Shoji screens have been used for centuries in Japanese homes to create private spaces within a room. These room dividers also contribute to the overall design to the room.
The frames used in most Shoji screens are made of a variety of woods and finishes. Rice paper is generally used in Shoji screens between the frames which allow light to seep through and create an elegant look.
The Japanese seek simplicity and functionality in their homes and workspaces. Shoji screens are ideal as they promote an understated elegance. Balance found in the yin and the yang is highly sought after in all areas of Japanese living. This is accomplished through bold contrasts. It's not uncommon to see these contrasts throughout the indoor and outdoor areas of a home. A gentle path made of white stones that leads to a black granite bench is an example of this type of contrasts. Inside a home, light airy Shoji screens placed upon high-glossy floors made of slate or dark woods creates the same feeling. Even many of the Shoji screens have the contrast between the dark wooden frame and the light airy rice paper.
Functionality of Shoji Screens
Furnishings in most Japanese homes are multi-functional. Futons are used for sitting in the day and sleeping at night. Room dividers such as Shoji screens are used to add beauty and grace to a room but can be moved and manipulated to create all kinds of versatile living spaces within the room. Private areas or separate rooms can all be made in a matter of minutes by simply shifting the Shoji screens.
Shoji screens are also found in commercial businesses such as offices, restaurants and retail stores throughout Japan. In community buildings Shoji screens are used to create backdrops for ceremonies, cultural events and presentations.
Shoji screens are also used as a window treatment and roll on casters over windows or door openings. They aren't simply used solely as room dividers.
Smaller versions of Shoji screens, while not functional room dividers, are sometimes mounted directly on the wall and make a beautiful, elegant statement above a couch, in an entry hall, above a fireplace or on the walls of a formal dining room.
Not only are Shoji screens used as room dividers, many are painted with simple yet stunning designs. Japanese art traditionally incorporates elements of nature and that is evident on most painted Shoji screens where you will see paintings of birds, mountains, cherry blossoms, and other delicate flowers, bamboo, brooks or boulders.
It was actually the Chinese who first started using folding screens. Some antique screens date back as far as the Zhou Dynasty, which was between the fourth and third century BC. The Japanese took the basic idea and then elaborated on it. When most people think of folding screens, they immediately think of Japanese Shoji screens. The word Shoji actually means translucent paper doors or windows.
It's no wonder that the popularity of Shoji screens as room dividers and elements of decor are being used by discriminating individuals around the world. Whether you need to cover a window, divide a room or make a simple yet elegant design statement, Shoji screens may be the perfect solution.