Applying Japanese Design Principles to Your Life and Home

In our previous blog post about Japanese minimalism, we discussed key principles that helped shape traditional Japanese culture and how you can apply them to your home. This article will be a continuation with a focus on key Japanese design principles that form Wabi-Sabi, which is finding beauty in imperfection (in simple terms). In zen philosophy, wabi-sabi is to achieve the state of awareness and acceptance of transient or temporary things.


Kanso means simplicity and the elimination of clutter. This one is one of the more recognizable principles as it is a core pillar of minimalism. The act of decluttering is meant to eliminate the non-essentials and things that have no value in your home or life. By keeping it simple, there is more room for headspace and clarity.

How to Apply

Take a look around your home at your household items and consider these: Does this item serve a functional purpose? Is it used often? Is it needed? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you should get rid of it or stow it away for occasional use when you need it.

japanese minimalist interior design with kanso; simplicity and declutteringFukinsei

Fukinsei means irregularity or asymmetry. It stems from the zen aesthetic where balance is achieved through a composition of various irregular or asymmetrical elements. A great example would be nature, there are various elements and lifeforms that create the beautiful balance of nature. 

How to Apply

Your home should have asymmetrical balance as well, certain rooms that you spend more time in should have more daylight while others are fine with less. Your living space should have an irregular mix of furniture, decor, and open space. All of these elements together in harmony form a home that meets your specific needs. 


Shizen means naturalness. The absence of artificial elements means less pretense or false impression. Rather than overdecorating to make something appear appealing, it's better to have a natural setting, making it more relatable. Shizen can be applied to human behavior as well, it's better to be yourself (natural) than pretend to be something you’re not. 

How to Apply 

Avoid unnecessary decorative items or furnishings that create an artificial appearance rather than a natural looking home. It’s perfectly fine to buy houseplants you like even though it may not “match” with the room. We sometimes get carried away with creating a desired aesthetic for our home that we forget about function and practicality—keep it simple. 

organized minimalist kitchen with large picture window showing natureDatsuzoku

Datsuzoku means freedom from habit or transcending the conventional. Rather than always following what’s popular, trendy, or exciting, it’s good to go beyond the norm and get creative. Conventional design concepts are a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to try new ideas that seem “out there”. 

How to Apply

Change things up in your home–move around furniture and decorations, switch up your daily routines and do something spontaneous, bring DIY ideas to life–just try a bunch of new things. Find out what you enjoy (or not like) through experimentation. 


Find ways to apply Kanso, Fukinsei, Shizen, and Datsuzoku to your home and life in order to appreciate and find beauty in imperfections (wabi-sabi). These key Japanese design principles can be applied to aesthetics as well as life.