Plenty Of Open Spaces
Going along with the theme of minimalism, homes that replicate Japanese design should feature a good deal of open space. This decluttered atmosphere has an immediate calming effect on the viewer. Plus, less busywork inside the house helps both compliment another important element of Japanese design: the natural world.
3. Use Earthy Wood Tones
Along with minimalism, a key feature of traditional Japanese homes is a healthy respect for nature. It’s for this reason that wood is the most popular choice for flooring and walls in most Japanese homes. If you can’t incorporate wood construction, then at least consider adding embellishments like wood furniture to bring in that earthy feel.
4. Let The Sun Shine: Natural Lighting
In keeping with the nature theme, most Japanese homes strive to let in as much natural light as possible. Large glass windows or sliding doors are a great way to let more warm sunlight into your home. Using the color white is also a great way to brighten your home, as can be seen above. When you do choose to use artificial light, try your best to make it as subtle and natural as possible.
5. Shoji: Standard Sliding Doors
Screen sliding doors (aka Shoji) are perhaps the most iconic feature of a Japanese home. Usually made with a wooden frame and paper, these sliding doors save a lot of space and create a unique atmosphere that’s neither too casual nor too sophisticated. Consider a few places in your home where Shoji might compliment your overall design.
Modern Glass Shoji
If you’re not interested in traditional wood and paper screen doors, then you might want to consider glass designs. There are plenty of glass sliding doors now on the market that function just like Shoji. For instance, look at how these modern glass sliding doors add a Japanese flair to this closet space.
8. Light Up Some Lanterns
Paper lanterns have a long history in many Asian cultures, especially in Japan. Although traditionally lit with candles, nowadays you could purchase many beautiful (and safe!) Japanese lanterns made with electric bulbs. Look at how the lantern in the above design fits in nicely with the surrounding area.
Interested in getting your own Japanese-inspired lanterns? If so, check out these highly reviewed cherry blossom lanterns now available on Amazon.
8. A Warm Ofuro
A refreshing feature in many Japanese homes is a warm bathtub known as an ofuro. Once used for ritual purification, nowadays these steel, plastic, or wooden baths are kind of like one-person hot tubs. For the authentic ofuro effect, you should use a wood finish and a square design.
9. Cultivating Bonsai Trees
Anyone interested in gardening should consider cultivating a Japanese bonsai tree at their home. For centuries, the Japanese have grown these tiny trees mainly to admire their spectacular beauty. Luckily for you, there are plenty of wonderful bonsai trees perfect for beginners available on Amazon.
10. Ikebana: The Delicate Art Of Flower Arrangement
Known as ikebana, flower arranging is a strict Japanese art form that’s intended to bring natural beauty into the home. Typically ikebana displays are placed in a small area with complimentary artistic works to be appreciated side-by-side.
A few common flowers used in Japan include orchids and palms, but feel free to use whatever best compliments your style. Consider placing your manicured flowerpot by a woodblock print or calligraphy for aesthetic contemplation.
11. Place A Shoe Rack In The Entryway
If you’ve ever been in a Japanese home, then you probably know the first thing to do is take off your shoes. Indeed, the main purpose of the one-step entryway area (aka genkan) is for guests to remove shoes and avoid tracking dirt into the house. While it might be impossible to transform your entrance into an authentic genkan, you could encourage family and friends to take off their shoes by purchasing a wooden shoe rack, like this one from Amazon.
12. Get Your Serenity On: Meditation Space
Science now proves those Zen monks really know what they’re talking about. Daily meditation practice has been linked with a plethora of physical and psychological benefits – and, best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime! Why not set aside a special meditation space in your home where you and your family can re-charge every day?
13. Experiment With Tatami Mats
Elevated chairs and beds aren’t as common in Japan as they are in the West. Instead, the Japanese often sit and sleep on tatami mats that lay on the ground. Bringing your furniture level to the ground could be a fun way to add a Japanese feel to your home.
You could easily find tatami mats for sale online and test them out for yourself. Here is one example that can be found on Amazon.
14. Rake Your Sand Zen Garden
If seated meditation isn’t your style, then consider incorporating a sand Zen garden into put your home design. Zen practitioners have been using the seemingly simple practice of raking sand and arranging rocks to aid them in the quest for inner calm.
