Japanese Design Ideas – Maximizing Small Spaces Part 3

We previously introduced two key components of Japanese design; the use of natural wall colors and textures and flooring and window treatment options. In this final installment, we explore “low living” furniture styles, their placement and the selection of accessories to create that authentic meditative atmosphere.
Japanese design is based on the concept of “Ma” which is the balance between a space and the objects in it. The essence of “Ma” is simple, minimalistic and uncluttered. When defining the use of your room, choose furniture that is low in height with simple horizontal lines and clean styling. With the neutral themes of your walls and floors, your furniture doesn’t have to match but the color tones should be consistent throughout the space. Pieces that allow light to pass through, such as low seating or end tables made from light colored woods are ideal for maintaining the open airy feeling in your room. Couches and chairs should be placed along the walls of the room to improve the overall flow and feel.
Traditional Japanese seating is on the floor. A tea table with zaisu chairs or floor pillows are a popular choice as a room centerpiece. Floor pillows are a great option to create a lot of seating and they can be easily stored away when not in use. Tea tables are small and unobtrusive and create the feeling of more space as your eye travels across the room without large furniture impeding the view. In small space designs, furniture that is multi-functional can be discreetly tucked away when not in use. A popular option is a Futon, which can be used as a sofa, bed or daybed.
Balance and simplicity are two of the pillars of Japanese decorating. The arrangement of your furniture doesn’t have to be perfectly balanced, but it does need to “feel” balanced on opposite walls of your space. Place furniture throughout the room, leaving plenty of space between objects.
Japanese decorating reflects elegant simplicity. De-clutter and edit your existing accessories with thoughtfulness to color, size and shape. A lack of clutter makes a space feel larger and more open. Your goal is to create a balanced and harmonious space that is punctuated by a lot of clean space. Bring in elements of water and nature. Water provides an element of serenity and can easily be accomplished by placing a water fountain or even a fish tank in your room. Fish are thought to bring good luck in the art of Feng shui. Add an orchid, a bonsai or bamboo shoots in a vase to create an authentic Japanese flair. Remember, in Japanese decorating, less is more. Use one accent piece, one plant – not two or more.
Wall art is simple with clean lines and natural elements such as a framed koi print, Japanese wall scrolls painted with nature or water themes or calligraphy prints that can add a splash of accent colors, such as red or orange. A framed photograph of a nature theme matted in a neutral color and framed in black as a stand-alone on a side table or bookshelf is another option. In looking at Japanese rooms, you will find most walls are bare with one piece of artwork hanging in the middle.
The goal in your furniture design, placement and accessories is to radiate a sense of calm and serenity by balancing clean open spaces with orderly presentation and harmonious arrangements of furniture and accents.

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