The Japanese Interiors

The Japanese Interiors

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I have always been intrigued by Japanese interiors, but never knew much about the actual meaning and function of these spaces until enrolling in this class. Not only am I personally interested; I know that many future clients will share the same interest. Therefore, I wanted to study this topic more in depth so I could use this design in client’s homes in the future.

            When studying these interiors, not only did I get to learn about traditional furniture pieces, table presentation, and use of space, but also the means in which they are used. For example, while learning about ceramic ware, I also got to learn about the tea ceremonies in which they are used.

            Before this class I had an illusion of Japan. I imagined little Japanese people dressed in their colorful kimonos in their perfect and tidy little rooms in their lovely towns. This of course is only a fantasy. In reality, Japan has to not only deal with the lack of physical space, but just like the Westerners, they deal with the clutter that we see as so necessary. Vacuums, television and stereo equipment make creating a beautiful space challenging.

            Understanding this, it made me appreciate the way the Japanese find beauty in unexpected places. In my opinion, they have mastered the art of seeing past the unappealing and bringing out the beauty. They seek out the subtleties rather than the obvious and are enchanted by shadows. Their sense of order and their eye for shape, texture and color in affect made me pay more attention to these details in my own environment.

            In class we learned about “green houses” and how shoji screens, although literally paper-thin and even somewhat transparent, was a major source of privacy.  We (the west) are accustomed to solid barriers. It amazing me how a simple screen can serve so many purposes. Not only do they provide privacy, they also create space. Simply placing a few shoji screens together may create an entirely new room.  I was able to use this idea in another project where the class was given a large loft that needed to be broken up into separate rooms. Instead of making those walls concrete I was able to make them mobile for the client. Now, depending on the situation, the clients can move the screens to create a whole new atmosphere.

            In the Western sense, the traditional Japanese household has been largely without furniture. A typical space normally may simply consist of a few tatami mats and a low table. Rather than having upholstered, full-scaled furniture, Japanese style is normally low and angular. Historically the Western world has been obsessed with making furniture (like many other things) perfect. Imperfect line work, asymmetry, and rough surfaces seem unnatural to us, when in fact it’s the imperfections from nature that these pieces are derived from.  A bundle of delicate flowers in an old rough container resting on a Japanese chest are an intriguing site. It’s an interesting thought- two things so opposite that still create harmony.

In such a hectic world that we all live in, I believe that we all could benefit from the Japanese style of living. I often think that maybe it’s the clutter that we keep in our surrounding that perhaps clutters our mind as well. An organized and tiddy home would bring serenity. I have found in my own life that I work much more efficiently when my apartment is free of clutter.  Why do we hang on to so much junk? Perhaps we want to hold onto the past. I also think that it has to do with our desire to own many materialistic things. In our culture the amount of personal belongings one owns, the higher status they hold.

Normally I would not necessarily consider food preparation part of interior design. In the Japanese culture, however, the way food is presented is largely visual. The meal is often artistically arranged with angular lines or soft curves. Color and texture is a factor in selecting the ingredients. The table that the food is presented on is also very artistic. I love the combination of textures, color and patterns that adorn the layers of fabric.           

            Reading about the Japanese food preparation made me think about the way Americans eat. Rather than selecting our foods for the beauty, we tend to gravitate towards quantity. This may explain why our culture has such a high rate of obesity.

            In completing this assignment I have learned that an individual may not particularly be drawn to Japanese style furniture, art, etc, but may still be able to use the Japanese philosophy of design in some ways. Japanese design is not just about beauty. It is about creating a livable and useful space as well.


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