Style Crush: Japanese Minimalism


Japanese minimalist interiors exude a refined sensibility. They’re like a salve for the spirit. (So. Much. Space.) Characterised by clean lines, understated detail and fine craftsmanship, they’re simple yet sophisticated – the epitome of elegance. *sigh*

Image source from left: lakbermagazindothu and mydesignstoriesdotcom

Japanese interior design has its roots in the ancient philosophy of Taoism – the belief that we should live in harmony with the universe’s natural order. The founder of Taoism Lao-Tzu was a philosopher and poet from ancient China and, according to some, a contemporary of Confucius. He believed that a room’s true beauty lay in the emptiness between the walls and the ceiling. 


A western interpretation of the Japanese shoji screens. Image source: luvnedotcom

This is the aesthetic ideal of emptiness where tone is defined by your imagination rather than being dictated by the physical elements of a space. There’s a purification of form with a focus on vertical and horizontal compositions. 

Too austere? Too stark? We like the way it leaves us room to breathe. 

Image source from left: mymodernmetdotcom and japaneseminimalismdotblogspotdotcom

Japanese minimalism highlights the play of light in space, the natural beauty of organic materials, the void between the furniture and how that void affects the human condition. Through its pared-back forms, it is said to reveal the innate character of objects and allows us to view life in quietness.


One moment while we dust off our meditation cushion.

Image source: houseofanaisdotcom

In keeping with its roots in Zen philosophy, Japanese minimalism celebrates impermanence. Sliding walls or shōji screens allow interiors to morph to suit your needs or to blur the boundaries between indoors and out. 

Image source: interior-blogdotru

Light is a key element in this style with modern Japanese architecture and Japanese-inspired interiors exploiting high ceilings and glass frontages to enhance the delicate patterns of light and shadow. 


Image source from left: blackbathroomdotnet and art-architechdotblogspotdotcom

Minimal ornamentation allows for slight changes in floral arrangements or wall art to mark the change in seasons.

Image source from left: lifeeditedotcom

In keeping with the use organic materials, the palettes tend to echo natural hues. These complement the fine timbers, bamboo, silk and flora used within these interiors. A flourish of colour, however, is welcome, whether it is in fresh-cut blooms or in décor accents. Bare branches also create visual interest with their sculptural shapes.


Image source from left: homedesign2youdotcom and freshomedotcom

As Yoshida Kenkō once said, “Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? … Branches about to blossom or a garden strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration.” Well said!

Featured image via designhunterdotnet.

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.