Japanese Design Ideas – Maximizing Small Spaces – Part2

Last month, we introduced the basic components of Japanese design through the use of natural wall colors and textures. In part two of this series, we are going to build on that foundation, introducing traditional and modern flooring options, as well as wall and window treatments to create the perfect Japanese room that reflects your style.
As with wall colors, you want to maintain the neutrality in the flooring. A great way to keep neutral shades from becoming boring is to add texture. Tatami mats introduce texture while maintaining neutrality. Tatami are made from rush grass and typically have a rice straw filling. They are available with a traditional black border or a more formal brocade design. Tatami mats define a space within a room. New tatami are sage green in color, and gradually turn golden tan over time. They provide a calm and quieting environment and offer health benefits. Their hydroscopic abilities absorb excess moisture in humid periods and release it back to the room during drier periods.
A modern take on the use of tatami involves hanging them on a wall. Ty Pennington, host of ABC Television’s Extreme Makeover, Home Edition, mounted a 9’ x 9’ tatami mat set provided by Chopa.com on the wall, behind the bed, creating an artistic and beautiful head board. While maintaining neutrality in design, the wall hanging offered a new twist on the use of texture and became a focal point in the room.
Bamboo has been used in Japanese decorating for centuries. Both sustainable and durable, bamboo flooring offers a rich warmth and texture. The art of Feng Shui suggests that bamboo brings good luck, health and prosperity. Bamboo area rugs, goza mats or tatami mat squares are economical alternatives to installing new flooring and work well in delineating separate living areas within a large room.
Using natural light is a key component of Japanese design. Replace heavy window treatments and drapes with Venetian or roman blinds. In keeping with clean lines, window shades provide light control and privacy while adding subtle and aesthetically pleasing design elements to the room. Today, shades are available in an array of styles and textures from bamboo weaves, grasses, rice paper and wood planks that will complement your Japanese design theme.
Shoji screens are another option that will create a touch of drama in your room. Made from a simple wood frame and stretched with rice paper, they can be placed in front of a window for a simple window treatment. Light diffusion and privacy are controlled through folding the panels back or extending them across the window space as desired. To add another lighting dimension, hide a light fixture behind the screen and put it on an automatic timer. The gentle radiant glow through the rice paper will create a relaxing ambiance in your space.
Another twist on Japanese design is the use of noren. Noren are doorway curtains that are split down the middle for ease in entering a room. They are available in full length, half door and top door lengths, which can be fashioned into café curtains for your windows. Made of cotton or linen, they are available in a variety of colors, with traditional Japanese geometric patterns or with rich symbolism such as carp, birds or dragonflies. Noren offer a unique design element, while offering soft light diffusion and privacy to your windows or doorways.
In the next issue, we will explore “low living” furniture styles and placement, and the selection of accessories to maximize your space while creating a calming and meditative atmosphere.

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