Of course, your sand garden doesn’t have to be as large or elaborate as the one pictured above to have a soothing effect. For instance, you could embellish your home with a miniature Zen sand garden like this one from Amazon.
15. Hang Meaningful Calligraphy
Like Chinese, Japanese has a long and gorgeous history of artistic calligraphy. Oftentimes, Japanese families will hang a poem in calligraphy in a special alcove dedicated to artistic displays and flower arrangements. For extra fun, why not take a calligraphy course and hang your artistic masterpiece at home!
16. Create An Inviting Tea Space
We can’t talk about Japanese design without mentioning green tea, right? After all, this is the culture that perfected the tea ceremony. Even if you choose not to sit on tatami mats, having a special area just for tea is a splendid idea for social occasions. For more design details, be sure to look up the term chashitsu, which refers to the traditional Japanese tea room.
17. Arrange A Few Origami
A fun way to add a little Japanese culture to get-togethers is to place origami on your tables. Better yet, leave some paper and instructions (like these from Amazon) on how to make simple origami figurines for your guests to try out. Talk about a perfect icebreaker!
18. A Koi…Aquarium?
As an island nation, it’s no wonder the sea plays such a crucial role in Japanese mythology and art. Introducing water elements into your home is a good way to pay homage to the Japanese passion for seafaring. Of course, the obvious choice is to hang a Hokusai’s The Great Wave, but also consider getting creative with a home aquarium or koi pond.
19. Meditate On Woodblock Prints
While we’ve got Hokusai in mind, think about hanging your favorite Japanese woodblock prints around your home. Hey, Debussy did it, and it worked out pretty well for him!
The vibrant colors in these historic prints make a profound impression even on even novice art students. If you want to get real serious about your design, try to tailor your image to compliment a flower arrangement or bonsai plant.
20. Find Ways To Use Bamboo
Bamboo is a common element in many Japanese homes, and, thankfully, it’s extremely versatile. You could be bold and create a bamboo wall paneling, or you could go subtle and incorporate a few bamboo furniture or picture frames into your décor. Whatever you choose to do, bamboo will certainly add a rich earthy texture to your home.
21. Embellish With Buddhist Statuary
To this day, the majority of Japanese homes have a shrine known as a Butsudan to house special Buddhist relics and family mementos. Although you might not want an entire altar, adding a few Buddhist statues in your home could add a tasteful touch of serenity. Buddhist statuary is an especially good idea in your meditation space to encourage your practice.
22. Cooling Stone Tones
We’ve talked a lot about the use of wood and bamboo, but stone is another element that’s commonly used in home design. Stone tiling or tones help compliment wood paneling and add a cooling effect to rooms. For instance, look at how the stone elements above compliment the wood design in this bathroom.
23. Warming Irori Fireplace
To provide warmth during the cold winter months, many Japanese homes built a central fire pit known as an irori. In addition to heating the home, this cozy, square-shaped hearth is used to heat pots of water and food. A central irori might not be feasible for many homes, but it’s certainly worth considering if you host a lot of social gatherings.
24. Adding Circlular Motifs
When you look through pictures of Japanese designs, you’ll notice an increasing number of homes incorporate clean circular patterns. Not only is the circle the simplest geometric shape, it’s also a significant symbol in the discipline of Zen Buddhism. Check out how builders used circles in the above design to give the home an air of simple beauty.
25. Focus On White Backgrounds
As briefly noted above, many modern Japanese homes prominently feature white in their color scheme. Not only does white help bring brightness into the home, it also riffs on the ancient art of calligraphy. For example, look at the interesting way designers used white and black as a kind of “geometric calligraphy” in this Japanese-style bathroom.
26. For Any Gamers Out There!
This post has been mostly concerned with conservative elements of Japanese style…but what if you just want to let loose and celebrate contemporary Japanese culture? Well, how about creating your own fun video game room!
Check out this neat gaming room inspired by the legendary Super Mario Brothers. If you’ve got any tech-savvy teens in your home, this is a perfect way to get them interested in home décor.
27. Cute Kawaii Culture
Just for laughs, why not add a little kawaii cuteness to your home? For the uninitiated, kawaii refers to a youth trend in Japan that celebrates all things colorful and cute (think Hello Kitty). Kawaii style is a bit abrasive in adult rooms, but it’s something to keep in mind when designing kid-friendly areas.
For more home decor ideas? Check out below:
Industrial Home Decor: The Practical guide