15 products to build a Japanese-inspired flexi-room

PHOTO: Tí Furniture

The pandemic has forced many of us to reconsider the way we use our space at home.

With our work life transplanted into our domestic life and our nearest and dearest are now also our coworkers, we may not have the luxury of having spaces dedicated to just one specific function all the time.

A living room may have to be the office during the day, the dining room may have to be the kids’ classroom outside of makan time.

The Japanese are ahead of us when it comes to spatial multifunctionality.

Having to deal with frequent earthquakes, their traditional houses are filled with portable, light and loose design elements that can be reconfigured or cleared with ease to suit the dwellers’ needs.

In fact, the central feature of a traditional Japanese house is an open room without a specific function called the washitsu, which translates to a generic “Japanese room”.

Washitsu’s function depends on the needs of its occupants.

In its default state, it is an empty space with tatami flooring, shoji doors that can be slid open to let the fresh air and natural light inside, and, if the homeowner can afford to be a bit fancier, a tokonoma, or an alcove to display ornamental or precious things like a potted bonsai or ikebana arrangements.

This philosophy seems particularly relevant to our times. So here are some elements to help you put your own spin on Washitsu. 

Diagram by Alam Mulyana. PHOTO: Alam Mulyana

Portable pieces

Consider loose and compact furniture pieces that can be stowed away or collapsed to clear the room for the next activity.

1. Ariake summit chair

PHOTO: P5 Studio

A classic Scandinavian chair reimagined with the compact Japanese spatial proportion.

Available from P5 Studio, price by request. www.p5studio.com.

2. Muji bead sofa


A Japanese take on a bean bag sofa.

$169 for the sofa and $49 for the knitted cover. Available from www.muji.com.

3. Tatami 9-in-1 sofa bed

PHOTO: Tatami Shop

Made with genuine tatami from Japan and can be used in nine different ways and stowed away neatly when not in use.

Retail starts from $1,175 from www.tatamishop.com.

Convertible systems

Opt for furniture systems that can be expanded in size or converted into other functions, like a work desk that flips into a bed, or a retractable dining table.

1. Kitchoo K6 pocket kitchen

PHOTO: Kitchoo

An ingenious Swiss- technology pocket kitchen that requires only 1.54 sqm to function.

Starts from €4,600 (S$7,200) from www.kitchoo.com.

2. Slumberdesk

PHOTO: Spaceman

A desk that transforms into a bed, instantly converting a home office into a bedroom.

$3,900 from www.spaceman.com.

3. Murphy study desk & shelf

PHOTO: Tí Furniture

A cosy workstation that flips into a bed frame with a complimentary mattress.

$2,599 from www.ti-furniture.com.sg.

Ti Furniture 1100, #02-02A Lower Delta Rd, Epl Building, 169206. Tel: 9324-5243

4. Delta dining table

PHOTO: Spaceman

A 2.9-metre dining table that can be retracted into a 40cm-wide console when not in use.

Starts from $2,888 from www.spaceman.com 

Access to air, light and view 

Consider sliding doors to let natural light and air in.

If privacy is needed, or the view is less than ideal, use screens and partition. Don’t forget the artificial lighting to set the mood.

1. Shoji door

PHOTO: Tatami Shop

Authentic sliding shoji made to order in Japan.

Price by request, available from www.tatamishop.com.

2. Stellar works blink screen

PHOTO: P5 Studio

Add a little industrial touch with this modernist piece designed by Yabu Pushelberg.

Price by request from P5 Studio www.p5studio.com.

3. Maison Lacroix Finition Onyx large screen

PHOTO: Roche Bobois Singapore

Featuring six 25-mm-thick plywood panels with stainless steel edges etched with an exquisite motif on both sides, design by luxury fashion house Christian Lacroix for French brand Roche Bobois. Each side features different design.

$19,800 from Roche Bobois Singapore. 

4. The New Old divider

PHOTO: Kimu Design

The transformative nature of The New Old Divider allows the user to easily maintain a sense of freshness in any space through varying configurations of the paper fan.

Price by request. Available at www.kimudesign.com.

5. Santa & Cole Cestita Batteria lamp

PHOTO: W.Atelier

Reminiscent of Japanese lanterns, Cestita Batería is equipped with a rechargeable lithium battery and built-in LED unit, making it a convenient and atmospheric source of light at home or in places with no electricity.

Price by request. Available from www.watelier.com.

Add a dash of fancy

Most Japanese living rooms are designed with a tokonoma (alcove) to display precious things.

Consider a modern interpretation of a place to display your most precious objects like these:

1. Ariake Kumiko cabinet

PHOTO: P5 Studio

Featuring a built-in screen that casts a playful shadow when you put a light inside.

Retails from $8,505 at  www.p5studio.com.sg.

2. Fritz Hansen Ikebana vases

PHOTO: W.Atelier

The Jaime-Hayon-designed vases interpret Ikebana for modern times.

Starts from $295 from Fritz Hansen Lounge Singapore by W.Atelier www.watelier.com

3. Santa & Cole table lamp

PHOTO: W.Atelier

Both a lamp and a small display table, this lamp features embedded light strips that illuminates your tabletop and a place to display your small precious objects, just like a tokonoma.

Price by request. Available from www.watelier.com.

This article was first published in Home & Decor.