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.