3 Japanese Design Philosophies You Need To Know

3 Japanese Design Philosophies You Need To Know

Japanese is a language with an innate lyricism and rhythm. It is the mother tongue of the Haiku, a tiny poem that in just 17 syllables promises to break your heart or instil some universal truth. And just as the Haiku is soulful and sweet, so are the Japanese philosophies that are captivating the imaginations of designers and homeowners in 2018.

Split into several distinct parts, Japanese aesthetics can be best understood through the creations of contemporary designers. While verbal translations can often lead to slippages in meaning, design manages to distil what words cannot, offering us an artistic way into these elusive Eastern ideas.

Chaplins Duo Tobi Ishi - Japanese

First up is the principle of Fukinsei, captured effortlessly by B&B Italia’s Tobi Ishi Dining Table. Fukinsei highlights the flawed, asymmetric beauty of the natural world, which is full of harmonious relationships that are contrasted yet balanced. The asymmetric proportions of this stylish dining table establish an arresting focal point, a moment of synchrony in a hectic, modern world. Its calming appearance inspires us to get back to the dining table with family and connect in whatever way we can, putting an end to dinners spent in front of the TV. The takeaway here is that complimentary things are rarely identical, and through the meeting of different personalities and styles, true harmony can be found.

Datsuzoku asks us to transcend convention, claiming that only when a well-worn pattern is broken can true creativity and resourcefulness emerge. We are all products of our environment, yet we don’t realise the stifling influence a poorly planned home can have on us.

Noguchi Coffee Table - Cut Out

One man who set to break with convention was the Japanese sculptor, Isamu Noguchi. His eponymous Noguchi Coffee Table was designed in 1947 and eschewed traditional templates of what a modern coffee table should be. Instead of the predictable four legs, he created a mesmerising sculpted base with a freeform glass top. It has since gone on to become an icon of 20th-century design, gifting style and sinuosity to homes all over the world. He proved that revitalizing your home with gorgeous design isn’t just about aesthetics. Surrounding yourself with furniture that surprises and delights is an excellent way to stay inspired and kick-start new routines.

While each of the teachings offers a new lesson, they often overlap and interconnect, revealing a peaceful existence that is in stark contrast to our breathless Western lifestyle. Shizen contemplates nature as an act of deliberate design, devoid of pretence and charged with creative intent. The appraising eye of the designer lives on in every creation, and in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic, Shizen defines the grace that comes with age.


Antonio Citterio’s SAKé sofa exemplifies this principle, a modern lounger that became “a platform on which to float in peace”. Delicately suspended off the floor, this elegant modern sofa is enclosed by a luxurious border of leather cushions that only become more beautiful with the patina of use. Its pared back form is stylish without being flashy, understated yet inspiring, a timeless design to last the ages.


Shizen also translates to a desire to be ‘of nature’ yet somehow distinct from it, a concept that is eloquently expressed in Umut Yamac’s Perch Collection for Moooi. In a wonderful display of contemporary lighting design, several birds balance on a metal perch, free to swing when touched or blown. Their moving joints allow for a joyful interaction between user and object, one that is fleeting yet sweet. Available as a table, floor, pendant or wall light, each carefully crafted bird emits a serene gush of illumination, powered by ecologically efficient LED bulbs.

CHAPLINS Perch Branch Pendant Light by Moooi

In a world intent on moving ever faster, these Japanese philosophies ask us to rediscover a gentle joyfulness in our physical environment, trusting in the power of good design to dissolve into our everyday behaviour. To discover more inspiring designs, head over to the Chaplins website at www.chaplins.co.uk, or pay a visit to our 25,000 sq ft showroom in Hatch End.


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