Following the minimalist and Asian-inspired decor idea that less is more, tatami rooms focus more on the structure of the space than the items within it. Modern tatami rooms can be used for reflection, meditation or even re-create a traditional Japanese dining experience.

Japanese Room Wit Table, Chairs, Tatami Mat and Shohoji Doors
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A minimal table is placed in the center of a tatami room.

Tatami Rooms and Mats

Tatami rooms take their name from the Japanese straw mats that cover their floors. The thin, flexible floor coverings traditionally include centers made from rice straw with a woven overlay of softened rush straw. Today, these mats may contain polyurethane foam or wood chips in their cores covered by woven straw. The word "tatami" originates from the Japanese verb "tatamu," meaning "to fold or pile." This describes how these mats were stored or layered for cushioning comfort. At one time, tatami mats only were used to provide luxury seating for honored guests or nobility, but now they cover the entire floor of a room.

Historical Tatami Rooms

Tatami mats first show up in Japanese history during the Heian period from 782 to 1154 as a symbol of status. People of higher status would sit on thicker tatami mats above those of lesser status in a room used for the traditional tea ceremony. Families of social standing had tatami mats embroidered with cherry-blossom trees, flowers or other designs pulled from nature.

Dining Japanese Style

By the end of the 1600s, tatami mats and rooms were common among the entire Japanese population. Modern Japanese restaurants create tatami-decorated dining rooms to replicate the experience of dining in a traditional Japanese home. With tatami-covered floors, diners remove their shoes and sit directly on the mats placed on the floor before low-platform tables. Sliding shoji screens create privacy among diners.

Modern Tatami Rooms

In modern homes, some people create a tatami room for meditation purposes. These rooms typically include textured walls in light colors and a hardwood floor with the mats laid so three out of four corners of it do not meet. Tradition holds that not following this layout leads to bad luck. A tatami room should not be cluttered; it should focus on the simplicity of the room's structure and the design elements of its minimalist furnishings.