Woman world

Vintage beauties

A japanese touch for your home


A japanese touch for your home

In the Japanese home, there is no clear demarcation between the interior and the exterior. There is, instead, an intermediate area occupied by three elements: a formal entranceway, a veranda, and various screening devices
used in place of Western-style doors and windows. All of these link inner components with outer, and bring nature almost indoors while still shielding man from the elements.

Japanese home2. A simple wooden veranda serves as an important intermediary between this study and the garden. Bamboo blinds modulate the amount of light and ventilation, and also provide privacy.

Japanese home

3. An inner courtyard shared by all of the rooms in this house gives continuity to the living space, in addition to providing an area for solitary relaxation or an outdoor party.
A sea of pebbles extending from the garden into the home brings the ex-terior world into the interior world.


5. Delicate shoji doors are the only barrier here between the interior and exterior. If the shoji are completely removed, nature is immediately drawn into the home, providing a natural source of decoration.
6. The utter simplicity of this veranda belies its perfectly executed function of mediating between two contrasting zones.

Japanese home

7. A few saplings bring nature almost within arm’s reach. The sound of gently falling rain or leaves rustling in the wind gives this house the impression of being in the middle of a forest, far away from the cares of the world.
8. Even the materials used for the veranda reveal its mediating role between two diverse zones. The natural wood floors of the veranda complement the color and texture of both the tatami in the living room, and the grass and stones outside.


9. Open corners created upon removing the shoji doors produce a panoramic view of the garden and increase one’s viewing pleasure.
10. A modern rendition in steel of bamboo blinds provides privacy for this third-floor apartment in the city.
11. Screened windows provide protection, ventilation, and beauty. The bamboo screens here complement the tatami and wood interior exquisitely.



12. The partitioning system skillfully and artistically expands or contracts space according to need. In the summertime, breezes allowed to flow through the house provide natural ventilation.
The low, overhanging eaves of the Japanese house protect shoji from rain, and control the
flow of light, while also creating a space under-neath where one may entertain informally or en-joy splendid day alone.

The Japanese house is surrounded by a “soft” natural barrier. Plan of Japanese house and garden.
In the traditional Japanese house, the distinction between interior space and exterior space is not clearly defined. Nature is drawn into the house, rather than excluded from it, by a variety of means such as shoji, bamboo screens, and the entranceway or veranda. Similarly, the interior can be extended beyond the walls of the house with the same devices, as people attempt to live as one with nature.
A comparison of Arab, American, and Japanese house plans will show that the Arab house is constructed around a courtyard, with thick walls built to the edge of the site. In the American suburban house plan, there is often no hedge to designate the boundary. The house, with reinforced doors and windows, is merely surrounded by a lawn. The Japanese house, in contrast, has a hedge around not just the edge of the lot, but the perimeter of the building as well.
The enclosure around the Japanese house is “soft,” as opposed to the hard walls of the Arab house, and the open area around the American house. Or, put in another way, the distinction between the public and private areas in the Arab and American plans is clear, and one knows whether one is inside or outside a house, whereas the Japanese house has a certain ambiguity.
Although the Japanese house plan may lead to some ambiguity, Japanese architecture nevertheless attempts to protect a certain space from the exterior environment. And vague though it may be, there is still some kind of division between the two zones, determined primarily by whether one is wearing shoes or not.
The feeling that Japanese houses afford little or no privacy is due to the fact that, although the number of barriers is rich in variety, they remain thin and light. But this poses no problem to the Japanese, for there is a certain refinement about a soft, barely perceptible light seeping through a shoji paper door, or the sound of rain just on the other side of a latticed window. The ambiguity about the house is, indeed, pleasant.
In fact, privacy is preserved not physically but through distance, and Japanese refer to the most private part of the house, or the most sacred part of a shrine, as the “deep, inner recess.” Unlike Western brick and stone design schemes which call for an interior and exterior consciously divided by walls, a hierarchy of space, as discussed in the Introduction, has emerged in Japan. The open space around the innermost, private bed
chamber is divided into several rooms by the use of movable partitions. From this innermost room is a continuum of space through the rest of the house to the area below the eaves, to the garden, and even beyond the garden in some cases when distant scenery is included as part of the overall design.
The Garden – comparing photographs of Western gardens and Japanese gardens, one notices that in many Western plans the garden is viewed from outside and the building placed against that background. Japanese gardens, on the other hand, are intended to be viewed from an interior space against the background of a wall or fence. This is because Japanese gardens are designed in concert with the room interiors, giving full consideration to sight lines from the rooms, the corridor, or a special viewing platform. This difference in perspective is indicative of the Japanese concept of the house. In fact, one of the words for family or home in Japanese, katei, is a juxtaposition of the characters for “house” and “garden,” revealing that the concept of house and garden as a unified whole has existed for quite some time.
The scarcity of space in Japan has led to interesting variations of the typical house plan. The machiya, or “townhouses,” of Kyoto, for example, are distinguished by their long, narrow plan. Even in compact areas like these, where houses are only a few inches apart, the harmony between interior and exterior is preserved, and the garden plays a central role. The room closest to the main street is often used for business purposes—goods are
Hayed and orders taken—so that this area becomes a part of the street, or, conversely, the street becomes a part of the house.
The most private room of a machiya usually faces a garden. An 3 pen corridor connects the main house to a wing where often the first generation lives separately from, but still near, the second generation.
In this way, unity and spaciousness are preserved even in the smallest of spaces, and the needs of people, who are, after all, the focal point of every house, comfortably provided for.
Intermediate Space Components As previously mentioned, the intermediate space can be seen as an important extension of the house, and as an extension of the garden. The three chapters that follow will talk about three major elements found in this intermediate zone: the formal entranceway, the veranda, and screening devices. The entranceway is where shoes are removed, symbolizing the transition from the exterior to the interior. The veranda is a multi-purpose area where one can relax or entertain visitors informal-Screening devices help to unite man and nature by providing ways of allowing the inhabitants of a house to see or hear nature with little difficulty, while still protecting them from the elements.

