Japanese Style - Decorating with Asian Colors, Furnishings & Designs
Color: Japanese interiors generally use neutral, natural colors, to provide a simple background. Interiors emphasize architecture, and as a result, provide a sense of geometric order. In addition, natural colors minimize a feeling of clutter, which is also essential to eastern design and its philosophy of simplicity. When a statement is made in a Japanese interior, it is usually through a single strong exclamation of color or a predominant texture.
Eastern art colors are pure. Unlike western art, which mixes color and refines sketches, eastern art is original. This means the initial color and/or brush stroke is the final result. Western art is often complex, whereas eastern art is simple, strong, and graphic
Black is often considered a "non-color" in our society, yet, it is very important in eastern interiors. The use of black in oriental rooms lends definition and form. For example, black is a color in its own right, when used with white rice paper in a shoji screen.
Texture & Contrast:
Some Japanese decorating textures and materials that immediately come to mind are cedar, rice paper, maple, bamboo, stone, and woven wicker. One might also think of textured silk, tatami floor mats, and the elaborate needlework of kimonos and obiís.
Japanese culture seeks to balance opposites in all aspects of life (yin and yang), and interiors are no exception. Interior finishes can be highly opposing and contrasting, and yet achieve balance. Examples are, highly polished floors with heavily textured mats, a lacquered box displayed on top of a rough wooden table, or white pebbles on a polished black granite ledge around a tub.
Western homes typically use an object on the perimeter as a focal point, such as a fireplace, a painting, or an elaborate window treatment. Eastern interiors, on the other hand, focus on a central object, such as a hearth (irori), a garden, an altar, or an elaborate still life composition.
Japanese homes also commonly have display alcoves, called tokonoma. Objects placed in these alcoves generate two types of feelings.
(1) a natural or organic feel, by displaying an odd number of objects together
(2) an ordered and disciplined environment by using an even quantity. For example, three calligraphy brushes in a cup would be organic, and four pebbles on a dish would be disciplined.
Japanese displays are fluid. In other words, a Japanese alcove may display a scroll one-week, and a set of pots the next. Eastern cultures tend to store and rotate objects. (This is probably for two reasons; (1) limited space, and, (2) visual pollution, outside the home, as the population increases.) Japanese displays are a reflection of the season, celebration, or honored guest. This minimal approach focuses on the quality and craftsmanship.
Instead of rotating objects, westerners tend to "display it all." (I guess its because they weíre afraid someone whose given us something may come over and we wonít have it out?) A westerner would also tend to add to a display to create a balance, whereas an easterner would create harmony by taking away. To easterners, less is more, order is harmony, and there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
Japanese furniture tends to be minimal and multi-functional. For example a futon is used for sitting and sleeping, or serving trays double as place settings. To give ideas on how you might use Japanese furnishings or artifacts in your home, I would like to go onto the next topic, which is about antiques. (Reproductions of these objects can be found at reasonable prices, too.)
*Note: For ideas about how to combine western furnishings, and eastern elements, please see the first book I have listed below.
Antiques & Reproductions
Here are some classic oriental objects, and interesting applications, one might use to add eastern influences to the home. Please consult the second book I have listed below for more ideas.
Japanese kites make whimsical shower curtains, and ceiling or wall decorations for a childrenís rooms. Smaller kites can also be used to make pillows.
- A hibachi: A hibachi, in the true sense, is not a small tabletop grill as the western world defines it. It is a finely crafted, portable fireplace, used in old homes and shops to provide heat, warm sake, and boil water for tea. It was once also the emotional center and gathering place for family friends. Original hibachis were ash receptacles in low wooden boxes. They were also made from ceramics, lacquer, rattan and metal. Large hibachis can be used as display boxes, or bases for end tables. Smaller hibachis, which were once hand warmers, are now champagne buckets or flower holders.
- Kimonos: A kimono is to a Japanese artist, as a canvas is to a western painter. Wedding kimonos and fans are especially decorative and valuable. Kimonos can be displayed in a number of locations in the home by hanging them on clothing stands or decorative rods.
- Obis: An obi is a wide sash worn with a kimono. Obiís make excellent table runners, or can be hung in a group, behind a bed, to create a headboard.
- Tenigui: These are rectangular cloths, which were once used as headbands, now function as placemats.
- Keyaki: This is an antique door that could be used for a desk or coffee table top.
- Sake Kegs double as planters, end tables, and lamp bases, depending on their size.
- Japanese clothing stands can be used as towel racks.
Catherine Foust McGivern, is NCIDQ Certified and Principal Founder of www.catherinemcgivern.com, content rich, home interior design and decorating site, with a comprehensive directory of links to web-based information, products, and resources.