Japanese interiors – updated traditional farmhouses

Japanese country interior - lo res

The photo above shows the central living area of a rural farmhouse on the border of Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures. The house was restored by Kenji Tsuchisawa who bought it as a rundown heap when he was only 20, after seeing a photograph of a traditional Japanese farmhouse on a Tokyo magazine cover. He bought the house before realizing it was situated just one village away from the house in the magazine.

Many Japanese traditional farmhouses have now been restored and modernized, but the layout of these houses is so clever in terms of use of space and comfort that when they are updated, the original layout is often retained. It’s a house model being studied by North American and European architects aiming to produce smaller but more functional houses. Traditional Japanese houses are not large, but they seem larger than they are thanks to their well-thought-out layout. And their serene, warm version of minimalism makes them comfortable and functional. The use of natural materials and repeated colours makes the rooms feel balanced and uncluttered, and so does the fact that most objects have a real function. Decorative elements exist, but not to excess. When these houses are modernized carefully, the main alteration is usually the replacement of the original exterior doors and windows, and trading the sliding shoji screen doors and windows for more sturdily framed glass doors, windows and skylights to let in more light and keep out the weather.

Japanese country interior - lo res

Both photos above show the traditional indoor fire pit known as an irori, which sometimes sits on a raised seating platform, though in the photo above the irori has been traded for a more efficient (and safer) wood stove. The beautiful half-frosting on the glass screen doors in the photo above provides some privacy from the fairly public courtyard for people seated inside. Photos are from a book I think is really worth buying: Japan Country Living: Spirit, Tradition, Style, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, photographs by Shin Kimura, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan, 1993. Kimura’s work has also appeared in Met Home and Paris Vogue.

Checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo

Above is a checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed, handwovern hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo, on the verandah of his thatched house. It provides privacy (it appears opaque from outside, below) and yet from inside it admits light and the view.

Checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo

Below, a functional modern kitchen produced by making only minor changes to the original.

Somewhat modernized kitchen in traditional Japanese rural house

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4 Responses to “Japanese interiors – updated traditional farmhouses”

  1. ii-ne-kore Says:

    beautiful. i know i will be straight onto amazon.com thanks to your book recommendation!

  2. Nikko Moy Says:


  3. melonpan Says:

    it looks so cozy! i want to live there

  4. Ray Dan Says:

    I have always been curious about the functionality and utility of the Irori (which I never knew the name of untill now 🙂 ) It was a very useful article, thank you!

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