Feinmann Architect in the Land of the Rising Sun

Our guest blogger is Feinmann senior architect Barney Maier. This past summer he traveled to Japan.


Whether by intent or coincidence, the modern aesthetic, particularly related to kitchens, increasingly resemble the Japanese aesthetic. As exemplified by so many projects featured in home design magazines, interior design is moving towards a refined, uncluttered, clean and simple elegance that is the hallmark of Japanese design. In the past, I have had an opportunity to incorporate elements of Japanese architecture into projects I have designed. This trip allowed me to experience the “pure” form of the Japanese origins of those features. Those elements include the following:

(1) The “genkan” is the mud-room like entry of Japanese homes where shoes are doffed and house slippers are put on–or people go bare footed. Typically the genkan is an interior space entered at street level that transitions to the raised floors of the heart of the house, usually made of wood planking or modular tatami (straw mats). Below are examples of the recent application of the genkan idea wherein “muddy shoes” are less appreciated traversing the interior of the home…

Japanese example:

Japanese genkan


How we apply it here:


(2) The “shoji” screens (rice paper and wood sliding “panels”) which serve as room dividers and “Tatami” mats (modular woven straw mats of about 2” thickness).

The Japanese original:

shoji screen Japan

How we use it here:

Shoji screens Lexington

Tatami room Boston condo

Lexington entry with shoji-like doors


(3)  The Japanese Bath where showering is a prelude to bathing (soaking). 

The Japanese example:


How we apply it here:

Japanese style bath Boston condoJapanese style shower and tub combination


(4) The “Tokonomo” – a niche featuring artwork, flower arrangements, craft items and other decorative objects.

The Japanese original:



How we have used it here:


(5) The low “framed” view.

The Japanese example:

Low framed view Japan


How we have used it here:

Lexington Exterior with low window


Finally, another way to frame the view:

Lexington framed view into kitchen