Japanese home design is all about being minimalist, open and clean. It revolves around crafting an uncluttered living environment which isn’t just about living with less things, but about having a serene and tranquil space to come home to. It’s about being more mindful about what you have, and appreciating natural elements.
Still not convinced? Here are some beautiful homes in Singapore that evoke Japanese-style aesthetic to inspire you:
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Arifin and Dyana Seah were browsing through Home & Decor when they saw a Japanese-inspired home by Sync Interior. As a fan of Japanese culture, in particular the history of the Samurai era, Arifin knew that this designer could fulfil his dreams of a ryokan-like home.
The thirty-something couple live in their 1,249 sq ft three-bedroom condominium apartment with their two daughters aged two and five, and a helper, which means functionality was also a concern.
“When I received Arifin’s brief, and saw the layout of his apartment, I knew that we needed to create a more spacious atmosphere. The first thing I did was removed the partitions and wardrobe from the first bedroom.
Taking its place is a tatami room with shoji screen doors (the shoji paper has been sandwiched between two acrylic panels to protect it against tears and spills); it not only is ideal for a Japanese-inspired home, it could also be used for storage, to aid ventilation, and bring light into the rest of the home,” shares Eric Chua of Sync Interior.
It also has a customised tv console and storage platform. Arifin spent $3,000, on top of the renovation fee, for the tatami mat and shoji paper.
“I like the beauty in simplicity; a minimalist and Japanese design offers a tranquility that is suitable for a family home,” he shares.
Eric, the designer, decided on light-hued finishes, wooden furniture and decor as well built-ins with rounded and kid-friendly edges for the home. His sofa set is from Hommage.
Built-in floor compartments like these are great for hiding clutter!
The circular window is commonly seen in temples and tea houses in Kyoto. A circle (Enso) in Zen Buddhism also symbolises enlightenment.
From the living room, this feature highlights Arifin’s scrolls, which he changes regularly.
Eric created a similar Japanese-inspired ambience in the bedroom (the shinshitsu in Japanese).
Here, he customised a wooden bedframe as well as a screen-like headboard. Light wood finishes were chosen to exude an airy and peaceful atmosphere.
Part of the $60,000 renovation includes a customised tv console which features a space for the family’s piano and knick knacks, as well as storage underneath the tatami mats.
The owner of this three-room HDB resale flat at Everton Park, Joel Ang, loves the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection. Among other things, he believed that less is more. Overall, he wanted his apartment to have an old-made-new, child-like feel.
Opting to design it himself, he cross-pollinated these ideas into his first home masterfully. “Basically, I want to project in my living spaces the energy of a city yet the peace that individual beings so desperately seek. Think Tokyo, bustling and always stimulating – yet with pockets of greenery, Zen gardens and minimalist interiors. Think communal HDB living on a floor that has only four units. Very conflicting ideas, I know,” says Joel.
What inspired him? “While staying in hotels and going to restaurants overseas, I paid attention to ideas. They are very avant-garde in how they use different textures. I also looked at interior design magazines and Instagram a lot. More importantly, I love furniture. In designing my home, I looked at furniture first and then the space. I relate more to the furniture, and I want the space to fit them.”
The sitting area exudes an atmosphere of peace and serenity with its minimalist design influenced by Japanese tea houses.
The kitchen combines natural-looking elements like a concrete-style wall and bench as well as slender stems, together with a modern peninsula counter and a vintage smeg fridge.
Joel’s adventurous spirit is expressed through the use of varied textures and materials for a multisensory effect. Of course, no Japanese-inspired home is complete without a sliding door, which can be a smart space-saving feature!
For the bathroom, Joel went with a simple, clean design. Fresh flowers help jazz up the counter.
The walk-in wardrobe is equipped with a sliding door, allowing the homeowner to stow his mess away when guests are around.
Homeowners love the Scandinavian look because of its simplicity, charm and laid-back “hygge”-ness. But when done wrongly, a Scandi-look can end up looking untidy, haphazard and “neither-here-nor-there”. Luckily, the homeowners of this apartment flat, a young couple, engaged design studio The Minimalist Society to help turn their new house into a cosy home.
What the design team was first to propose a soothing colour palette, filled with plenty of neutral, muted tones. This is complemented by the use of light wood textures. As this is a new family unit, the team also included a lot of storage solutions to help the growing family with their storage needs.
To make the living area feel bigger, the design team created a floating TV console. By doing away with the legs, the living space immediately feels lighter and more spacious. This leads to the dining area behind.
In the living room, a light pink colour was used to create a triangular section on the feature wall. This helps the sofa, in soft baby blue hue, to stand out prominently. What a neat trick!
A customised shelf unit was actually designed to be integrated into the plaster wall, making the whole design of the home look exclusive and well-planned.
