How To Design A Japanese Living Room Theme

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A Japanese inspired living room design creates a space where less is more. There is no clutter and the design elements are simple and clean with essential décor items. The premise of a Japanese living room design is to create a Zen environment where furnishings are in the center of the living room, allowing more open space to become available.

Consider furniture with horizontal lines that sit low to the ground.

  • Straight back couches and chairs and square tables are all great examples.
  • Of course, comfort is key and styles of furniture can be overstuffed sectionals or two large chairs and a couch.
  • A main living room table should have very little on top except for what is needed to function in a living room such as coasters or a place for remotes and gadgets to operate entertainment devices or lights and shades.

Using light colors and light materials are effective in keeping with the idea of a minimal, clean space. Wall and furnishing colors can follow a theme of lightness by choosing neutral and earth color tones to accent, paint and design the space. Try using Japanese materials such as:

  • Light colored woods
  • Bamboo
  • Wool
  • Rice paper
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Traditional Japanese design features bare walls with few hanging items. Wall décor is usually kept to a minimum for traditional Japanese dwellers, but it could be one large framed piece of artwork or a cluster of images in one space. For a living room, which is a gathering spot, a central focus point might be bookcases or an entertainment center. These elements can have a clean and neat appearance especially if used for storage. Consider sliding door elements for bookcases and entertainment pieces or cabinets or doors that pull-up and slip into the furniture, which open and close easily.

Another element of Japanese design is to use floor cushions. Over-sized sitting cushions can be stored under tables, inside tables that open with storage space or baskets that are big enough to hold them. Floor cushions are simple and useful. They also present a very creative Japanese design element that can be entertaining and unusual. It's important to keep floors and rugs clean if using cushions as part of the living room design. In addition, choose durable but non-scratchy or annoying materials to sit upon.

A single rug is another décor element for a Japanese inspired living room. Traditional rugs such as a tatami or sisal rug are clean and simple. These Japanese traditional floor coverings can be made of a variety of materials including:

  • Jute
  • Wool
  • Paper
  • Abaca

Jute and abaca are plant-based fibers. The tatami and sisal rugs do feel good on your feet, if you plan on keeping a rule that no shoes are worn inside your home. However, a rug is another focal point of design when considering very few interior decorating needs for a living room. Essentially, it can be any type of rug, but simple and clean designs will influence the entire room.

Other design elements for a Japanese inspired living room are to use textures in upholstery, window treatments, rugs and flooring, pillows, cushions and accessories. Introducing texture can create a mood for a living room. Polished stone and textured tiles for flooring also present a whole new appeal to a space. Using natural fibers on walls such as grass cloth give an organic feeling to a room, which is soothing and calm too. In addition, using Shoji screens, norens, which are traditional Japanese fabric dividers, or any type of fabric panels for window treatments will present an airy and tranquil feel to a living room. Screens are very popular Japanese décor and offer an array of design possibilities.

One important element to clean design and less clutter for a Japanese appeal is specific lighting. Lighting can make a room feel warmer and create an ambiance that brings a room together. It is an important element of design and sensibility especially in a living room, which has few but necessary items.

  • Don't use too many lamps and for overheads stay simple but direct.
  • Dropping lights from the ceiling should be kept to singular elements or one direct area of light such as an overhead above the sitting area.
  • A single light source is also an opportunity for a design element of a shade or interesting fixture.

In understanding what it takes to create a Japanese inspired living room, keep in mind balance and harmony. Keep clutter out or to a bare minimum and have little to no accessories on furniture, tables and walls. Simple and few wall design pieces should also present balance and harmony. A focus point for wall décor is also an easy way to make a decision about decorating wall space.

Pack rats and hoarders are not the ideal dwellers for a Japanese inspired living room but it can help clean out and organize if that's a goal.

Last Updated: September 22, 2011
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About Sabina Dana Plasse Sabina Dana Plasse holds a bachelor's degree in history from Bucknell University, a master's in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University and a master's in film and video from American University. She is an award-winning writer and editor living in Sun Valley, Idaho. Besides writing on fine arts, lifestyle, home and garden, entertainment, philanthropy and business, she enjoys teaching film and writing screenplays. Sabina has served as the arts and events editor and living writer for the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, a twice weekly national award-winning newspaper serving Idaho's Wood River Valley. Sabina adores mountain town living where she is an active snowboarding, skier, mountain biker, hiker, supporter of the arts and an avid seeker of practical living ideas.  

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