Everything You Need to Know About Japandi Design


Japandi is one of the most prevalent interior design trends of the moment. The word denotes a style that fuses Japanese and Scandinavian minimalist design, creating calming, welcoming and utterly contemporary spaces with sustainability at the heart.

It is interesting that both Scandinavian and modern Japanese interior design styles are rooted in minimalist design principles that date all the way back to the 1850s when Japan first started trading with the West (including Northern Europe). The exchange of goods also enabled an exchange of cultural ideas which has inspired architects and designers in both regions ever since.

Today's concept of Japandi design is based on taking elements from both cultures and combining them to achieve a fresh result that balances the natural beauty of Japanese simplicity with Scandinavian utilitarianism. As such, it delivers an aesthetic that is not only pleasing to the eye but soothing to all the senses. What's more, this approach reflects the growing call for environmentally responsible design in both residential and commercial interiors and is perfectly in tune with clients' climate change concerns.

Modern Japanese Interior Design

Everything You Need to Know About Japandi Design

Aoyama 405 by Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects

Understanding Japandi starts with a look at Japanese interior design. Steeped in thousands of years of tradition, kanso is a concept in Zen Buddhist philosophy that emphasizes simplicity and is a cultural representation of the ancient Japanese way of life. Keeping things simple, functional and clutter-free allows you to appreciate the beauty of your home and your belongings without distraction. Next, consider the principle of wabi-sabi, a recognition of beauty in imperfection and transience which embraces the rustic, unsophisticated and handmade rather than striving for perfection.

Infusing nature and light within the Japanese home is key, and the principle of shizen recognises the harmony between humans and nature and is core to the choice of materiality in Japanese interior design often consisting of bamboo and light woods. The considered use of plants is another good way to add nature to Japanese-style interiors.

Contemporary Japanese design has established itself as one of the most recognised versions of minimalism thanks to its focus on shibui – simple, subtle and unobtrusive natural beauty. Luxury is perceived as pared-back simplicity, with neutral color palettes and uncomplicated furniture with clean lines, beautifully constructed with complex joinery. Ornate detailing is eschewed in favor of form and function. Less is more to the point of austerity.

Scandinavian Interior Design

Everything You Need to Know About Japandi Design

Woods Cove by Jen Samson Design

The Scandinavian design movement that we recognise today emerged in the early 1900s, flourishing throughout the Nordic countries from the 1930s through to the 1970s onward with renowned designers including Alvar Aalto (Finland), Arne Jacobsen (Denmark), Josef Frank (Sweden) and many more in what is known as the Golden Age of Scandinavian design.

Many experts agree that the democratic design ideals prevalent in Scandinavian society are a central theme of the design movement there, reflected in the minimalist and utilitarian approach to furniture design and interior design in general. One of the guiding principles is to establish harmony with one’s environment and the art of living well through promoting a simple home environment filled with quality items that are made to love and to last, creating a lifestyle without excess consumerism, which is healthier for the individual and more sustainable for the planet.

Hygge is a Danish term that’s been widely used to describe the way Scandinavian design creates coziness, comfort and contentment through the use of neutral palettes and a mix of natural materials including knits and textiles, furs and leathers to create that ‘undone’ look.

The Swedish term lagom describes an attitude of sufficiency, finding a balanced way of doing things rather than reveling in excess, appreciating what you have and minimizing wastefulness. “Swedish Lagom believes all things in life have a natural balance. When we learn how to walk the line between not too much and not too little, we discover what it means to be content,” explains one expert.

Key Elements of Japandi Design

Everything You Need to Know About Japandi Design

Azabu Residence by Norm Architects & Keiji Ashizawa Design

The Japandi design concept represents the intersection of both of the above influences, and the focus is on using natural elements, light and muted color palettes to create serene and minimalist yet warm and welcoming spaces. The main elements of Japandi design include:

  • Minimalism
    Simple designs and clean lines, open and clutter-free spaces, intentional placement of furniture and accessories that serve a functional purpose.
  • Natural light
    Bringing the natural world inside with large windows to let light flood in, white or pale neutral walls to amplify the light without distraction.
  • Neutral palette
    Natural, neutral colors, cool or warm, natural wood tones and natural greens and living plants, conveying a feeling of calm and tranquility.
  • Sustainability
    High-quality craftsmanship in timeless designs, intentionally chosen for the space and handcrafted from natural materials.

Natural materials are a key component of Japandi design. The best interior schemes balance natural materials with clean lines, solid muted colors to create a contemporary look and feel. Wood (walnut, acorn, teak) and bamboo, wicker and rattan are favored materials for furniture, while textiles and upholstery might use linen, cotton, hemp or velvet. Decorative items are handcrafted from terracotta, clay, ceramic, stone or even concrete or glass and typically with solid colors, not patterns. Of course, plants can also be used as decoration.

Japandi vs Scandi – What’s the Difference?

Everything You Need to Know About Japandi Design

Surrey Family Home by Moretti Interior Design

Elements of Scandinavian design have had a major influence on Japandi styles, which can cause some confusion. It may therefore be useful to close by saying that the two styles are in fact quite distinct in terms of

  • Colors
    Nordic spaces feature pale colors and tend towards a cooler palette while Japandi interiors use a choice of light colors and warm colors, with dark tones for accent.
  • Wood
    Scandi designs almost exclusively use light wood hues while Japandi interiors feature both light and dark wood.
  • Nature
    Balance and harmony between inside and out is a key Japandi feature, which is why natural elements, plants and raw materials are used more than in Scandi design.

While both styles are about simplicity, beauty and functionality, they use color, shape and materiality in different ways. At the core, both Japandi and Scandi focus on creating comfortable and functional spaces with a warm and welcoming ambience. Scandi is more subdued in its approach while Japandi is not averse to introducing contrast through color, textures and materials. Both prioritize nature and sustainability in their design and use of materials, and both recognize the importance of craftsmanship and intentionality over clutter and excess.

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