7 ways to incorporate Japanese Design in your home

A couple of months ago I traveled to Japan with hubby and Penelope and I don’t think I have ever simultaneously been so excited about a holiday and yet dreading it at the same time. Japan has been on my list for a very long time and not just for the food (which was amazing!), the design style is unique in many ways and I looked forward to seeing it up close and personal. But travelling with an active 15-month-old girl…. how was that going to go and would we survive with our sanity intact? (spoiler alert - we did survive although it was a close ran thing at times!)

The background for the trip was that we were there to attend my cousin’s wedding in Tokyo (congratulations Simon and Aya). The Japanese wedding ceremony itself was fascinating and an experience worth the trip on its own, if you ever get a chance to attend one, I would thoroughly recommend it. Given that we were travelling all that way we decided to also spend time in Kyoto and managed a day in Osaka too. I’ll go through the joys of travelling with a young child in my next blog but first the design part…

Japanese architecture has a long and deep history and to do it justice I would require a book not a blog! However, I am going to summarise some key elements of Japanese design you can incorporate into your home:


Like the Nordic style, Japanese design is at the forefront of minimalist design. It is comfortable, simple and timeless.


There are two dominant colour palettes – the first being the calming colours of whites and soft neutrals. You can accent with darker colours like black and charcoal to add depth. The second is inspired by nature like bright autumn reds, oranges and yellows or blues and greens you would see in a picturesque park - think Cherry Blossom (which we actually saw on one tree even though it is out of season).


Houses are usually much smaller in Japan and therefore they optimise the space that they have by using simple lines and texture to create harmony. This makes the area feel larger than it actually is and by embracing natural light.


Japanese design utilises every inch of space and makes it dual purpose – clean, functional and clearing away as much clutter as possible. Our Kyoto Resi-stay apartment was tiny, but I was stunned at the how well they maximised every square inch (see pictures).


Which is also dear to the heart of most Australians – hello all the indoors-outdoors alfresco living areas! In Japan nature is embraced by bringing the outside in with plants and the usage of natural materials consistently when choosing furniture.


It is evident in every design from its temples and palaces to the bathroom. I even stumbled across the most fascinating yet simple geometric tunnel on the outside of a department store. Craftsmanship is impeccable and the Japanese take pride in everything they do.


Japanese design is very geometric, there is a lot of repetition of lines and shapes; rhythm is evident everywhere so you know what to expect next.

A great way of discovering Japanese Design is through a Tea ceremony. It completely embodies the design elements in both the physical design of the space but also within the ceremony itself.

One of the biggest styles of Japanese design which a lot of people have heard of but may not know the elements of is wabi-sabi. This is style was evident throughout our exploration of Japan; through designing a bathroom with the wabi-sabi influence and our travels I found a huge appreciation of the wabi-sabi style and its principle. I will explore this more in a future blog.


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