Ranma, the pierced or open-work transom panels found in almost all traditional dwellings are a staple of classical Japanese architecture. Placed above shoji or fusuma sliding doors and used to allow light and air to move between rooms when the doors were closed, they also became a place for designers to exercise their decorative imagination.

Like the sake jugs of my last post, Japanese ranma can be found with a bit of searching at most shrine sales here in Japan. In general there are two types, pictorial and geometric, as shown below. The pictorial ranma can be highly carved and detailed, and sometimes even lacquered or gilded. The geometric ranma are comprised of oft repeated Japanese motifs or employ balanced openwork compositions.

Pictorial ranma are almost always oriented horizontally, which would follow naturally based on their form.

The level of open-work in any design varies with the function of the panel – some are almost completely open, while others, like the one below, have very little piercing.

Published examples of ranma screens used in interior design are slim, although I did find this interior featuring a ranma in an overlayed circle pattern called shippou-tsunagi (seven treasures pattern). On the other hand, there are many similar items such as Chinese fretwork and Indonesian transoms out there, which I am going to use to illustrate my post as they perform the same decorate function. And as always I wonder why Japanese antiques continue to be under used by designers, while doing my darndest to remedy that.

One of the most obvious placements for a long horizontally oriented ranma (besides actually building it into construction as an actual transom) is over a bed or even turned into a headboard. Designer Jonathan Pierce has hung what looks to be a Chinese screen over the bed in this apartment…

…and a pair of Asian panels here. He also has a show Interiors, Inc. on HGTV that I am curious to watch this summer. Has anyone out there seen it?

Vincente Wolf is a master at weaving in global wooden screens, such as these Indonesian transoms hung above the fireplace. Note the Chinese fretwork screen just off to the left of the fireplace as well.

Here’s the same room from another angle – you can see the Chinese fretwork screen better here.

Long ranma panels with non-directional designs can easily be hinged together to make standing screens too.

Another great idea courtesy of Mr. Wolf is backing a screen with a mirrored panel, adding a whole new element to the composition and helping to brighten a darker space.

This ornate and gilded ranma in a similarly colored space has quite a similar effect. (And be sure to note the pillow on the chair, won in my ZAK + FOX giveaway!)

Panels can also be propped instead of hung, such as in this Rosemary Beach home by Tracery Interiors.

Their firm also seems to love using open-work panels as both their portfolio and referential company name and logo would imply. Note the small green transom in this project – Indonesian again I believe – in the corner beside the fireplace.

And I am not sure what kind of panel is featured here, but I had to include it if for no other reason than the amazing glass bottle display!

Michael Smith has propped and old wooden panel – this one looks Indian to my eye – along with some other mounted objects on this Malibu home’s mantle.

Ranma in the bathroom? Why not? I love the use of these fretwork panels in this cool and spare Manhattan bathroom…

…and I also love the way these Chinese fretwork pieces cozy up this warm London bathroom.

And let’s not leave out the kitchen – shown here with a stack of small Chinese fretwork doors on the wall.

Related Posts:
Divide and Conquer…Thomas Hamel, Jalis and Shoji Screens

Image credits: 1. Japan Style by Geeta Mehta and Kimie Tada, photo credit: Noboru Murata, 2-4 & 10. me, 5. D Home March/April 2007, photo credit: Danny Piassick, via My Notting Hill, 6-7 & 18. Pierce & Co., 8. House Beautiful May 2010, photo credit: Eric Piasecki, 9 & 11. via Vincente Wolf Blog, 12. via A. Ridge, 13-15. Tracery Interiors, 16. Elle Decor October 2009, photo credit: Henry Bourne, 17.Elle Decor November 2009, photo credit: Pieter Estersohn, 18. World of Interiors July 2010, photo credit: Bob Smith.