In the world of bedroom designs, one of the biggest trends at the moment is going for a Japanese themed look.
While it might seem like people have exhausted all possible trends that come from a little closer to home (the Scandinavian “Hygge”-trend, for example) and have now accordingly branched out to inspiration coming from further east, there is actually way more than that to the trend.
Japanese bedrooms are, without a doubt, some of the most inherently relaxing rooms you will ever encounter. And that trait is what makes them so incredibly appealing.
The golden rule of Japanese bedroom design is a simple one: declutter!
In a Japanese inspired bedroom you won’t find anything unnecessary, nothing cluttering shelves or taking up that spare square-feet of empty space, and nothing that just does not belong into a bedroom.
A Japanese bedroom is a space of functionality and space. Of airiness and breathing room. Of peace and tranquility. It is a room to retreat and simply be.
And in order to make it so, there are a few basic rules you will need to follow when designing your very own Japanese bedroom:
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Start designing your bedroom from the bottom up.
As is traditional in Japanese homes, you should not wear footwear of any kind inside your bedroom. In order to make being barefoot as comfortable as possible, Japanese bedrooms are usually covered in Tatami mats.
Tatami mats are made out of processed rice straw and are a fully organic product. They are incredibly soft and simply make walking or standing on them a joy in and of itself.
Since they are a natural product, however, Tatami mats do come at a price, and we fully understand that you might not be able to (or want to) cover your bedroom floor wall to wall in them.
Instead, you can opt for smaller Tatami mats cut to size in order to cover the immediate area around your bed (and the seating area if your design plans for one).
If you can’t lay your hands on original Tatami mats, you might also exchange them for a soft carpet.
Since relaxation and calm is the main focus of a Japanese bedroom, you will not find any garish wall colours or patterned wallpapers there.
Quite contrary, in fact.
Walls are done up in neutral, earthen colours that usually are more on the light side as well. Preferably go for beige, light grey, off-white, and creams.
However, if you feel more at ease in darker colours, consider slate, shades of grey or brown, and even black.
Should you feel the need to break the monotone, small-ish, monochrome or little-coloured wall murals are a good way to add some focal point without ruining the overall design. Choose Japan-inspired motives like bamboo branches, cherry blossoms, or a bonsai motive.
As in nearly any aspect of Japanese live and living, the guiding principle of Yin and Yang, of two opposites working together to make up a whole, comes into play in interior design as well.
Go for strong contrasts when planning your Japanese bedroom. For example, set off the light walls and floors with bold, black furniture.
If you prefer your furniture to blend in with the light overall colour scheme, go for dark, contrasting bedding and upholstery instead.
And what about a splash of colour? Traditionally, you should stick to the contrast of light and dark natural colours (beiges, greys, monochromes). However, if you really want to introduce bolder colours into your bedroom, stick to at most two objects (or groups of objects). For example, you might break up the prevailing colour scheme with a colourful painting, or opt for adding a few scatter cushions in one specific colour.
When it comes to Japanese bedrooms there are two golden rules to follow in terms of the bed and where to place it.
First of all, Japanese furniture is always located as close to the floor as possible. And this principle extends to the bed as well.
Forget about elaborate boxsprings, four posters, or even platform beds. Go for low and simple. But most of all low!
Traditionally, Japanese bedrooms wouldn’t even feature a bed itself, but have a mattress directly on the floor. If that’s just not your thing, choose the next best option: futon bedframes.
And secondly, do not place your bed in a corner as we are wont to do in Western culture!
The perfect place for your bed in a Japanese style bedroom is in the centre of the room. Literally, if you have the space for it. If not, placing it in the middle of the longest available wall is a valid compromise.
Next to the bed, you may choose to have (bamboo) nightstands, or dressers, but that is about all you should look for in terms of additional furniture. Remember – declutter is the rule! Only the bare necessities, i.e. a bed and possibly a dresser and maybe some sort of seating area, should be inside your bedroom!
Light, particularly natural light, is the essential ingredient in a truly Japanese bedroom.
The teachings of Zen say that in order to make a room most comfortable, it has to be completely flooded with light, and preferably natural light.
When planning your Japanese bedroom, you should consider this factor. Choose the room with the biggest glass fronts or most windows for your bedroom, and then design the room and place your furniture according to those light sources.
Additionally, you should invest in enough artificial light sources to light up your bedroom thoroughly during the darker months, or at night.
Preferred choices of lighting fixtures include paper lanterns or wood-based lamps/lamp shades.
Sliding doors and/or shades are a staple of Japanese bedroom design.
As we have said, natural light is a must have in this design style, so large windows, patio doors, or glass fronts are often found in Japanese bedrooms.
In oder to provide shade and visual cover, sliding screens made out of paper (traditionally shoji screens) or lace-like fabrics are put to use without completely blocking out the sought-for natural lighting.
Folding screens are also an often-used way to create privacy, or partition off a section of the bedroom.
Since a Japanese bedroom should not contain more than just the bed in its most basic form, but many people need or want to incorporate a seating area, a dresser, a vanity or even a (small) wardrobe into the room, folding screens are a great way to further separate the actual sleeping area from the rest of the room, or to beautifully hide away a clothes hanger, dressing table, or simply the hamper.
In terms of fabrics (and other materials used), it is important that you are not afraid of investing a bit of money.
Generally speaking, you will want to go for natural, high quality fabrics and materials, like wood, bamboo, silk, high thread-count cotton, hand-crafted (rice) paper, and the like.
If you want to decorate your bedroom wall with art, go for monochromes.
Typically -and we’re sure you have seen this multiple times before- you will find a black picture on white background inside a black frame. You can choose to loose the frame, as in our example picture, but you should adhere to the monochrome colour palette.
In general, Japanese like to show what’s the most important to them in their bedroom wall art. This could be a single framed word, or a more or less elaborate painting of something that represents either you, your personality, a place you love, or your hopes and dreams.
We have said it quite a few times already, but it bears repeating:
Japanese bedrooms are a lesson in minimalism!
Do not be afraid of empty spaces. Go for clean, uncluttered decorations, if you need any decoration at all.
Trust us, it’s perfectly all-right to just have a bed in your bedroom. Give the room and yourself the space to breathe!
Bring Nature Inside
It seems so obvious, but we’re going to mention it anyway:
In a bedroom that is so heavily focussed on natural colours and fabrics, matching plants are the perfect decoration!
Use (potted) bamboo, wood, and bonsai trees to bring nature and an additional layer of freshness into your bedroom!
Balanced Textures and Colours
And finally, the most important aspect of creating a Japanese-style bedroom design:
As the teachings of Zen emphasise, it’s all about balance!
No matter how elaborate or minimalist you choose your design to be in the end, the most important factor is a well-balanced mixture of fabrics, materials, textures, and colours.
In the best case scenario, your bedroom should look like it is an organically evolved whole where nothing stands out and everything belongs together naturally.