How to Build a Tatami Room

Written by ehow culture & society editor
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A tatami room, or washitsu, is a traditional, Japanese-style room that has several standard elements. Years ago, all rooms in a Japanese house were designed and built as tatami rooms. Today, most Japanese homes have only one tatami room, which owners use for entertaining. You can create the room in your home.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Lower the ceiling in your designated room to about 6 feet. Japanese people traditionally sit on the floor rather than on chairs, which makes for a different perception of ceiling height. You can leave your tatami room with regular ceilings, but it won't feel as cozy as a traditional Japanese room.

  2. 2

    Add tatami mats to the room. These are thick, soft mats filled with rice straw and covered with woven rice. Traditional Japanese rooms are measured by the number of tatami mats they house. A common size for a tatami room is between 6 and 8 standard tatami mats, which measure roughly 105 to 140 square feet.

  3. 3

    Take out the door to the room and install a fusuma. A fusuma is a sliding door covered on both sides by cloth or paper, making it opaque. Traditionally, there's pleasing artwork painted on the fusuma so that it's functional and attractive.

  4. 4

    Place shoji, sliding panels, in the tatami room either as decoration or to partition the room from another part of the house. Shoji are wood-framed panels with a translucent paper covering on one side. Since these panels allow light to pass through, you can position them in front of a window.

  5. 5

    Create a special alcove with raised floors to display art. This alcove is called the tokonoma, and it traditionally houses a decorative scroll hung on the wall. Install a pillar, or tokobashira, to define the alcove area. Place a piece of artwork or a flower arrangement on the floor underneath the scroll.

Tips and warnings

  • Take off your shoes before you enter a tatami room.
  • A Japanese flower arrangement should be minimalistic, with an odd number of flowers placed sparsely in a vase.

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