The study of Japanese philosophy for Yu's house design

Ms. Kalunyoo Sipiyaruk

Introduction :

Yu’s house is a townhome at Sukhumvit 54, built with the philosophy of Japanese minimalism for a 4-member family with multi-function space that can be turned into various functions in the future, such as a tea room, workshop space for Japanese confections called Wakashi, and also a bedroom for a retired parent.

The owner of the house is a person who loves Japanese culture, especially tea ceremony (茶道, Chado) and making Japanese sweets (和菓子,Wagashi). The expectation is that this house could be a gathering place for those who love the same aesthetic tastes, where they can enjoy the Matcha ceremony and also learn to make Wagashi. As a result, the designers have taken account the Japanese way of life, which emphasizes coziness, simplicity, and also being timeless even in the future. Despite being a row house, it adheres to the Japanese minimalist style.

The philosophy of Japanese minimalism is a way of life, not just a design or decorating aesthetic. It’s a way of life that embraces austerity and simplicity via the use of the three key methods:

1.Zen: In term of design, removing unnecessary material possessions from our lives, we can begin to focus on what’s truly important.

2. Wabi-sabi: The way of this aesthetic emphasizes simplicity and minimalism and the use of natural materials like wood, stone, and metal.

3. Ma: The concept can be described as the space and time. It is applied to be multi-function room in Japanese house.

From the methods above, we can conclude that the most important aspect of Japanese minimalism is removing unnecessary material possessions from our lives to declutter our physical space, which allows us more room for what matters and helps us concentrate on what’s truly important. Therefore, the interior design, which creates a space to meet the need for efficient and functional design even in the future, is vital. This has resulted in the creation of many innovative and one-of-a-kind designs, as well as creative methods for organizing interior spaces to allow users to find happiness in the little things and live in the present moment.


1. To study the design philosophy of the Japanese way of living toward interior design.

2. To create multi-functions to reach customers’ behavior and requirements, especially for elderly use in the future.

3. To study the selection of budget-friendly alternative materials instead of using expensive natural materials.


1. Survey and Information Analysis: The process started with site surveying and competitive strategy analysis followed by gathering information from the owner then making a discussion with all designer parties for determining an overall initial conceptual design.

2. Conceptual and Preliminary Designs: After architectural drawings were issued by the architect team, interior design process continued with alternative furniture layout plans, initial design sketching, 3D perspective rendering, and presentation

3. Proposal Approval: A meeting with the owner would hold for conceptual presentation and taking the owner’s comments for further development.

4. Design Development: When the preliminary designs were approved by the owner, the interior design team would take all feedback from the owner and continued the Tender drawing for contractor bidding.

5. Construction Drawing and Specification Document: Construction drawing packages would be started after Value Engineering (VE) process.

Techniques and Materials:

– Hand sketch

– AutoCAD

– SketchUp

– 3D Max

– Photoshop

– 4 of A2 Presentation Boards


Based on the owner’s appreciation of Japanese tea ceremonies and confections, the concept of Japanese living would be applied to the interior design of this project, which mentions a simple life style to focus on the interesting topic. The design is inspired by the aesthetics of traditional Japanese Zen Buddhism. Also known as Japanese minimalism,

it is based on the following three practices: Picture 1: Diagram of minimalist living


Zen (禅)

Zen is a sect of Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on the practice of the truth, known as “satori” which is the attainment of enlightenment into a state of absence, “pure emptiness,” practiced by reducing one’s ego and leaving the desires and ranks that cause the mind to be distracted. As Wei Lang’s poem said, “How can the dust settle if there is no glass? Everything was empty from the beginning.”

The concept teaches that enlightenment comes when one sees things as they are, without the clouding influences of one’s ego. The design that conveys “Zen” is to reduce the additives. over-decoration the various forms of bragging that lead to ego or arrogance.


Wabi-Sabi (侘寂)

Wabi is about recognizing beauty in humble simplicity. It invites us to open our heart and detach from the vanity of materialism so we can experience spiritual richness instead. Sabi is concerned with the passage of time, the way all things grow, age, and decay, and how it manifests itself beautifully in objects. It suggests that beauty is hidden beneath the surface of what we actually see, even in what we initially perceive as broken. The concept is about accepting the natural cycle of life and finding beauty in the imperfections that come with it. The way of wabi-sabi aesthetics emphasizes simplicity and minimalism and the use of natural materials like wood, stone, and metal.