The veranda serves as an informal area in which to entertain friends, a place to relax with family members, and a zone where the heat of summer and the cold of winter are ameliorated—besides being the setting for a rendezvous between man and nature.


The veranda serves as a comfortable, multi-purpose area.
The washbasin and stand are traditional outdoor accessories.
Bamboo produces a beautiful, cool veranda what the Japanese poetically call the “moon-viewing dais” which they use to admire the beauty of the moon and the stars, especially in early autumn.
When the space under the eaves is kept at ground level, it assumes the character of part of the garden, but is deliberately designed of stone or gravel, in contrast to the garden, and then serves as a passageway or a terrace. Alternatively, part of the garden may actually be transported into the house and serve as an indoor garden.
In all of these, a combination of shoji, and rain doors made of wood, or glass doors are used to form a boundary between the two zones. Recently there has emerged a vogue for using French windows instead of wooden doors. When these are used at the edge of the eaves, the veranda then becomes a kind of greenhouse. In addition to these various kinds of doors, bamboo or reed screens may be used on sunny days to filter sunlight.



When selecting materials for the veranda, wood with a nice grain is highly recommended since it will produce beautiful results and also provide years of pleasurable viewing. Boards can be placed either lengthwise or laterally, but if placed laterally, wide-sectioned wood creates the best effect. Should the eaves be sufficiently deep, tatami matting may even be used. This lends it a more formal air, and turns the veranda into a kind of corridor or even part of the room to which it is contiguous. Care should be taken that this section does not protrude from beneath the eaves because of the danger of the wood rotting or the tatami becoming discolored through long exposure to sunlight. In such cases, bamboo is probably best, although this virtually precludes the use of chairs and tables. Sitting Japanese-style solves this problem, however, since Japanese cushions may be placed on the floor.
When gravel, stone, or tile is used, as in the case when the veranda is not elevated, the section lying in the direct line of raindrops as they drip off the eaves should be changed or cleaned as, otherwise, the rain leaves behind unsightly marks. A material that is washable with water or a light cleanser is best suited to both the veranda and the area beneath.
To complete your veranda, you may want to provide some outside accessories. The Japanese are given a visual clue of the transition from one zone to the other when they are ready to return to the home after, for example, working in the garden. This visual reminder is the large, often interestingly-shaped, stone placed in front of the veranda where shoes are removed. The removal of shoes, as was discussed earlier, determines for the Japanese the difference between interior and exterior. In addition to this stone, one may also provide a stand with washbasin which, in the past, was placed near the toilet located at the end of the veranda. Today, it may be used for washing hands after gardening.
Handrails are more the exception than the rule to effect the open quality of the veranda. Generally speaking, no furniture is placed on the veranda since it can double as a bench to sit on, a table on which to serve refreshments or to lay clothes for men-ding, or an open crib for a baby. Shoes are not worn when the veranda is above ground level.



