Sustainable Home Design with Eco Living Japan, a Book Review

eco living japan

Eco Living Japan: Sustainable Ideas for Living Green by Deanna MacDonald (Tuttle, 2016) is a gorgeous book suited for designers, architects, and even those that just enjoy looking at beautiful sustainable design, like myself.

eco living japan

While one often things of the bustling city of Tokyo when thinking of Japan, there is a deep history of ecologically sensitive traditional homes in quieter regions of the country, and this book delves into the history of Japanese architecture and design, which cover four seasons and elements of which can be incorporated into homes around the world.

The book opens with an explanation of the sustainable Japanese house: mottainai is a Japanese word that loosely translates to ‘waste not, want not,’ and it is, as MacDonald explains, “the heart of traditional Japanese building.”

One of the elements I particularly enjoyed is discussed in Chapter 1: borrowed landscapes, or the idea of adding nature into the design. This is one of the elements I find particularly lacking in American architecture, and something appealing about Balinese architecture (an island where I’ve spent a lot of time living). The Japanese version of this includes ‘green curtains’ of actual trees and gardens, or shakkei, or exterior nature views are used as part of the ‘interior experience.’



Another aspect I really like about this book was the practicality of the design: while the homes are pretty large and opulent, many of the design features could be easily pared down for smaller homes. And for architects looking for inspiration, there are actual plans for many of the homes.


What makes this book so appealing is the simple layout and truly gorgeous photography. Whether covering bathrooms, bedrooms, or classic Japanese tea houses, the book is a lovely coffeetable book (for those non-design folk out there) or a collection of inspiration for those in the design field.

The author, Deanna MacDonald, teaches architectural history at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. She also writes about art, architecture and cultural heritage. She co-authored New Japan Architecture with Geeta Mehta, who wrote the preface to this book.

Thanks to Tuttle for the review copy. I also reviewed Bali Living: Innovative Tropical Design