What to Know About Japanese Style Apartment Design
  • Kim
  • June 27th, 2019
  •   Blog

Japanese design adheres to the traditional Zen philosophy that is simplistic and found in the minimalist aesthetic. Its natural essence is the very basis of everything related to design and architecture. Form, space, line, material, and light are the very elements to their interior design and their value for space and eliminating nonessentials are quintessentially Japanese. So, if you decide to go for the Japanese style apartment design, you would need to think like a minimalist and nature-lover.


What to Expect from a Japanese Style Apartment Design

There are certain characteristics, furnishings and amenities to expect from a Japanese style apartment. For one, a Japanese apartment is normally small. A typical sitting room or bedroom, for example, would be equal to 6 to 8 tatami mats. Each mat is 3 by 6 feet. So, in other words, a typical room will measure only around 108 square feet.

Second, furnishings are kept to a minimum but the basic things to have would be a kotatsu table. This table is a short-legged rectangular or square table with a futon pinched in between the frame and tabletop. This table also doubles as a kitchen table. Other typical things to see are bookcases, a heater, a washing machine, and air conditioner.


In the bedroom, you would not see beds. Instead, you will expect to see a shikibuton (the kind of futon you lie down on), and a kakebuton, which is actually what you use as a blanket. Basically, you will sleep on the floor so usually, another foam layer is placed under the bedding. Memory foam type pads are also something you can use.

In the kitchen, on the other hand, you will find some cookware, a small refrigerator, sink, eating utensils, teacups, water glasses, plates, and a gas cooking table. You will not find blenders, garbage disposals, mixers, kitchen islands, pantries, or dishwashers. The counter space is limited but highly organized to prepare a 5-course meal. A typical Japanese kitchen is not bigger than 4 square meters.


Bathrooms will usually be unit baths with a toilet and a tub-and-shower combination. You will not find shower curtains because the whole room is usually made with tiles or plastic inserts. The idea is, you have a space to take a shower outside the tub and then you can use the bathtub to relax and soak in. Bathtubs are deep, which is uniquely Japanese.

For closets and floors, expect to have laminated wood floors. This is true to what renowned self-taught architect Tadao Ando says, “When you look at Japanese traditional architecture, you have to look at Japanese culture and its relationship with nature. You can actually live in harmonious, close contact with nature-this very unique to Japan.“ So, in a Japanese style apartment, you will definitely see a lot of wood, bamboo, greenery, floral arrangements and other natural elements like water.


Japanese style sliding doors and screens are something you cannot do without when designing your apartment. This authentic screen is called Shoji and is considered essential in Japanese home design. Sliding doors save a lot of space compared to swinging doors. And traditionally, these screens are made with fine translucent paper held inside a wooden frame. Today, however, you can buy the more modern designs that are made of glass panels inside a wooden grid.

Another thing to think about is to have a Japanese style entryway called “genkan.” This is the first area that greets your visitors. It is also the place where shoes are taken off and replaced with indoor slippers. A genkan will have a cabinet called a getabako that stores shoes. You will need to make sure that the genkan has a lot of natural lighting and wooden elements. But stone tile flooring can also be used.


When you decide to go Japanese in apartment design, you would need to remember that to eliminate clutter at all times. The furniture you choose should be clean-lined and made of natural wood. Lighting should be modern and angular. Everything in a Japanese home should have its own purpose and its own place. If it is out of order or lacks function, eliminate it. Finally, capitalize on simple colors from nature like brown, grey and green. Be sure to let in a lot of natural light and set aside open spaces in your home. These are key principles in Japanese design. You should not use heavy draperies nor obstruct your windows. For the Japanese, less is more.

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