Japanese Interior Design Ideas

Focus on simplicity, balance and high-contrast natural colours, and you'll be on your way to creating a Japanese interior. The goal of this style is to create balance among the textures, colours and objects in each room.

Interior design in Japan is connected to the country's cultural philosophy, which is to create a balance between the "ying" and "yang" of life.

Tatami Mats

Tatami mats are a very traditional floor covering found in every Japanese home. They're laid out in a pattern over wooden floors, and made of rice and straw with darker tone borders. You can achieve the look of tatami mats by choosing rugs made of other materials, such as sisal and seagrass. The tradition requires that they be laid in a certain patterns to create good luck. (See Resources)

Shoji Screens and Sliding Doors

Rice paper screens known as "Shoji" have geometric designs and frames. They're used to define the space between indoors and out, as well as spaces between rooms. Use them as sliding doorways or separate structures within rooms to create privacy.


Beige tatami mats beneath a low, black-lacquered wooden table with a bright red porcelain bowl in its centre is a common application of colour choices in a Japanese interior. Neutrals mixed with a single bright splash of colour is considered a balanced use of colour. Multiple colours or an abundance of colour is a no-no. It's common to have bold, black geometric lines both in the furnishings and shoji screens.


Small display areas called "tokonoma" are common in Japanese homes, where a scroll, a group of stones in a dish or some other object is placed to reflect a special holiday or occasion. If you don't have an alcove in your home, set up a space in a corner with a small table and place an object in the centre that contrasts with the colour of the table. If you have an overhead light that can shine on the object, all the better.


These are carved, rectangular pieces that fit between the shoji and the ceiling, to allow air and light to flow into the living space. They are long sections of wood that can also be used as wall decorations or they can be lit from behind to reveal the intricacies of the carving.


Japanese interiors are clutter-free. To create this look, put away stacks of magazines and knick-knack groupings. The amount of furniture in each room must be minimal. Lots of open space is very important for freedom of movement. For example, a tea room would be furnished with one low table and four (more or less) cushions over tatami mats. Add a scroll or a vase for colour.