How to Use Japanese Design to Make a Small Room Feel Larger


As property prices continue to rise, homeowners could be forced to downsize and move into smaller spaces than their current home. But just because you have limited space, doesn’t necessarily mean your home has to feel small. Take a look at Japanese interior design for inspiration.

The Japanese have perfected the art of making a small space feel larger than it actually is, creating some of the world’s smallest rooms and developing the first ever capsule hotel. The hotel’s rooms come as small as 75 square feet, but still manage to include everything you’d need for an overnight stay. The concept may be a little extreme, but there are simple tips and tricks that can be borrowed to help make the most of your space.

Traditional Japanese philosophy is inspired by simplicity

Japanese interior design revolves around simplicity, placing value on the beauty of natural elements and upholding the ideals of harmony, balance and order. Devoid of clutter and embracing open spaces, the clean and uncomplicated Japanese design aesthetic can be incorporated into your own home.

Simple and stripped back furniture is one of the main components of Japanese interior design. Tables, chairs and other household items made using natural materials reflect natural light easily, which works to open a room up and make it feel less crowded.

When picking out decorations, look for clean and fresh designs made from natural elements such as wood, wicker, or even porcelain. There are dedicated online stores, such as Sansho, that source traditional products handmade by artisans from across Japan. As stated on the Sansho website, all products sourced are “unmistakably Japanese but also fit into a Western lifestyle”.

Make the most out of all available space

Optimising the available space is key to Japanese interior design. One key trick is to create varying levels throughout the home, such as staggering flooring and storage to create divides between rooms and open up new spaces.

A project led by MUU Store Design Studio recently created a house with a footprint of just 60 square metres. The two-story house was built into a tight space between two older buildings, meaning it had to be as space-efficient as possible. To make the most of just 100 square metres of floor space, both storeys were split over various levels, creating natural divisions between rooms.

Furnishing your room with multi-purpose pieces can also help to open up your room and make it feel larger. Look for pieces that offer maximum functionality with the least amount of square footage, such as a comfy sofa bed for a lounge, which can double up as a spare room. Alternatively, opt for furniture that comes with built in hidden storage compartments.

Avoid collecting clutter and maintain a minimalist approach

Even in the most minimal of homes, a space can still feel much smaller if it is cluttered with mess or even one too many decorations. Organising consultant Marie Kondo recently published a book about decluttering a house, and set off a craze around the world after encouraging readers to only keep hold of things that “sparks joy” within our hearts. By only keeping hold of what really matters, you can end up getting rid of a lot of unnecessary items around the house, which take up valuable space—especially in smaller rooms.

The Japanese concept Mottainai, which roughly translates to the English saying “waste not, want not” can also be considered when decorating your home. Mottainai has come to encompass the four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle and respect. Adopting this waste-avoidance concept could ensure you don’t hoard clutter around the house, making full use of every item you own and repurposing any broken items.

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