Even when it’s terrifying, the Studio Ghibli universe is lovely. Hayao Miyazaki’s highly detailed hand-drawn worlds have their own kawaii aesthetic. And kawaii (the Japanese concept of cuteness) has come back in a big way for our troubled times.
“I think kawaii, or cute feelings, reminds us of human connection that we sometimes forget,” cuteness academic Hiroshi Nittono recently told Wired. But cute Ghibli-like art can do more than that, according to Nittono. In one study, Nittono even showed that kawaii boosts levels of care and focus. If you’re looking to refit your home for both work and play, taking the Ghibli look as your starting point could deliver in both aspects.
Studio Ghibli characters and locations take a big dollop of kawaii and mulch it with epic mythology. Ghibli worlds are familiar and reassuring even when they are exotic and dreamlike. Sounds like the kind of environment you’d like to live in full-time? HouseHoldQuotes has rendered five Ghibli interiors as realistic room designs to help you imagine your way to a new look at home.
1. Arrietty’s Bedroom (The Secret World of Arrietty, 2010)
It doesn’t come cuter than tiny characters using human-sized things. The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the ‘tiny people’ classic, Mary Norton’s Borrowers, and Ghibli’s animation captures the magic of the book in a way no live-action adaptation could manage.
Arriety’s bedroom may look messy, but she sees it as her “own little garden.” This room is the perfect inspiration for a personal space like your bedroom or study, particularly if you have an eye for found/vintage objects and oversized houseplants.
2. Zeniba’s Kitchen (Spirited Away, 2001)
The kitchen is a great place to break bread and make friends, and that’s just what happens when scary witch Zeniba invites Sen and her guests for tea. In the comfort of her homely kitchen, Zeniba reveals herself to be more of a welcoming “Granny” than a frightening foe.
What makes Zeniba’s kitchen so comforting? Texture, lighting, and personality. Exposed brickwork and floorboards lend a tactile, rustic feel. Rows of shelves lined with mismatching crockery have a graphic charm and express Zeniba’s individuality. The low-hanging pendant lamp gives the room an intimate feel, and the open fire reflects the warmth of Zeniba’s heart.
3. Howl’s Bathroom (Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004)
In Hayao Miyazaki’s favourite Ghibli movie, a jealous witch turns a young milliner called Sophie into an old woman. Attempting to shake her curse, Sophie finds work as a cleaner at a wizard’s fantastical castle. Howl’s castle is one of cinema’s absolute high points for imaginary architecture and interior design.
Like old Sophie, the wizard Howl is not quite what he seems. His bathroom is both his private space and his “picture of Dorian Gray.” Vintage copper pipes and taps reflect the movie’s steampunk mechanics, but the explosive hair-dye stains reveal Howl’s carefully maintained look is a charade. Actually, there’s something quite magical about the wild and glowing paint job in such a classic bathroom.
4. Anna’s Bedroom (When Marnie Was There, 2014)
Young Anna is sent to stay with relatives after an asthma attack. She stays in their daughter’s room and meets a mysterious girl in a nearby mansion. This combination of bedrooms, anime, and schoolgirl nostalgia can’t help but recall ChilledCow’s iconic lofi study girl. In fact, ChilledCow first used a loop of Shizuku from Ghibli’s 1995 anime Whisper of the Heart, and today’s lofi girl is based on her.
There is a simple, generic pleasure in the unused room where Anna stays. The paper lamp has the feel of Isamu Noguchi’s famous Akari light sculptures. Paired with the bed canopy and sheer curtains, it creates a light, breezy feel, perfectly complemented by the calming green and wood tones.
5. The Cat Bureau (The Cat Returns, 2002)
Threatened with an arranged marriage to a cat (even threats are kawaii in Ghibli movies), our human heroine Haru visits the Cat Bureau for advice. Here she meets the very proper Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, whose regal character the office reflects.
However, the bureau is – as you might expect in cat society – more of a (miniature) lounge than a workspace. Piles of cloth-bound books and neoclassical flourishes maintain a sense of order. A bureau-style writing desk always adds character – particularly when placed next to an enormous flower. And the room’s sense of symmetry adds a feel of hyper-real splendour that would make Wes Anderson jealous.
Finding inspiration is half the battle when you’re re-doing your interiors. Cherry-pick interior design ideas from our Studio Ghibli rooms above, and you’re sure to end up with a room that’s calm, cute, and just a bit magical.
Studio Ghibli. (2011) Arrietty. netflix.com
Studio Ghibli. (2003) Spirited Away. netflix.com
Studio Ghibli. (2005) Howl’s Moving Castle. netflix.com
Studio Ghibli. (2014) When Marnie Was There. netflix.com
Studio Ghibli. (2005) The Cat Returns. netflix.com