Ma (間)

Ma represents a period in time or an emptiness in space. It is a break time and place in your life to connect the body and consciousness in order to examine the cause of the action without relying solely on feelings. Ma can be described as the space between things or the interval of time between two events can be. It is applied to be multi-function room in Japanese house. All of the above concepts will lead to the design of a 2-storey row house with a layout that takes account changes in future use and emphasizes simple design that shows humility by selecting materials that are close to nature and attempting to bring the outside environment into the interior while maintaining privacy.


Function requirement

The owners require to have 2 bedrooms for couples and retired parents on the second floor. The ground floor is a living area with a pantry that can be converted into a space for a Japanese sweets class and tea ceremony. In addition, the ground floor must be able to have an area that can be converted into a bedroom for the elderly in the future.

As a result, the ground floor plan is an open layout in order to connect the living areas, the dining area, and the kitchen, which are contiguous areas as follows:

1. The large living area can accommodate 4-6 people.

2. In order to create simple cabinet panels for neatness, equipment and appliances are arranged in cabinets along the length of the wall.

3. For convenience, the dining area is located next to the kitchen, with an open plan arrangement in case the dining table is expanded to accommodate more seats when doing workshop activities.

4. A multipurpose room was set up for tea ceremonies and can be converted into a bedroom for the elderly in the future.

5. The restroom is set up to eventually feature a senior-friendly shower space.


The 2nd floor area has 2 large bedrooms with a shared bathroom. The planning concept is as follows:

1. The parent’s bedroom is located at the front of the house. According to Feng Shui principles, the bedhead is facing north, and wardrobes run the entire length of the wall to create neatness. There is a space for television installation according to the mother’s needs.

2. The owner’s bedroom contains all of the elements found in the parents’ bedrooms, but it is slightly smaller and lacks a television. Moreover, this room is located at the back of the house, where it can see other buildings. Therefore, a steel grille is installed for more privacy, and it could be a place to plant a pergola in the future.

3. The bathroom is separated into dry and wet areas for hygiene, to prevent slipping during use, and to provide convenience for cleaning.


Material Selection

According to the concept, it emphasizes simplicity and minimalism with the use of natural materials like wood, stone, and metal. Due to the budget limit, the selection of materials will use substitute materials that have a texture that is close to nature, such as wood laminate panels, wood- patterned vinyl tiles, stone-patterned tiles, and terrazzo to save on construction costs but still feel natural.


Interior Design

1. The living room is furnished with a low sofa, so the seat height is not significantly different when additional floor cushions are added if there are more guests than usual.

2. The dining table is chosen as a size for 6–8 seats in case it can be converted to a table for the Japanese confection workshop class. The table’s material will be solid wood for strength and durability. Moreover, the wall behind the building will be made of glass blocks to receive natural light during the day but still provide privacy.

3. Storage cabinets and kitchen cabinets’ door panels are finished with wood laminate without handles for simplicity. The matcha bowls are stored on a shelf that can be closed with a special fitting, so the door panels can be folded and hidden beside the cabinet. The shelf is usually closed for unpretentiousness, but it will be opened when there are tea ceremony events.

4. The multipurpose room is decorated in a traditional Japanese style for a tea ceremony. The platform is raised 40 centimeters high and covered with tatami mats. A cabinet has been prepared to store floor cushions and a folding table. This room could be converted into a bedroom for the elderly in the future by laying a Japanese futon and installing sliding doors for future privacy.

5. The bathroom will be finished with travertine stone pattern tiles that have a porous surface to create an atmosphere of Wabi-Sabi imperfections.

6. Both bedrooms provide built-in wardrobes along the wall with plain finishes (wood laminate) and without handles for a minimalist look. Other pieces of furniture in the room will be loose and adjustable for future use.

7. The design of the 2nd floor bathroom is identical to that of the 1st floor bathroom but has more detail in the shelf design. It will make a base 10 centimeters deep, covered with travertine pattern tiles as well as the wall.


Overall, the design of this project is minimalist, not Japanese style, but it is inspired by Japanese philosophy, including Zen, Wabi-Sabi, and Ma. Firstly, the layout planning creates a space to meet the requirement for an efficient and functional event in the future. Then make the design simple by removing unnecessary material from the construction to help the dwellers concentrate on what’s truly important, as well as by using creative methods for organizing furniture to allow users to find happiness in the present moment.


Junichiro Tanizaki, (2022). In Praise of Shadows. (3rd ed.). Bangkok: Openbooks Publishing Inc.

Beth Kempton, (June, 2020). Wabi-Sabi. (1st ed.). Bangkok: Be(ing) Publishing Inc.

Leonard Koren, (2018). Wabi-Sabi. (2nd ed.). Bangkok: Openbooks Publishing Inc.

Foyr, (2018). Japanese Interior Design: Minimalist Sophistication. Retrieved January 6, 2023.