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What Is Japanese Zakka Design? 4 Ways To Create This Nostalgic Aesthetic In Your HDB Flat

19 January 2024 | BY

Say hello to Zakka, Japandi’s artsy and maximalist sister. Here’s how to achieve the look in your own home.

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Everyone is familiar with their minimalist Japandi and their raw, earthy wabi-sabi style. But there is a lesser-known Japanese style that has been making rounds in town: Zakka. Meaning “miscellaneous goods”, Zakka design is meant to be eclectic, both in the design influences it draws from as well as the decor and furniture you’d use for a Zakka home.

What is Japanese Zakka design?

Japanese Zakka design 2Image credit: anaé

At its core, the Japanese Zakka design revels in a maximalist aesthetic that indulges in nostalgia and blends rustic charm with a collection of vintage, joy-sparking items. Picture the quaint, bustling cafes in Osaka’s Nakazakicho district or the detailed, cosy nooks in Studio Ghibli’s fantastical worlds à la Howl’s Moving Castle.

If this nostalgic, kitschy style evokes in you a yearning for the simplicity of bygone days, then here are four inspired ways to weave that old-school magic into your HDB flat.

What are the key elements of the Japanese Zakka home aesthetic?

Here’s a quick table to help you – and your interior designer – understand what the Japanese Zakka home aesthetic encapsulates: 

Design Element Tips to Achieve the Look
Rustic Setting Use natural materials like wood and linen for a warm, earthy feel. Unvarnished wood is a great choice.
Textured Surfaces Choose stucco, limewash, or clay finishes for a rich, tactile experience.
Pastel Tones Opt for soft, pastel wall colours to create a calm and serene environment.
Light & Airy Ensure the room feels open and well-lit, with airy window treatments.
Mixed Textiles Layer different fabrics such as cotton and wool for a cosy ambiance.
Eclectic Mix Blend different styles like farmhouse and cottagecore for an eclectic look.
Natural Greenery Add plants in unique pots to infuse life and nature into your space.
Handcrafted Decor Incorporate handmade items for a unique, personal touch.
Minimal Clutter Keep arrangements neat and thoughtful, avoiding overcrowding.

1. Creating a cosy, rustic canvas at home with gentle hues and natural materials

One of the first things you’ll need to do to kickstart your Japanese Zakka home is to set up a rustic backdrop for your vintage gems. If you’re embarking on the renovation of your BTO or resale flat, you’ll want to reiterate the following things to your ID:

  • Predominantly white, cream or limewashed surfaces
  • Large windows, ideally with wooden frames to create a cottage look
  • A subdued colour palette to add warmth and character to your home
  • Wooden flooring – the more natural-looking the better.

Japanese Zakka design 3Image credit: goodroom journal

In Zakka-style homes, the use of predominantly white, cream, or limewashed surfaces creates a canvas that’s both bright and serene. Large windows, especially with wooden frames, not only add to the cottage-like charm but also allow ample natural light, enhancing the space’s warmth.

Japanese Zakka design 4Image credit: Neighborly Creative

You’re probably thinking, wood + white sounds like a recipe for any Japandi home. We hear you, which is why it’s good to know that the Zakka style allows for the introduction of a subdued earthy colour palette to help bring more personality into your home. Think anything from pastel to dark hues of green, blues, oranges and even reds.

Japanese Zakka design 5Image credit: Pinterest

Now onto the flooring, to achieve more of a rustic look, go for darker, and warmer wood tones such as walnut, mahogany, cedar and cherry. Obvious wood grains are to be celebrated and displayed in all its natural glory. You can even take the wood beyond ground-level and have that applied to structural beams, or even the ceiling to create faux timber beams like you’d see in a cabin or farm house. 

2. Enhance look with vintage furniture

In Zakka design, using natural materials for furniture like rattan, wicker, bamboo, cork, and wood is key to creating that cosy, home-like feel. The style encourages an asymmetrical approach to design, meaning there’s no need for matching sets.

Japanese Zakka design 7Image credit: kodikodi

You might find yourself exploring thrift shops, upcycled furniture stores, and even trawling through the depths of Carousell for unique pieces rather than opting for mainstream retailers. And with the decorative aspect of Zakka, having ample shelving and display options for your trinkets and treasures is essential to showcase your personal style.

Japanese Zakka design 8Image credit:, @ahirisecottage

Amplifying the vintage feel by incorporating elements like antique-style toggle switches and brass bathroom fittings can add a distinct character. These classic details, reminiscent of bygone eras, not only enhance the aesthetic but also create a unique, nostalgic ambiance. It’s a nod to the past that brings depth and personality to modern living spaces.

3. Fill every nook and cranny with kitschy and quirky decor

Japanese Zakka design 9Image credit:

Another key tenant of Zakka design is the real love for everyday items, whether they’re purely decorative or functional like bookends or stools. It’s all about that adorable kitsch, which perfectly fits the Zakka vibe. In reality, almost everything and anything goes with regards to what you can add to your home, so long as it is something that you like.

Japanese Zakka design 10Image credit:

The idea is to create a space that feels lived-in, filled with items that have personal meaning to you. It’s about having a home bustling with items that bring you joy – so much so, even Marie Kondo might begrudgingly give her nod of approval.

Japanese Zakka design 11Image credit: Z O D Y

4. Liven up the place with leafy friends

Japanese Zakka design 12Image credit: Pinterest

Finally, add greenery to breathe life into the space and complete the look. Like the other items, these should be a diverse and eclectic selection, from vines like persian ferns and string-of-pearls, large-leaved plants like monstera or spider plants and slightly bolder choices like silver leaves and crotons.

Japanese Zakka design 13Image credit: Pinterest

The idea is to bring splashes of inviting greenery into your home space to intermix with the already rich array of textures from your furniture and decor.

4 ways to create the Zakka design style in your HDB flat

As you can see by now, renovating your home with the Zakka design style can potentially be incredibly fun and rewarding, especially when the end product is a comfy, inviting home that just oozes character and individuality. 

The best thing is that, whilst there are brands that dedicate themselves to selling products that would fit the Zakka aesthetic such as Hatsukoi or even local brands like Melissa Zakka, this style can just as easily be achieved with just old toys, trinkets and souvenirs from your travels abroad. You can even DIY some of the furniture if you’re feeling particularly handy.

For more home inspo, check out:

Cover image adapted from: goodroom journal, kodikodi

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