The Prince Akatoki London Hotel has been awarded an OPAL (Outstanding Property Award London) for interior design, recognising the establishment’s successful fusion of Japanese design principles within the urban setting. Shelley Ferguson discovers seven ways Japanese design inspires spaces that are sanctuaries for the soul.
It connects you to nature
Rather than trying to achieve a particular look or trend Japanese design reflects and integrates deep cultural beliefs, one being that nature is a force to be respected and revered. Nature and architecture appear seamless in many Japanese designs, with the outside world seeming to ‘flow’ through many buildings. The Prince Akatoki has taken inspiration from this philosophy including large picture windows, clever shared spaces and a natural colour palette to achieve a feeling of openness and calm.
It lets in natural light
It’s scientifically proven that natural light contributes to people being calmer, happier and healthier. However, it also has practical benefits that are embraced by the Japanese. It saves energy by eliminating the need for so much artificial light, and in big cities where spaces are smaller it adds a sense of space. Light is cleverly manipulated to act as a natural interior designer with skylights, framing and aspect used to create beautiful pattern plays throughout spaces. Shoji screens are made using timber framing and paper inserts to let light through yet still create privacy.
Spaces are flexible
The food and beverage space at the Akatoki is multi-functional, easily transitioning from a daytime tearoom to an evening whisky bar. Flexible spaces are embraced in Japanese design so areas can be used for different purposes during the day – especially in urban areas where space is at a premium. Furniture is often simple yet multi-purpose and made of quality natural materials to achieve timeless designs that lasts. Futon beds are designed to be easily stowed away, screens provide vertical interest but also cleverly create rooms within rooms, and floor cushions and mats create moveable zones.
It stimulates the senses
Traditional Japanese culture encourages people to be more contemplative, to connect with the environment around them and to live in the moment. Even though it’s situated in a big city, this boutique hotel helps clients slow down by offering sensory experiences for the body and mind from massage to meditation and dedicated space for simple rituals like yoga and tea ceremonies.
It celebrates craftsmanship
The Prince Akatoki London Hotel has honoured craft’s long and rich history in Japan by collaborating with makers on unique objects to display. In order for objects to be classified as craft in Japan, they must meet strict requirements, contributing to centuries of unwavering quality. Common crafts include ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, wood, weaving and papermaking, created by makers who have been using the same techniques for centuries. There is a deep attachment to each object which eschews modern throw-away culture – each piece is made to serve a purpose and last for life. While Japanese design doesn’t feature much embellishment, small cultural decorations like a symbolic painting, water feature, hand-painted silkscreen, woven tatami mat or small floral arrangement (ikebana) are often featured.
Wabi-sabi is embraced
Have you ever looked closely at a ceramic and been inspired to touch its textured surface and slightly misshapen figure? If the answer is yes then you have appreciated wabi-sabi, something you’ll discover while dining at the Prince Akatoki London Hotel. While it’s difficult to put such a beautiful and emotional concept into words, wabi-sabi is loosely described as the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Wabi-sabi has gained popularity in recent years, perhaps because it’s the antithesis of the perfection sought by many in the modern world.
Clean architectural lines and minimalism feature at the Prince Akatoki London Hotel. A lack of clutter, cleanliness and a sense of order is an obvious feature of Japanese design, and while this is due to functional architecture being championed it’s also born from a belief that you don’t need much. If there is one overarching lesson we can learn from Japanese design it’s that life is beautiful in its simplicity.