9 Inspired Ideas for Decorating a Small 1R Apartment in Japan

The classic starter apartment for most people in Japan is a 1R or 1K. Both of these apartment layouts are essentially rectangular boxes with a large sliding glass door that opens to a balcony. The flooring in most apartments in Japan is wood laminate. As for walls, textured, functional off-white wallpaper is the standard fare.

When you move into your 1R or 1K apartment, it will likely look something like this:

Example of an empty 1R apartment in Japan. At the other end of the apartment (not shown in the photo) will be the doorway and kitchenette and usually a place to hookup your washing machine. Curtains often do not come standard in rental apartments.

How do you get started decorating your very functional but very cookie-cutter living space?

Below are nine nicely decorated 1R apartments to help you get inspired. The design ideas all come from Roomclip.jp, Japan’s largest interior design and photo sharing app.

1. Go with a light color scheme if you want to create a sense of openness

Room idea via Roomclip User Grace.

White and light color palettes create the illusion of greater space. A bonus tip is to find just the right-sized shelf for those narrow spaces. The shelf at the upper left is the LERBERG shelf from IKEA, with a price of ¥2,499 ($23).

2. Use accent lighting for a warm effect

Room idea via Roomclip user harunarutaru

This is a very grown up and subdued room. The potted plants work well with the natural brown and tan colors, while the LED Christmas lights add a bit of playfulness.

3. Use textures and patterns to create a cozy aesthetic

Room idea via Roomclip user ineko_k

Mix and match different patterns and textures to create a comfortable space. A bonus tip is to choose a good side table. It can be your everything table in a small space. The one pictured is from IKEA, the LÖVBACKEN, with a price of ¥8,999.

4. Banish ugly lighting

Room idea via Roomclip user ineko_k

A small wall lamp plus a yellow bulb is an easy fix for unattractive fluorescent overhead lighting. The one pictured is from IKEA, the ÅRSTID nickel-plated wall lamp (the bulb is sold separately), with a price of ¥2,999.

5. Use your cat or dog as a design element

Room idea via Roomclip user ineko_k

Pets make the best accent pieces and of course, will keep your cushions and bed warm all winter long.

In the lower right of the photo, we see that table from IKEA again! But the thing we really like is the super slim space heater at the left. These can be found on Amazon.co.jp or your local appliance store. They vary a lot in price, but you can buy a fairly good one for ¥5,000 or less.

6. Create multifunctional nooks to separate your space

Room idea via Roomclip user etete

This is a great multi-purpose space that creates a separate dining and work area from the “bedroom” area. The table, from MUJI, is both a dining table and desk.

7. Splurge on a nice piece or two

Room idea via Roomclip user uria26

This is a clean, well laid out space. We like the different textures in the bedding and the really comfortable sitting area with that modern glass and steel table. Please click on the user name in the photo caption to see where this user bought the table (priced at ¥19,800) and loveseat (¥18,790).

8. Strategically place furniture and area rugs to create more space

Room idea via Roomclip user hirokuni0719

This user’s self-described style is Northern European cafe style. We think this is a great looking room! It’s true that not many people have two sets of large windows in their 1R apartment, but even so, we can take inspiration from how this user angled their furniture and area rug to change the sightline towards the window, making the room look more spacious.

9. Find an area rug that suits your personality and make it the focus point of the room

Room idea via Roomclip user cancan0507

An area rug can set the color scheme and whole tone for your room, making it easier to choose the furniture to match. The blue cabinet in the photo is from IKEA.

10. Bonus tip: Why corner rooms are great

Room idea via Roomclip user Onetto

Average rent for corner apartment units in Japan tends to be more expensive than for center rooms because you’ll have one less neighbor and almost always at least one more window.

The apartment above is a corner 1R unit whose occupant has done a great job maximizing natural light (with semi-transparent curtains). A fluffy comforter and big cushions complete the look.

How to Rent an Apartment in Japan

If you’re looking into what the apartment hunting process in Japan entails, here’s our quick rundown of what to expect. Knowledge is half the battle, and you’ll want to be prepared since the battlefield of apartment hunting takes no prisoners.

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Lead photo: Via Roomclip user ineko_k