Measure width of door or corridor. Decide length. Buy appropriate amount of fabric (taking into consideration seam allowance), thread, and curtain rod. Cut out main body and loop sections, matching any horizontal pattern or design. Join sides of section A to B, and B to C, by stitching 6 inches down from top of each section. Press seam allowance open. Finish edges of main body and loops by turning raw edges under twice and slipstitching or machine stitching. Corners may be mitered if desired. Fold loops in half lengthwise, right sides together, and stitch. Press seam open and then turn right side out, centering seam. Turn raw edges under. Fold loops in half and place main body of curtain so that 1 inch is between layers. Position rightmost and leftmost loops flush with edges of main body. Center other two loops on seams. Machine stitch or hand sew loops to main body, bearing
in mind weight of curtain and diameter of curtain rod. (Note: The pattern below is for a 35-inch doorway.)
Noren may also be made of strands of hemp, which customers push aside as they enter or leave a shop.
The hot and sultry Japanese summer is unpleasant to say the least. The cold of winter can be overcome by simply putting on more clothing or turning on the heat, but the only ways to resist heat and humidity are by blocking out the sun’s rays and allowing the unfettered passage of air. It is for this reason that Japanese architecture favors a minimum of walls and the use of furniture that can be easily moved to create an open-air style. Although this leads to a loss of visual privacy, there are several means of mitigating this loss while still providing optimal air circulation and obstructing the sun’s rays.


Noren are ungathered split curtains made of cloth or hemp which were used as shades in front of homes as far back as the Heian period. Much later they came to replace the doors of large shops to allow the easy passage of customers. Today they continue this tradition primarily for drinking and eating establishments serving Japanese food.
In addition to providing unusual advertising space for a particular enterprise by displaying the shop’s name, trademark, and specialty, noren are used to indicate when a place is open for business. If no noren can be seen, or if the noren are still behind the door, the establishment is not yet open.
In the home, noren serve as attractive space dividers. They are often hung to block viewing into the kitchen or some other private area from the formal entranceway or from the passageway.
Of all the forms of screening deployed in Japanese interior design, the noren is the softest. Not only is the material soft, but the way in which it is used creates a soft, gentle effect. Since it flutters in the breeze, the noren enables one to “see” the wind, and, when used in conjunction with wind chimes that enable one to “hear” the wind, it is really as though one is “experiencing” the wind. This produces a particularly refreshing feeling during
the hot summer months.


