Cherry blossom petals fall in soft pink showers from trees overlooking manicured streets.
It’s a scene we associate warmly with Japan, as much as we do clean, minimalist interiors—tatami mats, a futon in the middle of the room, and little else. A subtle feeling that everything in the house is there because it has to be – it serves a purpose.
The interior design world began to call this style Zen. According to Merriam-Webster, the concept itself is a state of quiet awareness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than conscious effort.
Zen is that process of subtraction, carefully selecting only what is really necessary and avoiding waste, resulting in a simple design that is refreshing, clean and rich.
– Noriyoshi Muramatsu, award-winning architect, designer and founder of Tokyo-based Studio Glitt
“Zen is a mindset, and the art of tea ceremony, flower arrangement, ink painting, noh (Japanese classical dance drama), architecture, interior design, and landscaping are all based on this idea,” explains Noriyoshi Muramatsu, award-winning architect, designer and founder of the Tokyo-based Studio Glitt, which is behind the design of the Japanese restaurant Zuma in Dubai. “Originally, people outside of Japan saw the simple Japanese design and started calling it Zen style, which then spread to the masses.”
“Zen style is something that Japanese people aren’t particularly aware of, and I don’t think Japanese creators are very aware of it…but if you were to ask me what the definition is, I’d say it’s this process of subtraction , carefully selecting only what is really necessary and avoiding waste, resulting in a simple design that is refreshing, clean and rich.”
For your home, think of pale neutral colors, natural textures and open spaces to create your own airy and peaceful sanctuary. That’s how it’s done:
1. Less is more: Choose your parts carefully to avoid making a mess
Muramatsu says, “When designing a home, it’s important not to design everything, but to leave room for what isn’t designed…like sushi.” [Zen-style] is simple in appearance but it respects and carefully selects its materials to make the most of their qualities.
“In a Japanese ink painting there are many blank spaces that are not painted. The artist doesn’t add everything he wants to express, but leaves some space to the viewer’s imagination, and so the work is completed.”
So design your home with a mindful focus on space, necessity and clean lines – or simply declutter in the most famous way, Marie Kondo’s joy-focused approach.
2. Opt for neutral, nature-inspired colors in solid fabrics
For a balanced look, use neutral block colors like beige, brown, dark green, or cream in tonal or monochromatic color palettes (palettes of one color with different tints or tones of color included) for upholstery, curtains, and bedding.
Natural fabrics such as cotton, jute, linen are best suited.
3. Bring home elements inspired by nature
“Designing a Zen-style home is a collaboration between nature and the occupants,” says Muramatsu. For example, use natural textures such as rattan weave, raw or solid wood, bamboo furniture and indoor plants. The flooring is also usually made of wood.
For lighting, use soft, warm accent lighting such as sconces, lamps, and add plenty of sunlight for that zen airy lightness. He adds, “When it comes to lighting, it’s important to consider where to illuminate and where not to create shadows and balance yin and yang.” while maintaining an airy look.
You can also add soft, natural scents diffused by a diffuser.
Muramatsu says: “The choice of materials does not have to be expensive, but it is important to respect the materials and use them in a way that brings out the best in them, so that they coexist with nature over many years.”
4. Choose simple and popular things to place at home
Muramatsu says: “The design of a house should be very simple…. The identity of the space should be defined by displaying art and objects that residents really like, to allow residents space to enjoy their home more and more, changing with the seasons, their moods and their family structure.
“In addition, the simplicity of the space is the best way to emphasize the beauty of the owner’s hobbies and art, and to accommodate everyone’s tastes.”
Also, stay away from an eclectic mix of heavily patterned or tousled fabrics and wallpaper — opting instead for simple furniture with clean lines, exposed surfaces, and little or no ornamentation.
5. Low height furniture
Traditional Japanese homes are known for their low tables for dining while sitting on cushions on the floor, and incorporating this can be a powerful way to channelize Zen-style interiors.
6. Simple, geometric shapes
With its emphasis on “the simple bare minimum,” forms are important in Zen interiors. Use furniture and decorations with clean, geometric lines, such as B. a rectangular sofa with tapered legs.
7. Flowing furniture
Muramatsu says fluidity is characteristic of Zen-style furniture, so look for multi-purpose items, too: “The first is a design that isn’t entirely constrained in its use—but leaves room for the user to perfect it according to their own use.” . For example, the Japanese zabuton cushion can be used as a seat cushion, pillow or bedspread – it’s a simple design that can be freely modified depending on the purpose.”