Your home is your sanctuary. It should be your escape from the world — a place where you can relax and be yourself. You should feel at ease and calm the moment you step in the door. Perhaps that’s why Asian-inspired décor is so hugely popular right now; it offers an escape from our modern, hectic lifestyles.
Asian-inspired décor is renowned for evoking a sense of tranquility and harmony — that Zen-like feel, but for as popular as it is, it can be incredibly difficult to get it just right. Plopping down a few Asian decorations into an overstuffed American home just doesn’t cut it. Instead, it’s about incorporating Asian elements into all aspects of a space, beginning with the walls and flooring and continuing with the amount, type and location of décor items you use.
Any home can be decorated in the Asian style; all it takes is the right technique. Follow these tips to help you achieve a Zen-like feel in your own home, regardless of home style or design.
What’s Your Zen?
Zen is a school of Buddhism that originated in China and later spread to Japan and Korea, taking on new concepts and meanings including enlightenment, self-control and insight. In terms of décor, Zen refers to interior design that evokes feelings of peace, relaxation and harmony. It’s a fusion of styles. As such, there are no hard and fast rules for decorating in this style.
Just as we all relax in different ways, your Zen style may be different from the next person’s. Some prefer the clean and simple look. Others like a more luxurious look and feel, and still others find peace and relaxation in an earthy or natural setting. Achieving a meditative Zen is a deeply personal experience and decorating for Zen will be too.
Achieving Zen in the Home
An Understated Backdrop
Neutral walls and flooring will allow other elements to take center stage, but white is rarely found in a Zen-like environment. Instead, think gentle creams, warm beiges and cool grays supported by natural flooring like wood, bamboo, stone or tile. Paul Sepulveda, national account manager for Island Stone, explains how the company’s bamboo cladding tiles are used in a variety of installations for exactly this purpose. “Our clients and designers use our Crescent Profiles bamboo cladding for horizontal uses in backsplashes and fireplaces to incorporate interactive play between shadow and light and also in vertical installations to achieve a bamboo look in water features and feature walls.”
Keep it Simple
One overarching theme of Asian design is minimalism. As such, you should get rid of the knickknacks, tchotchkes and clutter. Instead, buy purposefully with your ultimate design in mind. Why buy black lacquered décor if your own personal Zen more closely resembles the browns and greens of a forest? Decorate only with items that are meaningful to you or bring you that sense of peace and calm you are seeking.
In addition to earthy colors, consider natural fibers, textures, lighting and scents in your design. Silk, bamboo, wool, and linen are all excellent choices for curtains, throw pillows, blankets, and cushions. Incense, homemade sprays, and essential oils provide a soothing scent that isn’t overpowering or fake. Windows let in natural light, but you can control it with light-filtering shades or bamboo blinds, which also add a textural element. Furniture should be simple with clean lines and made of natural materials. Pieces can be painted to match the décor with their comfort enhanced with plush fabrics or cozy pieces.
Use Color Judiciously
Truly eye-popping rooms incorporate a splash of rich and vivid color in the room. It may be a deep red accent wall, gold-toned pillows and cushions, or striking black furniture.
Texture, Texture, Texture
Think of any Zen-like room you’ve been in. What stood out to you the most? Chances are it had something to do with textures. Asian décor is famously textural. Bamboo screens, silk curtains, embroidered cushions, natural stone — these elements support the senses of sight and touch for a combined feeling of harmony. “The soothing flow from interweaving patterns, contoured shapes, and the delicate feel of a honed surface are pleasing to both the eye and to the touch,” says Sepulveda.
Water features are another common element in Asian décor. The sound is calming, harmonious, and simple. In Asian gardens, you are certain to find a fountain or koi pond. In the home, a small tabletop fountain or even a wall fountain can support a calming and meditative environment.
Soft and Natural Lighting
Remove harsh fluorescent lights or bright LEDs and replace them with softer lighting. Use candles, wall scones, and tabletop lighting instead of overhead lighting, allowing you to control the location and intensity of lighting in the space.
Electronic devices are incredibly distracting, emit annoying blue light and are anything but natural. Keep them out of your Zen space, or at least hidden from view.
Add Some Greenery
Live plants reinforce that closeness to nature that you’re going for. Lucky bamboo plants are a staple of any Zen-inspired room, but they aren’t the only choice. Ferns, bonsai trees, terrariums, and even air plants all look right at home in Asian décor.
As we noted above, Zen design is associated with minimalism, nature, and simplicity. It’s more a way of arranging a space to create a sense of peace and calm than it is using specific colors or materials. Think about what makes you de-stress or brings you peace and use that as the basis to guide your design.
Liyya Hassanali is a Project Manager and Content Strategist for Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides marketing strategies and content for architects, interior designers, and landscape designers. She is a 15+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry, working closely with her clients to provide written content that meets their marketing goals and gets results.
Liyya is passionate about home design and décor and is a confessed HGTV and Pinterest addict. When not providing content writing services for her clients, she can be found browsing home décor sites or spending time with her family.