From a European viewpoint, paper walls make zero sense. Although our climate is capable of being warm and mild, it is also inhospitable in the colder months. To our mindset, homes and buildings need to act as a refuge against the elements – and paper doesn’t stand up to much.
We consider privacy to be sacred, and inner walls should be thick enough to allow for peace and quiet from other family members or guests. The Japanese style ‘Shoji’ walls seem fundamentally inadequate for the job. Yet they are still in use today, and not just in Japan.
Writing for Japan Talk, @japantalkjohn explains the fundamentals of shoji, and why it was necessary:
“Japanese houses didn’t use historically use glass, resulting in some interesting methods of natural lighting. A shoji is a sliding panel that is made of translucent paper in a wooden frame. They are used for both interior and exterior walls. They help to give Japanese houses their character by allowing diffuse light and shadows through.”
Japanese architects protected the paper walls in two ways. The first was with long, curved roofs that spread to the furthest edges of the foundation, shielding the walls from all but the most punishing weather conditions. The second layer of protection were sliding wooden screens that could be pulled across in front of the paper.
Interior papers walls could be moved open and closed, allowing for a customisable space that could be modified depending on the occasion. This versatility is why paper walls are still used today in many homes across Japan. However, modern construction only uses exterior paper walls when placed behind glass.
Other than the potential difficulty in procuring the materials, there is no reason why you can’t incorporate paper walls into your own home or extension. Considering the scientific research which strongly suggests a link between good health and natural light, it may be particularly beneficial if you’re struggling to boost light levels in the home. Without solid brick walls, light allowed in through screen windows in one room can act as ambient light in another.
With your extension in mind, you could focus on building larger, airier spaces, and divide up the space using shoji. This way, you can slide the screens across when you want a larger space for guests or family, and close them for a more intimate room.
In terms of keeping your home warm without the insulation of solid walls, underfloor heating is often used to great effect. As such, there’s no need for mounted radiators. Underfloor heating is something best installed during the initial construction of your extension, and you should speak with your architect and builder about including it in the design.
If you’re interested in getting a little more light into your life, consider asking for paper walls when you speak to one of our expert team about your extension today.