In this installment in our series on how to live in a Japanese apartment, we give a few ideas for how to decorate and efficiently use a Japanese-style room.
A Japanese-style room is a room that is covered in tatami (dried and woven rush plant) mats. They are extremely versatile. So, don’t let the fact that the room is covered in tatami hold you back!
1. Play with Textures, Go with Natural Colors
We love this DIY television stand made from cinder blocks and dark wood planks. The different textures (cinder block, tatami, wood grain, wicker) blend harmoniously. The cushions are also in keeping with the natural color scheme, and the potted plants provide interesting accents. It is also a basic design principle that your color scheme must not clash with your cat’s fur color.
2. Laundry drying corner
Most Japanese apartments don’t come with clothes dryers and most people hang their clothes out to dry on the balcony or on a rack in their apartment.
This person has come up with an ingenious hideaway laundry rack for a corner of their Japanese-style room. Use high-tension poles to rig up a rectangular curtain rail and place down a bath mat to catch any drips. This way, your laundry isn’t an eyesore. Of course, you can rig something like this up in a western-style room, as well.
3. Spruce up the walls
The color scheme of most Japanese-style rooms tend to natural browns and tans. If this is not your style, you can spruce things up with wall stickers.
Wall stickers are called ウォールステッカー (wo-ru-sutika-) in Japanese. You can find them on Amazon and at DIY stores. They are meant to be removable without leaving any residue, but definitely test them in an inconspicuous corner before you go an a Michelangelo design spree.
We also want to point out that in this example that if you are going for a more traditional-Japanese look, you will want to keep everything low to the ground (cusions, instead of chairs, low table, low shelving) because this will tend to make the room look bigger.
4. Use it like a western-style room
If you don’t want to use a Japanese-style room in the traditional way (cushions, low table, roll out a futon to sleep on at night), you don’t have to! Just use it like a western-style room. We recommend laying down a carpet, so that our furniture doesn’t put dents in the tatami.
Here are some well designed spaces that bring together East and West.
5. Go bright, very bright
There’s no telling what you can with enough brightly colored cloths and sashes. One old-school idea to transform any room is to change the curtains and wall paper. In this case, this person has done a magnificent job using various patterns to brighten up an originally subdued Japanese-style room.
The room above has been so transformed that you can barely see the tatami peeking out from under the bed.
6. Create the ultimate well-organized closet
As we discussed in this article (Guide to Japanese apartments: floor plans, photos, and kanji keywords), closets that are attached to Japanese-style rooms (called oshi-ire) are different than western-style closets. They usually come with two levels, separated by a sturdy horizontal wooden partition, sized to perfectly fit folded up futon. Some oshi-ire are equipped with metal bars running the length of the closet, so you can use them to hang clothes but traditional oshi-ire are not.
Home goods stores in Japan sell all kinds of ingenious products for organizing Japanese-style closets, including high-tension plastic or metal bars that you can use to create space for hanging your clothes.
Become an organizational ninja by making the most of your Japanese-style closet.
7. Turn the closet into a bunk bed for your kids
If your kids are clamoring for you to buy them a bunk bed, why not make them the best bunk bed ever! We couldn’t pass up this idea, even though we know a lot of our readers live in rentals, where this won’t be possible.
8. Put a kotatsu in your room and stay warm all winter
A kotatsu (火燵) is a low, wooden table frame covered by a heavy blanket, underneath which is a heat source. It is the way that many families in Japan stay warm in the winter. In this article, we discuss many other ways to heat your home in Japan.
Place a kotatsu in your Japanese-style room and it will become the perfect focal point for the room. That and it will keep you toasty warm all winter.
9. Turn the closet into a hobby corner or work space
As we mentioned above, Japanese-style rooms tend to come with large closets. If you don’t need so much storage, you can turn the closet into something else! Many people turn their closet into a work space.
10. Bonus: If you don’t have a Japanese-style room, you can buy a tatami corner!
Some people miss having a tatami-room in their western-style apartments. This is not a problem because you can buy tatami-covered cubes and storage units that are designed to fit together into a raised tatami platform.
You may also be interested in: How to clean tatami mats in a Japanese apartment