What is Japanese Interior Design?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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Japanese interior design refers to the design of indoor spaces that is popular in Japan. Japanese design principles differ greatly from Western ideas. The greatest difference is in the idea of space itself. Whereas classic Western decor features furniture around the edges of a room and a focus on filling in space, classic Japanese design is based on the principle that open space is part of the visual appeal of a room. Furniture is often placed in the center of the room while the rest of the space is left bare.

A few quality pieces of furniture are desirable in Japanese interior design, as a minimalist look is preferred. The straight-lined, unembellished type of sofa bed called the futon is popular in North America and other countries, but it originated in Japan. In Japan, the futon is lower in height and often covered in quilted rather that printed fabric. One pillow or a simple silk throw may be added rather than many pillows. The overall feeling of Japanese interiors is spacious and serene.

Accent pieces are kept to a minimum. A tall, striking flower arrangement called an ikebana is a classic Japanese accent for a room. A large lacquered box and dishware arranged on a table top are sometimes the only other decorative accessories in a room. Plain neutral colored tea sets placed on small tables are used frequently as functional accent pieces in Japanese interior design.


Black and white are the predominant colors of traditional Japanese interior design. Black wood sliding doors with white rice paper panels are used for dramatic, yet clean lined room dividers. One spot of color, such as that provided by a red lacquered box or large piece of wall art, is often positioned carefully in a room rather than around the entire room.

Natural materials are a large part of Japanese decor. Besides black wood and rice paper screens, wicker chairs, silk fabrics and bamboo wood floors are featured. Rice paper is also used to cover lamps and this look of soft lighting adds to the tranquil feeling of Japanese interiors. Light straw floor mats called tatami contrasting with a darker floor are a classic feature of Japanese interior design. Stone wall sections as well as pebbles and stones displayed as decorative accents are popular touches in Japanese interiors.


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