A long hanging pendant lamp above the dining table helps to visually extend the sides of the dining area, making the space feel open and inviting.
The white colour extends into the kitchen area, bringing the cabinetry together nicely with the rest of the home. The backsplash along the counter is also similar to the colour of the flooring, resulting in a really rustic and earthy feel, which is perfect coming home to.
This flat successfully captures the essence of the elegance and thoughtfulness of Japanese design, with comfy furnishings like a large sofa and the iconic Egg chair by Arne Jacobson.
A wenge veneer feature wall continues up the ceiling to enfold the small master bedroom in earthy, muted warmth.
White, wood and a Zen-like atmosphere. That’s the vibe you get when you step into this five-room HDB flat in Yishun. They customised this three metre-long dining table using planks from Ikea!
An elevated platform area in the living room makes for a cosy and inviting space. The entire renovation cost about $70,000.
Interior designer Jay Ang is known to design simple, yet stylish, meditative spaces, so it’s no surprise that his home — a five-room HDB flat in Bedok — is exactly that.
The founder of J + A Design has a collection of Japanese kitchenware — which he loves for their simplicity and functionality.
Jay made this noren, a traditional Japanese cloth divider, himself to add that quintessential Japanese touch in his home.
This home, designed by The Scientist, features clean lines and light-hued wood — essential for a Muji-inspired look!
This colour scheme is also a great canvas for layering on accessories and quirky knick knacks by the homeowners.
This 1,000sqf four-room BTO flat in Whampoa belongs to a couple in their 30s. The living area is a space where the couple can relax and entertain guests in, as they left lots of flexible area to lounge and chill out at. A timber alcove “teahouse” was designed with seating areas, and pull out drawers were incorporated for additional storage.
Tatami mats were customised and imported directly from Japan, to add to the overall authentic feel of the space.
The design of the kitchen was kept open, complete with a customised dining area.
Instead of additional tables that will take up space from the limited floor area, the team decided to incorporate a wall hung ledge which works as a additional dining area coupled with bar stools.
Real bamboo pieces were used to create a screen in the master bedroom, which has a 0.6m-high platform bed to create a cosier sleeping space.
When the owners of this apartment home approached established design firm Pencil Office to design the interiors, they wanted something simple, timeless yet with a strong personality of its own.
In the kitchen area, the forms are kept simple from the straight-laced counter island to the unassuming look of the cabinetry. There is a subtle sense of serenity flowing through the space, enhanced by the inclusion of concealed lighting.
Sliding wooden screens are used to segment the spaces, acting as doors to close off the areas when necessary. The seamless look of the doors to the walls make the room feel larger and more spacious.
A simple selection of furniture, in line with the straight lines running throughout the home, help to keep the style flawless and harmonious.
Eric Chua of Sync Interior gave this cookie-cutter apartment a radical makeover, with a look inspired by traditional Japanese interior designs that’s based on the homeowner’s love of Japanese culture and style.
Light oak tones, platforms and shoji paper screens are some of the distinctive elements he included to get the look of Japanese interior design.
For this five-room HDB in Bukit Batok, the designers chose a wood vinyl flooring to give the home a warm ambience. A surprising element is the hidden door that camouflages along the TV feature wall. Beyond this door is the guest room.
A raised platform was installed from the common room all the way to the master bedroom.
The kitchen wall was removed to create a visually open kitchen, complete with glass sliding doors to keep fumes and odours away from the rest of the apartment during heavy cooking.
The homeowners also carved out a dining space outside the kitchen, with a dining set from Hipvan.
Japanese-style sliding screen doors ensure there is privacy in every room while still lending the look that the homeowners want.
Having spent a lot of time in Japan, the owners of this 2,700sqf four-room condo penthouse in the River Valley area were after an aesthetic that falls between the industrial-loft style and Zen minimalism.
A portrait by French artist Philippe Pasqua draws the eye to the dining area, where the careful mix of metal and wood gives the decor its balance.
The diamond-shaped apartment gives rise to an unusually angular layout, which adds a dynamism to the living room.
The utilitarian decor and cool colour tones employed in the kitchen keep the mood industrial.
This four-room HDB BTO home has a cookie-cutter layout, but that did not stop the homeowners and their interior designer from creating a spacious, bright and airy home that’s cosy and welcoming. The young couple took inspiration from Japanese retail store Muji, and requested for finishes in mostly white and wood-look laminates.
To create contrast, a slightly darker palette of black and grey was used for the flooring throughout. The wall between the kitchen and dining area was hacked and replaced with black framed glass windows, opening up the area for a sense of spaciousness.
In the kitchen, hexagonal tiles are chosen in these three colours to create an eye-catching feature. See more gorgeous ways to decorate with tiles here!
One of the bedrooms was converted into a study, with a partial wall hacked to open up the space. Built-in cabinets ensure the homeowners can easily keep the space looking free of clutter, while having a nook to display their knick-knacks.
