7 things aspiring DIYers should know

7 things aspiring DIYers should know

Light-colored living room decorated in Japanese style with minimal furniture and color palette

Photo: istockphoto.com

Few design and decor trends capture the imagination quite like Japanese interior design. This unique style is a fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics, fusing the simple elegance of the East with the cozy warmth of the North. Japanese-style interior design offers a combination of tranquility, simplicity and functionality. To better understand the basics of Japanese style, its origins and philosophy are just as important as soothing color palettes and natural materials.

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1. Japandi is a mixture of modern Japanese and Scandinavian interior design styles.

For most of the island nation’s history, Japan has followed a closed border policy, making it difficult or impossible for foreigners to visit. But in the 1850s, the borders were reopened, allowing Scandinavians and other Westerners to experience Japanese culture and aesthetics for the first time. “This cultural exchange laid the foundation for the harmonious blend of Japanese minimalism and Scandinavian functionality that we now know as Japanese design,” according to Maria Sinesar, head of interior design at Toronto-based home renovation company Renowell.

Yuna Morishita of The Japan Way describes Japande as “a wonderful combination of Japanese simplicity and Scandinavian functionality, like the perfect marriage between two cultures that share common, though different, principles: simplicity, cleanliness and tremendous respect for the environment in which we live.”

The popular Japanese-inspired interior features:

On the other hand, Scandinavian design is known for:

  • Focus on comfort and warmth, including luxurious textiles and warm lighting.
  • Muted color palettes.
A living room with plaster walls, angled wooden ceiling slats and simple, irregular furniture made from natural materials.

Photo: istockphoto.com

2. The philosophies of Wabi-Sabi and Heiji define Japanese style.

Beyond aesthetics, Japanese design is rooted in philosophies and principles from both cultures. As Morishita explains, “While the term ‘Japande’ may be relatively new, the philosophies it embodies are not. Both Japanese and Scandinavian cultures have long traditions of prioritizing practical living spaces that value simplicity and beauty.”

The Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection. In part, wabi-sabi encourages a person to embrace the natural look of items in their home, such as cracked ceramics or slightly faded wall panels. In a somewhat similar vein, the concept of hygge in Denmark encapsulates the essence of comfort and pleasure in life’s simple moments.

When combined with japandi, these complementary ideologies promote homely comfort, natural imperfection, and practical simplicity. These concepts extend beyond just Japanese furniture and decor, to the intersection of two ways of life. “The historical connection adds a rich depth of meaning to the style, highlighting the enduring influence of cross-cultural inspiration in the world of interior design,” says Senesar.

3. Natural materials are the basics of Japanese style.

A bedroom with a wooden bed frame and rocking chair, a linen comforter and a plant on the bedside table.

Photo: istockphoto.com

One of the cornerstones of Japanese design is the use of natural materials, which has deep roots in Japanese and Scandinavian traditions. Wood, bamboo, stone and linen are usually found in a Japanese home, and these materials add a touch of nature to the interior. For the same reason, houseplants and other greenery are also often incorporated into Japanese interiors. As Morishita details, “Bringing in a bit of nature, such as bonsai or succulents, complements the natural materials and adds a touch of life to the space.”

4. Neutral colors are equally important to Japandi design.

The Japanese color palette will largely consist of neutral shades. Regarding the colors typically used, Morishita says, “We often see shades of grey, beige, and off-white combined with deeper, natural tones.” This subtle palette promotes a calm atmosphere, giving spaces such as Japanese bedrooms or living rooms a clean and calm atmosphere.

Neutral colors used in Japanese design should be chosen based on their ability to evoke a feeling of calm and balance. It serves as a blank canvas, allowing you to highlight some carefully selected pieces of furniture or decor items that will stand out against the muted background. This color palette makes interiors appear larger and more open.

While the base of the Japanese color palette is neutral, some earthy colors, such as dark green, burnt orange and navy blue, can be used to add warmth and depth to a space. These distinctive colors are also typically inspired by nature, further emphasizing the connection to the natural world that is an integral part of Japanese style.

5. Japanese interiors are open with clean lines.

Openness and fluidity are hallmarks of Japanese design. The focus should be on clean, straight lines and unobstructed spaces. “To truly embrace Japanese design, you must embrace the concept of ‘ma,’ which refers to the thoughtful use of space,” says Senesar, further explaining, “This includes creating a feeling of openness and flow within the design, for a smooth transition between different areas of your room.”

Open plan living space with low and tall wooden cabinets next to a large window.

Photo: istockphoto.com

6. Natural light highlights simple decor and contrasting colors.

Light plays a pivotal role in Japanese interiors. If your home’s architecture allows it, keep south-facing windows or doors open to allow abundant natural light to illuminate the contrasting colors of the Japanese color palette. The play of light and shadow on simple Japanese decor items – whether a vase or a piece of Japanese wall paneling – creates a dynamic and harmonious effect.

7. Japanese spaces lack clutter.

At its core, Japanese-style interior design is about intentional living. Rooms should generally be free of unnecessary items to embrace the “less is more” philosophy of minimalism. In a Japanese living room or kitchen, most (if not all) items have a purpose, and there is a purposeful place for everything. “Japanese and Scandinavian designs call for less clutter and more function, which is why every piece in a Japanese-style room should serve a purpose,” says Morishita. This uncluttered approach is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also more stress-free and practical for everyday life.

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