my friend, pour yourself a glass of something soothing and journey with me for a moment…

we’re walking along a remote path, deep in a lush forest surrounded by 80 acres of the most beautiful, secluded garden you’ve ever seen. the melody of a babbling brook reaches your ears and notes of cedar, cypress, and camellia waft through the air.

you leave the shadows of a tree-laden path and your eyes land upon a pristinely clean-lined yet deliciously dark structure nestled among the dense foliage. your breath catches as you step closer, the deep hues intriguing you and drawing you in. birds sing in the treetops, and you can’t help but deeply breathe in the beauty that surrounds you.


this is the stunning aman hotel in kyoto.

its beauty has been on my mind and heart ever since i first laid eyes on it. the stunning natural landscape coupled with the seemingly-effortless, yet perfectly-thought-out design details… ah. and you know i can’t resist sharing a work of art like this with my fellow connoisseurs of taste. 😉

designed by late australian architect kerry hill (known for his “tropical modernism”), this high-end resort pays homage to the culture and nature that surround it.

i believe the exterior of this hotel uses the shou sugi ban technique of treating the cypress panels with fire to preserve it from the elements, leaving behind that jaw-dropping, deep charcoal finish. beautiful in it’s natural simplicity, isn’t it?!

design inspiration: i envision a stunning accent wall in a guest room with this same technique, providing an unparalleled backdrop to a modern bedroom set that provides a peaceful night sleep to anyone privileged enough to spend the night in its presence. can you imagine?

drink still in hand? (you didn’t drop it in shock, did you?) then let’s look inside…


with each suite’s decor individually curated as well as the play of dark exteriors with light interiors, the guest rooms are the epitome of balance and harmony.

the simple, yet impactful, linear design of the tall, light-toned wooden slats in each room add height and levity to the spaces, giving the guest pause to take a deep breath in their airy surroundings.

design inspiration: i picture various uses for these tall, detailed wooden panels in a city chic apartment. it would bring an aspect of japanese architecture and serenity to an upscale, modern design.


the dark window frames throughout the resort perfectly enclose sweeping views of the trees outside, showcasing seasonal color in a brilliant display. (fall and spring must be soooo dreamy.)

the simple, yet detailed furnishings feature curved backs for ultimate comfort, paired with an exposed wooden frame. this creates a custom, modern look that draws the eye without taking attention away from the rest of the space. and both straight lines and curved feel cohesive.

design inspiration: the details make the chair! (and any other piece of furniture…) throughout the aman hotel, whether in the guest suites or dining rooms, all of the chairs feature exposed frames, but each has a new take on the materials used or the details included. i would love to replicate this in downtown nyc, using various iterations of a single chair concept throughout a home for cohesion and interest.


the spa areas, or onsens, both inside and outside, are bathed in dark wood… ceiling, walls, and flooring (where applicable). these cozy, quiet enclosures elicit feelings of safety, warmth, solace, and the promise of renewal.

design inspiration: i dream of doing an entire room in a dark finish – ceiling, walls, flooring, etc. this could work perfectly in a man’s study, an upscale cocktail lounge, or even in replicating this stunning spa for a home setting. can you imagine how suave yet cozy it would be?


the variety of contrasting elements in the dining room create an aesthetic masterpiece that feels simultaneously invigorating and soothing… exactly the type of setting where you want to enjoy a vibrant conversation with a dear friend while slowly sipping on your beverage of choice. (you still have it, right?) the ancient art of japanese hospitality is beautifully on display.

the dark dining room, adorned with carefully-selected light fixtures and light-colored furniture provides a complementary backdrop for any meal. the juxtaposition of the rigid, linear wall treatments with the soft curvature of the chairs creates a perfect balance in the space… modern yet organic. masculine and feminine.

design inspiration: the mixture of dark and light is inspiring. any city flat could benefit from this contrast, which adds drama and interest to a space without being overpowering.


the neutral interior of the dining room also features the work of local artisans, like the custom-made ceramic tiles that accent the dark walls throughout the restaurant. these tiles provide a rustic quality in the upscale space that blends perfectly with the gorgeous display of nature just outside the windows.

design inspiration: while i already pride myself in my ability to source artwork for clients, this high-end hotel inspires me to consider additional ways to feature design details handmade by artisans throughout the world.


and the last space… the one on my heart… i love absolutely everything about the sunken outdoor seating area. all of the clean lines, the minimal use of materials, the dark and moody design set against the lushness of the landscape beyond… just, wow!

the round fire pit and side tables break up all of the straight lines, yet the simplistic design of each curated element makes sure not to distract from the breathtaking surroundings. great design gives every element a voice.

if i’m being really honest, i find myself daydreaming about sipping any one of the famous award-winning japanese whiskeys by the glow of this magnificent fire pit. the drinks and the design… both so good, they’re dangerous! 😉

design inspiration: the use of curves to soften straight lines isn’t a new concept…but the use of the round and linear contrast in such a modern application definitely has me thinking of ways to incorporate this design more often into modern city apartments, as well as luxury suburban homes.


to wrap it all up, there is something sooooo serene about japanese design: its simple forms, clean use of materials, nothing overdone. it is quiet, soothing, and inviting. and now, more than ever, the calming presence this style of design brings is oh-so-important. in fact, the entire high-end resort hotel is like a giant exhale… can you feel it, too?

fun fact: our park ave. client featured in a recent post sure can! he is currently living in tokyo for a 2-year business stint. he has already let me know that when he returns to new york, he plans to build a house in the hamptons that incorporates these simple (not to be confused with easy) design elements that are so clearly displayed in japanese architecture and design. can’t wait!

he, like us, finds the subtle materials used in creative and natural ways, to be gorgeous, relaxing, and inspiring in every way. embracing wabi sabi, the philosophy of finding beauty in imperfections, will also play a key role in our design for him… but that’s a story for another day.

if this luxurious, upscale japanese resort has you craving a serene space of your own, let’s chat. the dhny team would be delighted to incorporate any or all of these design ideas into a space perfectly suited to you and your lifestyle. let’s design something that elevates the beauty and peace of the everyday.

darci hether interior designer signature

photos sourced from aman hotel and habitus living