The palette of white and wood continues into the master bedroom, with full-height wardrobe on one side of the room. Despite simple, the colours chosen keep the spaces looking bright!
The ensuite bathroom is complete with white subway tiles for added texture in the small, intimate space. There’s enough storage even in the bathroom, with shelves hidden behind mirrors and under the sink. The total renovation costs amounted to $54,000.
How zen does this balcony look? It belongs to Benny Tan, who lives in this spacious one-bedroom Chuan Park condominium, which features a generously sized balcony that wraps around the periphery of the 1,280 sq ft apartment, stretching from the living room to the bedroom. This is partly thanks to the previous owner who had extended the living room out into the balcony. This outdoor space has since been transformed from a neglected and under-utilised space into an inviting outdoor terrace where Benny can have breakfast in the mornings or wind down in the evenings, while enjoying the panoramic city skyline.
Benny, who studied in Japan and frequently travels there for translation, research and consultancy work, says he wanted a Japanese theme for his home and engaged Lawrence Puah of Akihaus Design Studio.
Lawrence’s design approach involved distilling, and re-interpreting, the key elements of Japanese interiors. The neutral palette, comprising mainly brown, off-white and grey hues, achieves a tranquillity that evokes a natural sense of calm — reminiscent of Japanese interiors.
The style is contemporary modern, but the restrained execution and uncluttered character reflect a pared-down simplicity that is synonymous with Japanese style.
The open kitchen used to be completely walled up and was encroaching on the dining space. The enclosed space was also somewhat dark, with the only source of natural light from windows at the end of the long kitchen. To open up the space even more, Benny hacked down the L-shaped wall in the kitchen (after finding out it was a non-structural element, of course).
Benny originally wanted to split the bedroom, so that his 11-year-old son, Yew Shyan, who visits weekly, could have his own space. But Lawrence had another suggestion. “Instead of having two small bedrooms, I asked Benny to consider incorporating a movable screen, similar to a Japanese shoji, between the living and dining rooms,” he says.
“This way, the living room could be partitioned into a temporary bedroom when the need arises.” Benny is receptive to the idea but it has been put on hold, as there is a possibility that the condominium may be sold en bloc. The original bathroom was attached to the bedroom and the apartment did not have a common bath.
As Benny lives alone most of the time, it would not have been an issue, although a bathroom that is more accessible to guests would be useful.
Hence, Lawrence reconfigured the layout and introduced a corridor between the bedroom and bathroom, re-zoning the attached bathroom as a common one. The corridor ends in the balcony behind the bedroom, thus providing common access to the outdoors. The three-month renovation cost about $120,000 and he moved in in July 2017.
In an open layout the kitchen area is usually designed as an island counter, yet this can be a somewhat conventional way of designing an open-plan living room. Japanese designer Hiroaki Matsuyama, founder of Minorpoet, took inspiration from the traditional building technique of a Japanese home to design the spaces in this apartment.
Byobu’ or the traditional folding doors in a Japanese home used to be the way for homeowners to partition parts of the home, and here the designer used folding panels to keep the kitchen area stowed away when not in use.
When closed up, the room takes on a meditative atmosphere. There is a sense of pure minimalism in the room, with nothing but a 60 chair (designed by Alvar Aalto) and a Ulm stool (by Max Bill) providing the bare furnishing essentials in the space.
When unfolded, the apartment offers all the functionality of a modern home. Notice how the cabinetry also adopt a light wood look, with lightly finished wooden panelling as well.
The cream-coloured walls complement the pinewood flooring perfectly.
On the other side of the room, cement screed floors and exposed brickwalls create an industrial look to match the bareness of the living room.
Smitten with the soothing aesthetics of Japanese ryokans and onsens, this couple wanted to recreate that same feeling in their first purchased home. The couple turned to Danny Goh, design director at Nook Design for the interiors of their three-bedroom apartment.
Rather than simply turn the 1,076 sq ft apartment into a ryokan, Danny chose to highlight Japanese aesthetics such as the use of light woods, simple lines, pared-down colours and the concept of wabi sabi, defined as ‘beauty in imperfection’.
A false ceiling was in put in to add interest to the otherwise bare ceiling. The first thing you see upon entering the home is the curved TV console, so designed to create a soft look that is gentle on the eyes.
A headboard made from fabric and laminate strips was created in the couple’s bedroom.
For the study, Danny created a desk within a square wooden frame, to give the couple a more enclosed feeling when they are working there.
The home is sited within a development where 80 per cent of the premises has been set aside for landscaping and amenities. They can see shared pools, manicured lawns and a gym with a rooftop garden from their living room view of their estate.
While their home is mostly decked out in neutral tones, with furnishings from local stores like Scanteak and Castlery, their balcony provides pops of colour from their chili and rosemary plants.