Especially in urban areas, homes in Japan are often cramped, but it doesn’t mean they’re always cluttered. Here are some interesting space-saving ideas from Japanese architects, product and furniture designers, and DIYers to make your space a little bigger.

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Both Japanese and Scandinavian design aesthetics are focused on simplicity, natural elements, comfort, and sustainability. The key elements for Japandi design are muted colors, clean lines, natural light, greenery inside and outside the home, eco-friendly materials, uncluttered spaces, and a celebration of the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. All through the ages, more or less talented artists have amused themselves by drawing well-known characters in compromising sexual scenes. Especially in the 1920s and 30s, there was a production of so-called 'Tijuana Bibles' or 'eight-pagers' - little comic books consisting of 8 pages, with a sex parody featuring film-stars or even comic.

Stairway Storage

We admit that you’ll likely need the skills of a top-drawer (!) carpenter to use this idea in your home.

These custom-built kaidan dansu (staircase cabinets) were created by architect Kotaro Anzai based on traditional Japanese carpentry techniques, to connect the living room to the second story of a 100-sqm (1,078-sqft home) in Fukushima Prefecture. Photo: Osamu Abe via Dwell.com

The stairway storage unit shown above was created by architect Kotaro Anzai for a custom-built home for a thirty-something couple who wanted a clean, uncluttered way to store their pottery collection.

Anzai gave the stairs a modern look by using linden plywood for the main sections and ash for the treads. He then attached number-shaped handles to help organize the cubbies. Apparently, the couple have now gone out and found dishes to fit particular drawers in the staircase.

Foldaway Office

This foldaway aluminum home office (or in-office office, if you’d like) measures 52 cm x 100 cm x 151.8 cm (20.4 in x 39.4 in x 60 in) when closed and 128 cm x 126 cm x 151.8 cm (50 in x 49.6 in x 151.8 in) when open, and takes up about 1.62 sqm (17.4 square feet) of space.

It was designed by Atelier OPA, a product, interior design and architecture firm based in Tokyo.

When you’re done working , simply fold up the office (which comes with a power supply cord, LED light, and lock) and roll it into the corner of your room.

Unfortunately, Atelier OPA has discontinued direct sales of the original foldaway office because the shipping cost sometimes made it too expensive to ship overseas.

Photo: Atelier OPA

A newer model of the foldaway office is now available for 200,000 yen ($1,628) in Japan. The upgraded version comes with eleven powerful magnets, handy for displaying postcards or heavier items, such as a bag or umbrella.

Sliding Bookcases

Of course sliding bookcases are not unique to Japan, but perhaps nested, sliding bookcases are more common here because of the need to maximize space in small apartments and because of Japan’s vibrant sub-culture of manga collectors.

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Nested, sliding bookcases from Dinos. This model costs about 57,498 yen (about $468). Photo: Dinos

The product in the photo above is sold by Dinos, a big Japanese television and catalog shopping company. Sliding bookcases are widely available in Japan at various price points.

Tatami-Platform Bed With Storage

This tatami platform bed with storage drawers and built-in headboard lighting costs between 34,800 yen and 54,800 yen (between $283 and $446) depending on the size (single, semi-double, or double) and is available at Sterior.com. The product is also available through other online an offline retailers in Japan. Photo: Sterior

If you are a fan of sleeping on tatami (woven reed mats) but you don’t have a tatami-style room in your home, this platform bed with storage drawers may be calling your name.

As pictured above, you can put away the bedding in the daytime to create a relaxing sitting space and store your clothing underneath.

Convert Your Japanese-Style Closet into Office Space

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Yes, the idea of converting a closet into a small office didn’t originate in Japan!

However, Japanese-style closets that are attached to tatami rooms are usually quite spacious, and if you will not be storing your bedding in your closet, you can remove the doors from the runners and convert the space into a small office. Just be sure to put the doors back when you vacate your apartment.

Japanese-style closets attached to tatami rooms are usually used to store bedding and other household things. Photo: Seiri-ryoku

Here are some examples of converted Japanese-style closets.

Photo: Roomflavor.com

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IKEA Japan carries a whole line of specially-sized shelves and drawers which are meant to be used in a converted Japanese-style closet.

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You may also be interested in this article, which explains what a tatami room is, the different types of closets you’ll find in a Japanese apartment, and how to read a Japanese apartment floor plan: Guide to Japanese Apartments: Floorplans, Photos and Kanji Keywords

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