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4 principles to design your dream Japanese kitchen

If someone asks you to think of Japan, before the bustling cities, state of the art technology and the tranquil mountains, we imagine the first thing most of us would start to think of is the incredible food. From cleansing miso soups, and delicate sashimi to oh-so enticing tempura dishes. Japanese food has a reputation for being pared back, considered and visually stunning. So, it’s no surprise then that the very same could be said for the kitchens where these delights are prepared.

Historically, Japanese culture has had a profound influence on Western art and design ever since trade between the UK and Japan opened up in the 1850s, and ultimately became one of the key influencers of the Bauhaus and modernist schools of design. All this means that even a fairly traditional Japanese kitchen, seems sleek and modern. Japanese kitchen design isn’t just beautiful, it’s practical, even for very small spaces. So, if you think you’d like to add some Japanese flair to your kitchen here’s a few guiding principles to help you on your way.

 Image Credit: Rational. Cadre New For 2017 Image Credit: Rational. Cadre New For 2017

Stick to natural materials

Wabi-sabi is a traditional concept of Japanese aesthetics that has developed a lot of traction with designers and artists alike over the years. Deriving itself from an ancient buddhist teaching it champions qualities such as economy, simplicity and appreciating the overt beauty of basic, natural materials such as timber.

Above all other materials the Japanese have a love of wood. Therefore for things such as your counters, chairs and tables,  it’s a real no brainer when it comes to deciding what material you should use.

You may be tempted to save some cash and go for an MDF, or laminate imitation, but avoid this if you can. While, there are many convincing imitation woods, they never feel completely right. Invest in some good quality furnishings and fittings made from the real deal, with a simple clear or dark treatment. They may cost more, but they are more pleasing to touch and with a small amount of care and attention will last far longer.

 Image Credit:  Vincent and Barn Ltd. Industrial Table - Medium. Image Credit:  Vincent and Barn Ltd. Industrial Table – Medium.

Pared down colour schemes

When it comes to colour schemes, in keeping with the influence of nature, Japanese design really celebrates the use of natural colours for decor in a simple and understated fashion. So called earthy colours such as brown and green can be used to great effect.

Neutral and monochromatic colours, such as the black and white patterns of the shoji screens, that are synonymous with Japanese interior design, are also a good choice.

 Image Credit: Nedgis. Suspension Octo, bois, de Seppo Koho - Secto Design Image Credit: Nedgis. Suspension Octo, bois, de Seppo Koho – Secto Design

Embrace those straight lines

Japanese design has always been admired for the simplicity and elegance created through the use of basic geometric forms, therefore when planning out your kitchen you should try to accentuate the usage of clean, straight-line to create an overarching feeling of fluidity in the room.

Don’t feel you have to create a perfectly symmetrically designed room, however. Going back to the Wabi-sabi concept, Japanese design actually relishes the lack of symmetry within a space, to emphasise the form and beauty of independent objects.

 Image Credit: Wharfside. Linee Kitchen by Team 7 Image Credit: Wharfside. Linee Kitchen by Team 7

Plan to keep the space as open as possible

‘Ma’ is a Japanese word which basically means ‘gap’ or ‘space’. However, it’s far more complex than this, Wikipedia defines it as “a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision.” Now, this may sound highly airy-fairy to some, however, It is thought that this concept was the guiding influence behind the midcentury modernist embracement of open plan design in domestic architecture.

There’s no denying that the feeling of space is a pleasant and tranquil experience. Therefore in your attempt to create a Japanese-influenced kitchen, you should try and keep the space as open as possible. You may think your home is too small for this to work, but remember that the typical kitchen of a Japanese apartment is incredibly small.

It’s not so much to do with the size of the room, it’s more about the efficiency of how you layout the room. Aim to keep counters as clear as possible and embrace clever storage solutions, so that everything ‘has a place’ keeping the overall room feeling decluttered and airy.

What’s best for you?

Of course, you do not need to create a new kitchen that is solely influenced by Japanese design and follows the Wabi-sabi concept completely. If you see anything you like, however, you should try and see how adding it to your space will change the feel of your kitchen. We bet it would be a notable improvement.

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