Guest contribution by Hannah Thomas
The word “Zen” is what first comes to mind when we think of Japan. Japanese design is characterized by simplicity and minimalistic approach, which ultimately leads to serenity and harmony. The cluttered living is bad for the mind and body, so Japanese modest design is about restoring balance into our lives through a careful choice of elements and colors in our homes.
Ancient tea ceremonies performed in Japanese households are focused on achieving inner peace and deep contemplation while drinking and enjoying tea. This is why there is a special attention paid to designing a tea room in a home where the perfect ambiance for relaxation can be reached. If you are considering creating your own tea room, here’s what you should have in mind.
1. Elements of Nature
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/bonsai-tree-bonsai-tree-small-738463/
Tea is meant to be drunk outside; that’s why it’s important to add natural elements in the room. Place traditional Japanese plants in the corners, such as bonsai and bamboo. Of course, adding more greenery of any kind will heighten the feeling of being close to nature. Sleek plants like orchid or palm will give a touch of simple elegance to the space.
2. Alcove (tokonoma)
Tokonoma is a recessed alcove that’s often decorated by a hanging stroll, usually changed at the beginning of every season in order to reflect it. Tokonoma has gained popularity in many European countries like Norway, Sweden, and the UK – actually, in any country where gardening is art. It is an unmissable element of a tea room, as it’s one of the essentials of Japanese design. if you don’t want to change it every season, choose one for the whole year.
3. Low tables
Image source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1395443
A traditional Japanese room should have a low table, as it’s common to sit on the floor, that is, on a tatami mat or a cushion. If you experience colder months, you can buy a heatable low table (kotatsu), which is popular not only in Japan but also in northern countries. Their specificity is in the upper part covered by a blanket, while it gets heated from the underneath.
4. Tatami mats
This type of mat is thick and made of woven straws and is usually two meters in size. Every traditional Japanese home has it, to that extent that rooms in Japan are measured by the number of mats that could fit in them. Bear in mind that you should only be stepping onto tatami barefoot.
5. Translucent sliding doors
Image source: https://www.maxpixel.net/Shoji-Japan-House-Japanese-Paper-Bran-1604870
Shoji, a special kind of sliding doors is made of wooden lattices which are covered with translucent paper that allows the light entering or a dash of fresh air. A slightly different version of shoji, also used in China, has a sheet of glass on one side of the door. Alternatively, sliding panels can be moved up and down instead of right and left – a version popular in European countries for practical reasons.
6. Presence of light
The right presence of natural light is very important for the tea room. In Japan, windows are frequently covered with rice paper. This unique translucent paper diffuse natural light that shines in the room, which creates a highly serene ambiance needed to enjoy the tea ceremony. In other countries, a great alternative is often used. Basswood is used for shutters that achieve the same effect – they are able to adjust according to the changes in the light. Timber, like the one used for plantation shutters in Sydney, Australia, is adjusted to the air moisture in a specific room, so the natural processes in the tea room aren’t interrupted.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t go too far with the elements. Minimalism is the direction to follow, so it’s not just about WHAT you put in the tea room; it’s also HOW MANY elements you use.
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