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Style guide: finding zen with Japanese-inspired interiors

Recreate a Japanese-style home with our tips on how to achieve a serene and laid-back Zen vibe.
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Add a touch of Zen into your home with our tips on how to achieve that characterful, calming Japanese style.

You’re a pretty laid-back person – even if you say so yourself. You take life slowly, you exercise a relaxed attitude to life, and you enjoy taking time out to do absolutely nothing.

It makes sense, then, that your chilled attitude is reflected in your interior design tastes. As you flick through magazines or scroll Pinterest, you’re drawn to the cool, calming and altogether ‘Zen’ vibe epitomised by Japanese-style décor.

If this sounds like you, but you’re still a little uncertain about how to achieve the look, read on for everything you need to know about creating a Japanese-inspired, totally ‘Zen’ home.

What are Japanese style interiors?

Much of Japanese interior design takes inspiration from the Zen philosophy, so a quick intro to this way of thinking is a must.

Zen is a school of Buddhist philosophy that emphasises the value of meditation, self-control and simplicity, as well as living for the benefit of others. Originally developed in China, the concept of Zen has grown in Japan over thousands of years, and you’ll now find its principles in every aspect of Japanese architecture and aesthetics.

So, how do you transfer the tranquillity of Zen into interior design?

By creating as serene a feel as possible, and focusing on clean, uncluttered living as well as a love of natural beauty, peace and harmony.

The basics of Japanese-inspired design

Japanese homes typically use simple colours, particularly those found in nature. A colour palette and interior scheme where neutral takes centre stage and nature forms a constant backdrop is perfect for a Japanese-style home. Mix browns and wood elements with greys and granites and add in plenty of greens and plants for that laid-back, nature-inspired charm.

Speaking of laid back, your lighting will also need to be similarly no-fuss. Let nature do all the work for you by finding ways to bring natural light into your home wherever possible. Where needed, though, you can introduce angular and modern artificial lighting and opt for warm lightbulbs as well as dimmer switches to help promote that peaceful, serene ambience.

You can add in a couple of Japanese-style lanterns here, although you might want to choose a neutral-coloured lantern in a minimalist style interior to retain the relaxed vibe and prevent your décor from feeling too gimmicky.

A touch of minimalism

It probably goes without saying that a true Japanese-inspired home has minimalism at its core. In order to evoke a sense of peaceful tranquillity, your home needs to be free of any anxiety-inducing spots betraying obvious signs of neglect. As you turn your hand to Japanese-style décor, the clutteryou’ve been avoiding in the corners of your home has to be conquered once and for all.

This also means taking a minimal approach to artwork, and going for a restrained décor with simple patterns and designs. Think contemporary style and simple, clean lines when you’re looking for decorative elements and be aware that you’ll need to limit your choices to just a few favourite items or you’ll risk resurrecting that clutter you worked so hard to get rid of.

Quirky Japanese furniture

When it comes to furniture, authentic Japanese style is all about low and laid-back. Most of Japan’s furniture tends to be close to the ground, with some homes forgoing a sitting room sofa altogether, and opting for a low table with floor cushions for seats instead.

If this doesn’t feel right for your home, going for contemporary furniture designed in the Japanese style is your next best bet. Simple, clean lines and unobtrusiveness is the way to go, with wooden frames and solid colours in warm shades. The burnt orange fabric and dark walnut frame of the Nicoletti Novita Swing Fabric Armchair perfectly fits the style, and its short legs hint at that ‘low’look in a comfortable way.

An open space atmosphere

Speaking of unobtrusiveness, open spaces keep that Zen vibe flowing smoothly from room to room. Many Japanese homes feature open-plan living rooms and kitchens, so creating an open plan space is an easy way to cinch the style.

Try to create as free a feeling as possible in your home – a process that may involve moving your furniture around to create as much space as possible. If you’re truly committed to the Japanese aesthetic, you might even consider knocking down a wall or two (make sure it’s not a supporting one!), giving yourself plenty of open space to move around in.

Once you’ve opened up your home as much as possible, why not get the best of both worlds with some Shoji sliding doors or screens? These authentic, translucent Japanese screens can completely replace a swinging door, or simply work as room partitions to help section off rooms when needed without blocking natural light – keeping that open feel going even when the doors are closed.

Elements of nature

The Japanese place great value on the importance of nature, and their homes reflect their philosophy with plenty of plants and natural elements adorning every room.

Showcase your love and respect for nature by sourcing oriental plants – such as portulacaria bonsai and bamboo which can thrive in British climates – and adding in colourful (but simple) floral arrangements wherever possible. Continue the natural theme with beautiful displays incorporating rocks and pebbles, or decorate with vases filled with long twigs and branches.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a home with large windows or French doors, the natural element will flow easily into your home. To emphasise this, go with lightweight curtains to help ensure plenty of light streams in, while the view of outdoor trees adds to the serene, natural feel.

So, there you have it. A quick guide on how to create that quintessential Japanese style that oozes peace and tranquillity. By maintaining a deliberate sense of restraint with your décor, as well keeping a focus on nature and using understated colour schemes, it’s easy to create beautifully relaxedinteriors that gently emanate Zen from every corner.


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