Japanese Influenced Interiors – A World Of Inspiration
Everyone loves, or at the very least appreciates, Japanese design and craftsmanship, right?
We sure do, and so today we bring you an edit of inspiring, Japanese-influenced interiors, along with a succinct run-down on the myriad ways Japanese style has influenced design and architecture globally.
From Belgium to California, and right here in Australia, Japanese design has made a big impression.
I am an interior designer, not a Japanese design expert, but like a lot of us, I’ve visited this magical country, and I found it to be instantly captivating on so many levels. This feature won’t delve into what ‘true’ Japanese design is, but rather, will touch on the ways Japanese style has influenced a whole range of aesthetics globally.
While Japan might be recognised for ‘zen’ minimalism – think pristine spaces and glass elements that make up a house by SANAA or the bare concrete made famous by Tadao Ando – there are so many diverse Japanese interiors that I wouldn’t necessarily describe as minimalist. I’m very much drawn to more eclectic Japanese spaces, that are layered with texture, plants and meaningful objects.
This got me thinking about the paradox between how we imagine stereotypical Japanese minimalism, and then what you actually encounter when visiting Japan: a 100 yen store on every street corner, or at least a sublimely tasteful Muji! It seems to me that the Japanese appreciate minimal spaces, but also love to consume. Uh oh, Marie Kondo!
You might be surprised to know that even Kanye West (!) has been influenced by Japan throughout his career – firstly with collaborations with Takashi Murakami and recently with his brand new ‘minimal monastery’ house designed by Axel Vervoordt. This Belgian architect is known for his intensely pared back design approach, and has long been inspired by Eastern philosophies. His stunning book Wabi Inspirations, features his own Westernised version of wabi features, including peeling paint, bare boards, distressed plaster walls, and muted colours. ‘It looks poor but it’s very costly. It’s the opposite of what most people want, which is something that looks expensive but is cheap,’ Axel chuckles.
Axel’s greatest inspiration is the spirit of zen monks in Japan, who sought contentment in simplicity, purity and restraint. ‘It’s the celebration of beauty in humble things’ Let’s just let that sink in for a minute.
Simplicity, purity and restraint are values that are an antidote to our fast, frenzied consumerism, and the scrolling social media spiral in which many of us live. Kim and Kanye are the most influential celebrity couple of our time (love them or hate them) and they have bought wabi-sabi to the mainstream, by showing the world how they live in an entirely bone coloured house, void of decoration (other than some exquisite Japanese ceramic pieces – raw ceramic ‘rocks’ and vessels by Yuji Ueda) and an unbleached grand piano (a Steinway no less). Their house isn’t exactly humble, however, it is somewhat surprising to see they have rejected having ‘things’ in the pursuit of wabi-sabi. (If you haven’t already… suss their sleek new home by Axel Vervoordt here).
We know that houses are seriously compact in Japan, although they still feel amazing to spend time in.
Often, this is thanks to a well-positioned window with a view to a garden, which gives an impression of more space.
To borrow scenery is an ancient technique known as ‘shakkei’, and it makes a lot of sense to employ this philosophy in our homes in Australia. A great example of this in practice are spaces by Studiofour, which have a tangible connection to the outdoors. The Melbourne-based firm believes that a strong relationship to the outdoors ‘is a pathway to human health and happiness’.
Imagine visiting a construction site, taking off your boots and sliding on a pair of slippers. This is exactly what happened to me when I visited Japan to work on an interior design project for a global retailer. I’m used to dusty worksites, with Triple M blasting from a radio in the corner, but I didn’t find anything like that on the Japanese construction site that day. The boots/slipper comparison reveals a lot about the way that building is approached in Japan. I encountered the cleanest and most organised building site I have ever seen, and I began to understand that everywhere I went I was talking to craftsmen.
The Shinto belief system, indigenous to Japan, influences Japanese architecture in terms of materiality and form. Materials are treated with care and the greatest craftsmanship. Materials are most cherished in their natural form.
Having a bath in Japan has its very own set of customs and rules.
Maybe, in the West, we’re not ready to bathe completely naked with strangers (!) however, we could learn a thing or two about the Japanese ritual of bathing – and the serene way the Japanese design their bathing spaces, with great emphasis on the bath, natural materials such as timber and stone, and natural light.
It’s fascinating how Japan has influenced Western design for hundreds of years. Notably, designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright and William Morris found inspiration from Japan during the rise of the Arts & Crafts movement. Many Nordic designers have also found common ground in their shared appreciation for fine craftsmanship.
From nature-inspired motifs, to the use of timber cladding and black lacquer, there are countless ways that Japan has influenced design and architecture in Australia and beyond. Personally, I’m totemo grateful!
This article also appears in The Designfiles, Lauren is the interior design contributor.