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Japanese Style Bathroom

Last Updated Nov 7, 2012 · Written by Rob Schneider

Often cited as an inspiration for the minimalist look that is sweeping Australia, Japanese style has a sparse, yet natural appeal that can be found nowhere else. While Japanese style gardens have been popular in Australia for some time, the Japanese style bathroom is a relatively new concept in this country. How do you get the look of a Japanese style bathroom in an Australian bathroom and why would you want to?

Hallmarks of a Japanese Bathroom

The traditional Japanese bathroom is quite a bit different from the traditional Western bathroom. While we jump into a hot bath in order to both clean and relax, the Japanese bath first in a separate room and then step into the bath to relax. While it is not necessary to mimic the traditional Japanese bathing style, the philosophy behind it is one of the secrets of the appeal of Japanese style bathrooms:
  • To the Japanese, getting clean and relaxing in a bathtub are 2 very different things. In a Western context, it is similar to bathing before entering a spa bath.
  • While we tend to think of the bathroom as a utilitarian "water closet" designed for a quick shower, the Japanese tend to think of it as a room designed for extended relaxation and enjoyment.
Another hallmark of a Japanese bathroom is the elegant simplicity of its design. The typical Western bathroom can look cluttered and "busy" in comparison. While an Australian bathroom often has patterned floor tiles and contrasting feature tiles on the walls, flooring and tiling in a Japanese style bathroom is monochromatic and subdued, with grey or beige being favoured over primary colours.

How to Get the Japanese Style Bathroom Look

The best way to start is with a blank canvas, so to speak. If you are going to be renovating an existing bathroom, imagine it completely empty. If you take the more extreme step of actually gutting the room before you finalise your plans, you'll be surprised how much larger the room appears. This is because the typical Australian bathroom is so compartmentalised. Your goal now is to put everything you need into your new bathroom without making it appear cramped and cluttered again. This is easier to achieve than you may imagine:
  • Choose a pale, natural colour for your floor and wall tiles. To make the room appear even wider and taller, choose wide, narrow wall tiles instead of square tiles.
  • Instead of installing a separate shower enclosure, consider the "wet room" look. A wet room basically includes a shower, but no shower screen. For more about wet rooms, check out out article, How to Create a Wet Room.
  • Choose a minimalist designed, wall mounted toilet instead of a traditional toilet.
  • Natural touches, like timber shelves or a natural stone benchtop basin give the room character that otherwise may be lacking.
  • Modern minimalist taps and other bathroom fittings are perfect for Japanese style bathrooms.
The centrepiece of the Japanese style bathroom is the bathtub. Whether you choose to install a spa bath or a free standing tub, arrange all the other elements in the room to complement it. If the bathtub is stuck in a corner like an afterthought, it is not a Japanese style bathroom.

For inspiration, have a look at the bathroom design ideas here on You'll notice elements of Japanese design in many contemporary Australian bathrooms. Some adhere more strictly to the Japanese style, while others borrow from it and add unique elements such as indoor gardens that enhance the appearance and ambience of the room even more. If the Japanese concept of a bathroom as a place for deep relaxation in a serene environment appeals to you, you'll get the look without having to worry about the details.
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