8 Japanese-Inspired Spaces We Love

8 Japanese-Inspired Spaces We Love

The small archipelago in the Pacific Ocean has had a big influence on architects and designers across the globe, from São Paulo to the Czech Republic.
Text by

Known for its subtle, simple forms and use of natural materials like wood and paper, Japanese architecture has been an inspiration for modern architects and designers outside of Japan since the early-20th century. In contemporary architecture, it remains influential and aspirational in everything from the exterior of a home and its cladding to the minute details of wood joinery and cabinetry—landscaping elements to light fixtures. Here, we take a look at projects where Japanese architectural elements and concepts including shoji screens, shou sugi ban techniques, wood joinery, paneling, and wabi-sabi have had a deep impact on the design.

1) Brazilian Home With a Touch of Japanese Zen

At this home in São Paulo by Jacobsen Arquitectura, wood and concrete take the front stage, with wood battens filtering light and folding into the exposed-wood beam ceiling. The dynamic rhythm and incorporation of plants is reminiscent of Japanese landscaped gardens, with their understated aesthetic and repeated design elements.

Referring to the design aesthetic as "Japanese rustic modern," this 1,000-square-foot summer home in Asheville, Georgia, by ASD/Sky was inspired by wooden bungalows they saw during a trip to Kyoto, Japan. The exterior's stained-pine boards were intended to mimic the look of traditional shou sugi ban, where the outer layer of wood is charred to protect it from rot and fire.

Named after its charred-larch cladding, this tearoom designed by Czech studio A1 Architects sits next to a lake in a woodland area near the city of Česká Lípa in the Czech Republic. Its sliding doors can be opened for enhanced connectivity with the surrounding nature, or closed to create a more secluded oasis. At the center of the space is a hearth with a teapot suspended from a sisial rope-domed ceiling above it.

In a home in Toronto designed by Studio Junction, several Japanese pieces in the bathroom, including a bowl, stool, and custom bathtub, are crafted from hinoki, a bacteria-resistant Japanese cedar that prevents mildew and withstands humidity. 

Inspired by the work of renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando, landscape architect Mary Barensfeld designed this backyard in Berkeley, California, with geometric concrete terracing, a reflecting pool, and a white granite patio. The board-formed concrete retaining walls double as ramps to allow access to the top of the garden.

During Webber + Studio's renovation and expansion of a midcentury home, the architects sought to imbue a sense of "wabi-sabi," or imperfection in beauty, with an irregularly shaped pool and dappled light that's provided by a nearby tree. Large stepping stones and a garden gate also reference Japanese elements.

Midcentury architect Gene Zema, known for his Pacific Northwest mix of modernism and Japanese architecture, designed this house around 1974 to emphasize the texture and color of the exposed wood. Revitalized and renovated by SHED Architecture & Design, the stained-fir walls and beams contrast with the white walls, while simple paper light fixtures give it an elegant glow.

In Hong Kong, where real estate is at a premium, elegant storage solutions inspired by Japanese mobile cabinetry were a starting point for local practice MNB Design Studio. With an eye towards the structure and folded joints of origami, the designers created an open wooden framework of hollowed spaces that create flexible and open storage for clothing.


Last Updated


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.