Whether you’re an interior design student still putting together a portfolio or an experienced interior designer with years in the field, consider designing your next project in a classic Japanese style. Many interior design colleges offer courses in Asian-influenced design, but there’s something especially appealing about classic Japanese design. Zen Buddhism, which began in China, became especially influential in Japan many centuries ago, and its principals of oneness with nature and minimalism are still very much evident in Japanese design.
Zen Buddhism stresses oneness with nature and eschews the manufactured for the natural. You can see the influence of nature in the features of a classical Japanese room:
- Simple greenery, such as bamboo plants
- Rock gardens
- Water fountains
- Furnishings, flooring, walls, doors and décor from natural materials, such as bamboo and timber-framed carpentry. Natural dark metals, such as iron, might also be used.
Another way Japanese design allows you to connect with nature is through its open design. With thin, paper doorways and open spaces, the lines between one room and the next become blurred. To connect a room to nature, just blur the line between the indoors and the outdoors. If designing a room on the ground floor or with a patio, use a sliding door — a Japanese-style paper door if the climate is favorable, a glass one if not — and connect to a Japanese garden outside.
In the West, interior designers tend to focus on European and American designs. Clients looking for something different have limited options. If you can design rooms in classic Japanese style, you’ll have something your competitors won’t. And don’t rely solely on clients seeking Japanese-style rooms, either. That client who doesn’t know what she wants until she sees it is going to be impressed by how different Japanese interior design seems from the typical offerings. If you have something clients don’t see often in your portfolio, you’re more likely to get the job.
Beauty in Color Simplicity
Not everyone wants wild colors and flashy patterns in their homes or offices. The classic Japanese-design color palate consists largely of black, shades of white and shades of brown, with the occasional bit of green such as potted plants. For the client who wants her home or office to be a place of relaxation or a place of productivity, the simple colors of classic Japanese design are ideal. Just because Japanese décor is largely composed of these colors doesn’t mean your designs will be limited, either. For bolder designs and brighter colors, go with stark black and bright white. For clients who really love the idea of celebrating nature, go with soft creams, dark brown and tans.
Minimalism at Its Finest
Zen Buddhism at its core eschews material possessions and embraces a simple, beautiful, uncluttered lifestyle. While you don’t have to discourage your clients from owning possessions — far from it — you should embrace the tenets of minimalism in your design to truly capture the classic Japanese aesthetic. Think of open spaces and lack of clutter in every aspect of your design. Limit the amount of furniture you put in each room. For example, let furnishings be functional. Encourage the client to put away possessions in a closet or under a bed so they’re out of sight — and make the closet highly functional with lots of shelving, hanging space and storage boxes so your client can get the most out of the space. Provide a shelf for books and other small items. As far as décor goes around the rest of the room, limit the knickknacks to plants, miniature rock gardens, a coffee table book or simplistic, Zen-like sculptures, no more than one per table.
Design a room, house or office in classic Japanese style to celebrate nature, to do something different, to focus on simplistic colors of black and shades of white and brown and to invoke a feeling of peace in a minimalistic, clutter-free space. The next time you’re looking for something different to add to your portfolio, go with the beauty of Zen. It may just make you stand out from the competition.
About the Author: Kari Weimar is a contributing writer and interior designer. Her specializations include classic Chinese and Japanese design.
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons: