Washitsu: Japanese Interior Design & Décor

This is Part I in a series of posts about the Washitsu design style:

“Washitsu” is a Japanese word that refers to the original, authentic style of interior design developed in Edo period Japan; a décor that seems to impart a serenity and comfort that transcends the unassuming, well-crafted furnishings and accessories. Fine quality, natural materials, and intelligent, convenient design combine to create elegantly simple, beautiful doors & windows treatments, bedding, lighting, furniture, art, and decorations. Slide open the door, and almost without thinking, one naturally bends down to slip off their shoes, maintaining the cleanliness and beauty of the space.

The Washitsu Bedroom

Entered through a set of fine Japanese shoji sliding doors, opening onto a beautiful tatami mat floor, we’d find a practical shoji paper privacy screen, an authentic shiki futon rather than a mattress, a kaki futon rather than a comforter, a shoji lantern rather than a table lamp and a shoji floor lamp rather than a torchiere, a zaisu tatami chair, a low scholar’s desk, and a richly grained wood tansu rather than a dresser, and refined oriental style art and porcelains.

The Tokonomo: Decorative Alcove

In some washitsu, there was and is often an alcove, between 8 and 12 feet wide, built in a corner, or just inside the doors. The tokonomo is usually decorated with wall art, and dry or fresh flowers, as ikebana is a craft still popular in Japan and now in the west. Some create a small personal shrine, with religious or artistically significant gems, statues, or symbols, and perhaps photos or renderings of departed loved ones.

Tatami Mats

Wall to wall tatami mats can have a remarkable impact on any room, especially a bedroom. The lovely straw colored woven grass surface, and the firm, yet springy feel of the rice hull stuffing, create a comfortable and cozy, serene atmosphere, with a sense of order, simplicity, and cleanliness.

However, as an affordable compromise, some prefer just matched pairs of queen sized tatami mats or king sized tatami mats right on the wood or carpet floor, with dimensions perfect to accommodate queen or king size futons or western style mattresses. Some raise the tatami mats of the floor for a simple and beautiful platform bed, or install them on one of our solidly crafted tatami beds, and top them with an authentic shiki futon mattress and kaki futon cover.

Read Part II in this series where we discuss furniture in the Washitsu style in detail.

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