The fact that one has to touch the noren before passing through lends it not only a visual but also a tactile appeal. In fact, the Japanese feel no displeasure at brushing the noren with their heads as they pass through an entranceway. This, however, may be an unfamiliar custom for others, and, since there are times when one’s hair may become disheveled, care should be taken in selecting the most appropriate place and height for noren.
The sudare screen is knotted together from strips of bamboo, and is not as soft as the noren curtain. Consequently, it is rarely used in corridors. As it can be raised or lowered to a desired height, it was originally used as a blind. While the noren may flutter in the breeze, it nevertheless totally restricts visibility, whereas the sudare, as a non-opaque screen, is effective on bright days in allowing those inside to see out while preventing those outside from seeing in. However, in case the scenery is distracting, all one has to do is position oneself far enough from the sudare to solve the problem.
The sudare is usually hung at the edge of the eaves of the veranda or on the outside of windows where, by carefully adjusting the height to which it is unrolled and tied, it can be used to provide relief from the sun’s glare. Furthermore, in our modern residential blocks, it also affords residents much-needed visual protection from the neighboring house. And since one of the characteristics of Japanese garden landscaping is that everything—from moss and stones to garden shrubs—is designed to be appreciated from a low angle, the top half of a window can be covered with a sudare without impairing appreciation of the garden.
Other possibilities include hanging a sudare on the wall and using it as a frame for a scroll or painting. If your home has shoji doors, these may be removed and then replaced with several sudare in the summer. Sudare may also be placed in upright frames and made into a folding room divider.
Marsh Reed Screens The yoshizu is similar to the sudare, but differs in that whereas the sudare is regulated vertically, the yoshizu is drawn from left to right horizontally. It is thus often used in corridors to protect
rooms from the heat of the sun. Like the sudare, it is easily moved or changed, and so ideally suited to shop facades or rooms that receive the light and heat of the sun for only a limited period each day.
The yoshizu can be used to provide protection from the sun by being designed into a kind of pergola. Alternatively it can be used as a fence for the home or garden. In multiple-story apartment blocks, the yoshizu may be fixed to the guardrail on the balcony to provide visual protection as well as a backdrop for a little garden. Like sudare, yoshizu may also be placed in a frame and made into a folding room divider or a beautiful sliding door. It may be used for cupboard doors in the kitchen or the garage or the bathroom.
Propped up against the veranda, yoshizu may be used as a temporary shelter for equipment or a makeshift playhouse for children. It may also provide shade for a vegetable patch.
The aforementioned screening devices, while allowing the passage of air and providing sufficient visual protection, failed in the old days to provide protection against theft. The solution was the development of wooden lattices. Although not as sturdy as iron lattices, the wooden variety found in Japan provided adequate security as well as another source of interior decoration, especially in contrast to white shoji doors and naturalcolored walls.
If the latticed screen is badly deployed, the protective quality is emphasized. It is thus best deployed as an internal partition (for which a wide lattice is recommended). Alternatively, it may be deployed as mere decoration. A more unusual use is to create a stairway effect of lattice and hang this between the kitchen and the living room. Thin latticework, like the sudare and yoshizu, offer numerous possibilities for the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

Out of the fitted wall closet comes a variety of furniture and other everyday items.
Bedding {futon) is removed from the closet and placed on the floor.
In the Western house, the functions of rooms—dining, living, and bed—are clearly defined. In the traditional Japanese house one room can have several functions. The function, and size as well, of a room is determined by usage, and since needs change through the course of the day, one Japanese-style room can act as several of its Western equivalent.

How is this done? This unique system is related to the concept of space in Japanese architecture. Since the roof of a Japanese wood-frame house is supported on pillars, not walls, partitioning does not imply something solid or permanent. The development of movable partitioning such as sliding doors and folding screens evolved in response to this innovative perception of space, and rooms are altered effortlessly and quickly with these in the Japanese house. Rooms in the West, in comparison, are appended one by one and separated from each other by solid walls.
The Japanese idea of setting up a room by surrounding a certain space with movable partitioning and furniture enables the function of a given space to be changed by adding, removing, or redistributing pieces of furniture. As a result, there is an interrelationship of design between the floor, pillars, partitioning devices, and furniture. Just as the size of the brick was originally determined by the size of the human hand, so the size of the Japanese house is gauged in terms of human measurements. The tatami mat, originally designed to accommodate one sleeping person or two standing people, continues to be used today to conceptualize the size of a room, so that even amateurs can try their hand at designing their own home.

Partitioning may be totally removed to create one large room out of two or more rooms to accommodate a large number of guests, thanks to this efficient and ingenious system. Such flexibility is useful not only in accommodating large numbers or changing the function of a room, but also in coping with the contrasting lifestyles occasioned by the Japanese summer and winter. In summer, rooms may be “opened ” and cross ventilation provided by removing partitioning and creating a large room. In winter, by reducing the size of a room, the area to be heated may be controlled and energy consumption reduced. Where’s the Furniture?

