The 1200-year-old structure of Kiyomizu Temple stands tall amid Kyoto’s vast cityscape. This UNESCO World Heritage site can be considered the very epitome of Japanese architecture. Its highly earthquake-resistant structure is still considered an engineering and architectural masterpiece. The pagoda and main hall, made up of innumerable pillars and rails, do not use a single nail. But the entire structure follows a highly complicated plan to withstand the devastating effects of repeated tremors.
Modern day Japanese architect Kiyoshi Muto (1903—1989) borrowed the same ideals to build one of Japan’s first skyscrapers, Kasumigaseki Building (1967). He, however, replicated the design in steel and concrete.
Japan’s architecture is heavily influenced by the traditions of other Asian countries. However, nearly all of them unite with the traditions of the land to create what can truly be considered a Japanese style. Applications of these design principles are not limited to historical landmarks or modern highrise buildings, but could be found in the smaller domestic structures of Japan as well. In today’s ideabook we will share some valuable tips for building a Japanese-style home. Enjoy!
Japan’s love for wood-clad homes is well known. Due to the modular nature of Japanese houses, popularly known as post and beam structures, wood is considered an indispensable item. The insulating qualities, warmth and easy availability make timber the main constituent of traditionally designed buildings. See how Shu Architects almost exclusively used wood to stylise the interior of this Japanese residence.
Though multi-storeyed city buildings have largely outgrown their necessity, the interior of a Japanese home can still not tolerate the absence of wooden elements. Red pine, cedar and cypress are favoured materials for construction. You can also select a type easily available locally. Bamboo is another option that is gaining in popularity. Engineered wood or laminated cedar is affordable but would not be as durable as the real ones.
Japanese homes were in the habit of practising open-plan design and minimalism long before they became a fashion statement or a necessity for cramped modern residences. The essence of “less is more” has been realised long ago in an authentically designed Japanese home. With unassuming décor and arrangement of furniture, you too will finally be able to create a space devoid of unnecessary clutter. However, you will have to bring on these changes gradually. Throwing away all your necessary stuff at a whim is not a solution at all. Try to get habituated with this simple plan of living before making any radical changes. Following an open floor plan would not be such a difficult task. Across the globe, modern houses are already indulging in this.
Tatami mats are another one of the prominent features of Japanese homes so much so that a living area is still calculated keeping a standard tatami size in mind. Tatami is made of pressed straw and woven reed grass. It is organic, friendly to feet, cheaper than many synthetic area rugs, provide excellent insulation and acoustical benefits. In Asian homes shoes are generally kept outside. So using a variety of organic mats or rugs made following age old techniques native to that place is quite common here. Despite their understated looks, organic rugs like tatami would easily be able to transform your interior.
Sliding doors and windows are a hallmark of Japanese buildings. But Japanese homeowners seldom use sliding doors or windows with glass panes. Instead, framed rice paper is used to cover the lattice. Paper and silk screens are utilised as temporary partitions between the spaces. Sliding doors and windows consume less space and are ideal for buildings following Japanese architecture. But sliding windows and doors with glass panes and metallic frames can cause discomfort for those buildings located in warmer parts of the world. In such a case, only consider replacing the internal doors. Use of screen can open up a plethora of possibilities in front of you. In an open plan living, you can utilise modern versions of decorative shoji screens to protect the privacy of one of part of your residence.
This is another design principle closely followed in many Asian countries including Japan. If you have never been in the habit of sitting on floor, this too will require some amount of practice. You can stylise your living room and dining room this way. You need a dining table with low height. Arrange for cushions to sit comfortably on floor. You can place zabuton cushions on tatami and sit on that. You can also arrange for a set of zaisu chair. These chairs have no legs but have back support. For comfort a zabutan cushion is generally placed with zaisu. In the living room however, simple zabuton or similarly cosy cushions will be enough for comfort.
Though simple, Japanese homes are not devoid of all kinds of ornamentations. We briefly mentioned the beauty of shoji screens. They were and still are highly prized objects of art. However, they are considered less a decorative object and more an essential part of a charming home. Except for screens, which could be quite costly, you can buy illustrations and calligraphic artworks. Admirers of Japanese paintings included the likes of Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh. Inspired by the works of Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh created a number of pieces like The Bridge in the Rain and Flowering Plum Tree. Your home too will light up in the presence of Japanese brushworks.
Potted plants and flowers, miniature bamboo, internal rock garden and bonsai are considered highly coveted items for a Japanese style home. Depending on your gardening skills you can select any one or all of these. This is one element which you can have aplenty without creating any congestion at all. You also have the flexibility of placing potted plants and bonsais on your window seals, under stair, landing of your staircases, in your kitchen, bathroom and in any other conceivable space. Potted bamboo and other air purifying plants will help you to clean up the interior atmosphere. If you're in the mood for growing bonsai at home, here are some more essential tips!