Personalization and Balance in Design: Ghibli Edition

April 5, 2021



Shan Arcega

Even the interior details of a house aren’t overlooked by Miyazaki.

If you’ve watched any studio ghibli movie or are probably remotely obsessed by them, you’ve probably realized the sense of comfort and warmth most of these films give off. Aside from unique stories and whimsical characters being mixed together through beautifully done art, another element that can be highlighted in these films are the houses and their interiors. 

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Some of these homes give off a sense of warmth, that little element of home sweet home especially magnified through the addition of several small details that would look almost chaotic in our eyes. The look of slight chaos in these homes though is the exact display of personalization and balance But there’s more to a home than just having a spacious floor plan and being clean. When asked about what she thinks makes a home cozy, architect Vanessa Gaston says that personal effect is one thing that gives a house this feeling. 

When you enter a space and you haven’t brought yourself in it, it doesn’t feel like home. So the most important thing about making a home cozy is actually your personal items. That’s what makes them cozy. It becomes off-beaty and there’s a balance between the fixed and the chaos.”

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Arriety’s house from The Secret World of Arriety is a great example of putting coziness inside a space. Taking in the fact that Arriety and her family (also known as Borrowers) live underneath the floorboards of a regular human’s house, it’s presumed that the family would be immersed in darkness all the time. But instead of a dark and uncharacteristic house, they were able to turn that small space beneath the floorboards into a little haven. Arriety for one is to thank for this haven. Despite the heavy precautions of going outside, she makes it a point to venture outside and come back with little knick-knacks to bring back home. To balance out the lack of connection with the outside world, Arriety’s bedroom is overridden by green shades and actual greenery she took from the garden herself.

The main room/dining room is another space that accommodates an energizing atmosphere. Aside from the use of green shades, the room also mixes other colors of the same light palette that mimics the freer outside world thus overshadowing the fact that Arriety’s house is one hidden beneath dark floorboards. 

Howl’s Castle from Howl’s Moving Castle is another example of personalization and balance. To contextualize for those who haven’t watched the movie (or read the book), Howl’s residence is exactly as it sounds-a moving piece of architecture mixing steel and rock on the outside. It isn’t as majestic as it looks, however.

Its interiors were just as monochromatic and uncharacteristic as its exterior before Sophie (a young girl cursed to appear as an older version of herself) spent more time in the castle with Howl and started cleaning the house to reveal a more solid interior space. Contrary to the moving castle characteristic, the castle’s interior uses heavy pieces of furniture like a large, wooden table and cabinets, and even the stone fireplace that dominates the room, throwing away the sense that the interior would play with the same “airy” theme as the exterior. Later in the movie, the interiors were also magically transformed into Sophie’s old home to cater to her homesickness.

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When it comes to aesthetics in architecture and design, one doesn’t need to cage themselves in thinking about styles and spacious floor plans. Sometimes, aesthetic isn’t just about the architectural style. It’s also about filling a room with your favorite tapestries, trophies, or even an old skull you (if ‘you’ pertains to Howl, that is) call a friend. 

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