As more homeowners look for ways to simplify their home décor, the word “tatami” is becoming a part of the American lexicon. Along with the better known tatami mats, which are often used in martial arts studios, designers are creating “tatami rooms” for their clients, complete with Zen décor and legless Zaisu chairs.
One of the most attractive things about Japanese-style décor is its ability to create a peaceful oasis within an otherwise cluttered home environment. Few homeowners can realistically carry off this minimalist décor in every room, but they still crave a space for quiet meditation and reflection. A tatami room satisfies this need, and opens up the space in a home for stretching out on the floor. We’ve all heard about how the Japanese sit on the floor, but few people think about how they do this without having back trouble. The Zaisu chair may just be their “secret weapon.” A comfortable seat for those who are not familiar with sitting seiza style (with legs folded under and bottom of feet facing upward), the Zaisu chair offers a sturdy foundation for joining friends and family on the floor.
A tatami room may be decorated in a number of ways, but one common element in all of these rooms is the flooring. A tatami is actually the word for a mat that is often found in traditional Japanese rooms. Made from rice straw at its core and covered with a woven rush straw, these flat mats are made in standard sizes and positioned in a specified pattern on the floor. The long sides of the mats usually have a brocade edging, which lends a rich look to the tatami room.
While Zaisu chairs are by no means a necessity to complete a tatami room, they offer a comfortable spot for sitting on a tatami mat, particularly for staying in the same position over long periods of time. Meditation enthusiasts often use a Zaisu chair or zabuton cushion in a tatami room for added back support. The architectural style of tatami reached its peak during the Muromachi period in Japan, when rooms completely spread with tatami mats became known as Zashiki. However, prior to the mid-16th century, only nobility had access to tatami mats. They only became popular among commoners at the end of the 17th century.
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