These apartments in Japan’s capital are united by their muted colours and an abundance of wood – elements often associated with traditional Japanese interior design.
As one of the world’s most densely populated cities, Tokyo homes often feature smaller floor plans or less natural light than those located in more spacious cities.
Architects and designers have created plenty of understated solutions to these restrictions, such as inserting space-saving storage into open-plan living areas.
From a flat informed by traditional Kyoto townhouses to an Airbnb dressed in subtle geometric furniture, here are 10 Tokyo apartments with minimalist interior designs.
This is the latest in our lookbooks series, which provides visual inspiration from Dezeen’s archive. For more inspiration see previous lookbooks featuring concrete bathrooms, cosy cabins and homes with elevators.
The studios reconfigured the floor plans to form fewer but larger living spaces, which are characterised by smooth concrete, timber fixtures and sheer sandy-hued curtains.
“Nature feels integrated into the apartment from most rooms so that, when looking out into the courtyard, you can’t quite tell you’re in a city as immense as Tokyo,” said Norm Architects designer Frederik Werner.
This 1960s apartment contains a sleek kitchen counter and storage space concealed behind folding doors informed by traditional Japanese screens known as Byōbu.
Minimalist furniture and finishes match the pared-back theme, including iconic Finnish architect Alvar Aalto’s stackable wooden 60 stool.
Local studio Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects renovated two Airbnb apartments in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward with completely contrasting designs. One has floors and walls clad in light wood (main image), while the other pairs a plush grey carpet with dark plasterwork.
Neon lighting in the latter apartment was chosen to remind guests of the bustling city while cork stools, metallic kitchen cabinetry and charcoal-toned accents create a moody atmosphere.
The Life concept apartment is an understated residence set within a 1980s building by Tokyo design firm I IN. According to the studio, the project was created to encourage people to rethink renovated apartments in Japan, rather than favour newbuilds.
An open-plan living space contains a kitchen, living room and bedroom characterised by reeded glass partitions, stucco walls and luxurious red walnut joinery.
Almost all of the walls within this 50-square-metre flat were replaced with multi-functional box units and sliding partitions to make the space feel bigger and brighter.
Local studio FrontOfficeTokyo stripped the apartment down to a single room, which features designated zones to lounge, cook, eat and sleep.
Raw and simple materials emphasise the utilitarian interior design, including exposed ceilings, pale timber floors and a corner bathroom contained in a concrete box.
With an open-plan layout that references mountain huts, House in Chofu is characterised by lauan plywood cabinetry and floor-to-ceiling glazing that offers views of the surrounding scenery.
“The house is the base camp connecting mountains and cities,” Snark Architectures director Yu Yamada told Dezeen.
Located on one of the top floors of a 1980s housing block, Tokyo Loft is short-term accommodation that intends to balance home comforts with industrial finishes.
G Studio worked with architects Teruya Kido and Suma-Saga-Fudosan to complete the interior look, which includes original sloping concrete walls that were illustrated with splashes of white paint in a nod to traditional Japanese washi paper.
Rows of skylights were added to the walls to flood the apartment with natural light, while bright orange electrical wires and plumbing features were left exposed. A freestanding bathtub adds a playful touch to the main living space.
Wooden panelling creates “corners, blind spots and niches” in J House – a pared-back apartment renovated to maximise restricted floor space for a growing family.
Diagonally stepped floors and ceilings create a dynamic layout of triangular zones within a pair of apartments in Tokyo’s Motoazabu neighbourhood.
“What we aimed to do with this structure was to create something that would blend with its surroundings and maintain absolute simplicity,” explained architect Kiyonubu Nakagame.
A material and colour palette influenced by the different shades of an Opera cake – a famed French dessert – informed the “layered” coffee-hued interiors in this apartment.
The hallway features sliding geometric cupboard doors stained in various shades of brown while a mixture of glossy, matte and textured coatings cover the white walls.
This is the latest in our lookbooks series, which provides visual inspiration from Dezeen’s archive. For more inspiration see previous lookbooks featuring concrete bathrooms, cosy cabins and homes with cleverly designed lifts.