Is Japandi The New House Perfect?

Alex Mcil author
Alex Mcil

At a time when our focus is on health and wellbeing, can the latest interior design trend from Japan and Scandinavia help us channel wellness and tranquility into our homes?

Research at the Mental Health Foundation has found that during the Covid-19 pandemic, 45% of people in the UK had visited green spaces to help them cope. When so much of our time and energy has been spent on prioritising our physical and mental health it is no wonder that Japandi, the home decor trend that brings the outdoors indoors, is the hottest cult aesthetic of the moment.

Japandi is loosely defined as the fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian design. Whilst simplicity and functionality are two key components to this style, the third lynch pin, is the incorporation of natural materials used by highly skilled craftsmen to create products that are made to last. 

Washi craftmaship, think Washi paper lights, is a fabulous example of why the Japanese place strong emphasis on the use of natural materials and the traditional techniques of crafting. Not only is the finished product durable but buying Washi also sustains the local traditional craft of hand-making paper in Japan.

The significance of preserving this craft became evident in 2014, when Japan successfully registered Washi to UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage cultural items. The underlying purpose and aim of UNESCO’s list is to preserve culture, living expressions, knowledge and skills that can be transmitted from one generation to the next.

Materials Sourced From Nature

The importance of nature to both Japanese and Scandinavian cultures can not be underestimated. It comes as no surprise that this decorative style looks to emphasise how best nature can be incorporated into your living space.

Blending natural materials such as eco friendly bamboo, organic linens and wool is a much loved and subtle way to bring your love of the outdoors back into your inner sanctum. The use of sustainable materials is at the forefront of the Japandi trend, attention is placed on purchasing fewer items that are high quality, durable and will last longer.

You are encouraged to use materials that go easy on the environment, are replenishable and most importantly recyclable.

Plants & The Japandi Colour Palette

Bringing plants indoors is an easy way to connect with nature on a daily basis, but remember, nature serves a dual purpose with this style of decor. Japandi’s traditional colour palette gravitates toward neutral and warm tones, the use of plants gives you permission to break up a neutral colour palette by adding pops of colour to your living space.

Simplicity Doesn’t Mean Minimalism

If simplicity forms the basis of your core aesthetic then Japandi is your go to style for interior expression. Simplicity does not necessarily equate to minimalism, the key to decorating in this style is to use furniture, sculpture and artwork that project strong outlines and curves.

Decluttered spaces must use a few statement pieces to project clean, bold lines that bring a feel of airiness and cleanliness to your surroundings. 

Functionality, Intent & Purpose

The practice of being selective about what you bring into your personal space is a sign of clear decision making about what belongs in your life right now. Using a space for its intended purposes can help reduce stress and anxiety and can give you a sense of purpose in the moment, it also has the added advantage of keeping your home low-maintenance.

With Japandi every piece in a room should have a purpose and a function. Emphasis is placed on creating an orderly environment that focuses on what is important to you in the present – decluttering is merely an outcome of the style process.

Statement Pieces

Functionality should not translate to boring. Nor should it be confused with a tactical or calculating mood board yielding clinical outputs. Remember, this style encourages you to fuse the functional and beautiful in a home.

As a starting point, accessories that introduce texture such as cushions and throws can be juxtaposed with striking pieces of artwork that create curved or angled silhouettes. Whatever statement pieces you decide to use, the ultimate goal, is to create a harmonious look and feel to the personal space you are styling. 

Natural Lighting

Where possible strive for naturally well lit spaces. Natural lighting should feel like it is circulating in a room and should bring a feel of airy, cleanliness to your living space. For interiors that are low on natural light there are many useful tricks you can use to to create an illusion of space.

The use of large mirrors, glass furniture or any accessories with a reflective surface will help bring a sense of brightness back into an otherwise lacklustre room. Finally, complement natural light with the softer forms of indoor lighting using candle lights, ceiling lights or even strategically placed overreach floor lamps. Think along the lines of Hyggelig lighting and create the softer, more soothing pools of honey glow that form part of the Scandinavian obsession with indoor lightening.

Tactile Textures

Our primary senses are our connection to the world, they help us perceive our environment, are critical to the enjoyment of our experiences, closely connect us to our memories and have a big influence on how we act and feel. Your final style layout is not just about how your designs look to the discerning eye, but how objects in your space feel to the hand are equally important.

You are encouraged to think about touch and how best to use materials and textiles with different textures such as hemp, linen and cork in the home. A simple trick is to close your eyes, or use a blindfold, and think about how you want your space to feel if you were unable to see the world around you.

Ask yourself, how do you touch Japandi? What does this style feel like in my hands and against my skin and body? Note and quickly execute any changes you want to make to your space. Do not overthink the details, let your gut instinct guide you.

Neutral & Contrasting Colors

Japandi combines the Scandinavian love for white and neutral tones with the Japanese preference for the warmer earthier tones. The primary colour palette for Japandi is neutral or light. The principal aim of using colour is to generate a warm but bright interior space.

Think whites, beige and oatmeal alongside the contrasting darker colours of blue, green, earth tones – and yes even black is allowed. Black lacquers are a distinct and immediately recognisable part of Japanese design and commonly used as an accent.

Editor’s Final Nook

Clean and uncluttered spaces are coveted by both the Japanese and Scandinavians but this does not mean you have to forfeit a cosy feel-at-home canvas. Scandinavians love their comfy spaces and put a lot of thought and effort into the  creation of a hyggekrog – best translated as ‘a nook’. Don’t forget that you are allowed to create a cosy corner filled with cushions, blankets and soft lighting to sit and relax in – the size of space you apportion for your daily comforts is irrelevant. A small corner with a bay window where you can sit and read with a blanket on your lap will do nicely.

The fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian design principles makes for interesting style outcomes. However, this can be said of any design principle whether properly executed or not. What makes Japandi stand out is the serious consideration you must give to the functional use of space.

Japandi is an exercise that forces you to pay attention to how you inhabit and use space in the here and now. Its true test of value does not hinge on mastering the visual elements but on whether you have created and designed a space that gives you moment-by-moment awareness of yourself and how you live in the present, it is after all the architects ultimate test in mindfulness.