Displaying its marvelous adaptability, the shoji in this room responds beautifully to the natural wood floor and ceiling and wood furniture.

Displaying its marvelous adaptability, the shoji in this room responds beautifully to the natural wood floor and ceiling and wood furniture.

A sophisticated partitioning system is easy enough to understand, but why do Japanese homes give the impression of simplicity and, sometimes, emptiness? First of all, the custom of sitting on the floor (see pp. 64-67) and the use of tatami as a kind of chair, table, and bed lead to an economy of furniture. Next, what little furniture there is is stored away in a fitted wall closet found in every room, and articles for use are removed as needed. For example, at the end of the day, futon mattresses, pillows, and blankets are brought out and laid on the tatami floor. Then in the morning, these are returned to the closet and the room is rearranged for use by the family. When it comes to mealtime, a low table and cushions are produced. After the meal is over, the table is cleared, and the family may spend the rest of the evening in the same room watching television.

A split-level arrangement gives this living room an unusual versatility. Guests may be entertained either in the lower zone furnished with chairs, or the upper zone furnished with tatami and cushions

A split-level arrangement gives this living room an unusual versatility. Guests may be entertained either in the lower zone furnished with chairs, or the upper zone furnished with tatami and cushions

This room is quickly and easily transformed into a guest room, complete with its own garden, upon closing the sliding doors. Bedding for guests is stored in the closet area next to the tatami

When the sliding doors here are opened, one large room is created; when closed, three rooms

The wall closet is not particularly noticeable to those unfamiliar with it because it is in effect a kind of opaque sliding door (fusuma) and blends in with the rest of the decor. (See Pls. 55, 57, 76.) In fact, the designs found on the larger sliding doors used to partition rooms, and the doors to these closets, are often coordinated.
These days Japanese houses are a combination of Japanese-and Western-style rooms. The Western-style room is usually carpeted and furnished with desks, chairs, cabinets, stereo systems, etc. In contrast, furniture and decoration in the Japanese-style room are kept to a bare minimum. The tatami in the room gives it a somewhat formal air so that it is often reserved for use as a drawing room, a guest room, or, as will be discussed later, a kind of retreat within the home. For many Japanese, a simple, uncluttered tatami room does-wonders for the soul.
Natural Colors, Natural Materials
The raw materials used in Japanese architecture give rooms quiet, subdued tones. In principle, the floor is laid with tatami of fragrant, light green rush; walls are made of paper (when, for example, shoji are used), wood, or natural-colored clay; and the ceiling constructed of wood or bamboo. Colors tend to be white or light brown; materials are organic; and texture, matt as opposed to gloss.
It is generally held that materials should be deployed in as natural a manner as possible. Paint is thus seldom used. Fortunately, however, and depending on the life span of the material, paper, even tatami, may be replaced and earthen surfaces redaubed. Since wooden buildings can be renovated bit by bit, the life span of the Japanese house can be several hundred years, and the idea of replacing parts, instead of the whole, pervades traditional Japanese attitudes toward building construction.
A Simple Plan for any Home
Construction of a Japanese corner in one’s own home need not be just an idle dream or the task of a professional. Here are some suggestions. First, pick a corner and lay two or more tatami down. Then divide off this space by experimenting with the different kinds of partitions suggested in the following chapters. Bear in mind that the arrangement need not be permanent and that seasonal changes may require alteration. The simplest method is to partition off this area by use of screens. Alternatively, a kind of shoji may be suspended from the ceiling.
A more complicated, but more authentic, method is to erect pillars in four corners and insert either shoji or lattice sliding doors. If possible, raise the level of the Japanese-style room about 12-16 inches above the rest of the house. In this way, a visual clue to remove one’s shoes will be provided, and the Japanese atmosphere emphasized. Later, install a Japanese-style alcove where different objects—a flower arrangement, some pottery, a Japanese sword, a little tansu, a scroll—may be admired. Add a low table and some cushions made of Japanese fabric, serve sushi with hot sake or sake on the rocks, and relax and enjoy a bit of Japan right at home.