Explanation of the Japandi style in interior design, and how to style this minimalist look

Even if you have never heard of the Japandi style before, there is no doubt that you have seen all on your social feeds. The movement, which marries Japanese and Scandinavian design elements, is a perfect match and increasingly popular.

Although minimalist in nature, Japandi interiors are warm and textured, the result of the infusion of Denmark’s ‘hygge’ lifestyle (warm ambiences only) and Japan’s ‘wabi-sabi’ philosophy (natural imperfections welcome) in simple and soothing interiors. Add to that the cultural and shared appreciation of fine craftsmanship and nature, and it’s no wonder these two styles have come together as one – the feeling is mutual.

To better understand what Japandi means as an interior design style, we spoke with experts who use this style throughout their work to learn more about what it is, where it comes from and how to infuse the signature look into your own soothing. space.

A Japandi style interior with a white Eames chair and a neutral color palette

(Image credit: Justin Chung. Design: OWIU)

What is the Japandi style in interior design?

The Japandi style is a mixture of Japanese and Scandinavian design. At its core, the style embodies a mutual love of craftsmanship, minimalism and natural materials found in both cultures. The result, according to architectural designer Amanda Gunawan of LA’s OWIU design (opens in a new tab)is a style that creates warm, textured and minimalist spaces.

“Japanese and Scandinavian designs focus on simplicity and maintaining high-quality construction and materials,” says Gunawan. “While Scandinavian design focuses more on functionality with clean, simple lines, Japanese design embraces the natural imperfections of materials.”

Naturally, weaving these two styles together just feels right, with deeply connected spaces where every piece matters. And while the hallmarks of both methods are hard to miss, the synergy goes beyond the surface.

“Scandinavian and traditional Japanese design traditions are linked by a common understanding of the integrated qualities of simplicity, functionality, sophistication and attention to detail,” say Frederik Werner and Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen, partners at Norm Architects in Copenhagen. (opens in a new tab), a leader in the Japandi style. “There is a mutual understanding and respect in Scandinavia and Japan for the use of natural materials in design and architecture, a fondness for muted color palettes and a humble approach to expressiveness through a knowledge -make it authentic.”

A curly chair next to a wooden coffee table with a potted plant

(Image credit: Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen of Norm Architects)

What does a Japandi space look like?

Expect traces of minimalist design in all Japandi interiors, but with Japanese and Scandinavian sensibilities. “The typical Japandi house features clean lines, simple shapes and a minimalist aesthetic,” says Gunawan.

Furniture follows suit with understated pieces that uphold simple lines (a hallmark of Scandinavian and Japanese furnishings) with natural materials. You’ll find organic textiles and wood accents abound alongside rich materials like bamboo and stone.

“In Japan as in Scandinavia, they love spending time in nature and bringing nature into their homes,” says Laila Rietbergen, author of the forthcoming book. Living in Japan (opens in a new tab) and founder of the popular @japandi.interior (opens in a new tab) Instagram. “It resonates not only with using natural materials like wood and linen, but also with organic forms.”

A warm interior with light suspensions in rice paper

(Image credit: Justin Chung. Design: OWIU)

You’ll also see this contrast play out with neutral color palettes, as Japandi strikes a natural balance between the brighter palettes of Scandinavian design and the earthy tones of Japanese design. “Where in Japanese interiors you’ll find darker colors and wood, in Scandinavian design you’ll find more light wood and soft, brighter pops of color,” Rietbergen adds. “This combined makes an interesting space with the different use of natural materials, shapes and contrast.

When it comes to decor, functional pieces complete the picture with textured rugs, ceramic items, and often a fresh dose of nature (like a potted plant). As Japan and Scandinavia’s champions for clutter-free spaces, every room counts – it’s quality over quantity.

“Both styles emphasize high-quality, durable and long-lasting designs, which is why they can combine so naturally,” says Gunawan.

Where does the Japandi style come from?

For a style that feels surprisingly current, you might be surprised to learn that its roots formed a long time ago. “Although the use of the term ‘Japandi’ is relatively new, the connection between Japanese and Danish cultures dates back to the 19th century when Danish designers began to travel to Japan after the 220-year-old closed border policies finally lifted and people were free to go to their destination,” says Gunawan.

These early Danish travelers found aesthetic principles that resonated with their own and a relatable design ethic of artisan culture. Naturally, a conversation between the two styles formed, influencing each other over time.

A neutral Japandi interior with a view of a verdant terrace

(Image credit: Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Design: Norm Architects)

“Where other design traditions can be sensuous, expressive and playful, there is a down-to-earth seriousness and thoughtfulness in Japanese and Scandinavian cultures, both originating from poor peasant cultures, which were forced into a design thinking based on meeting real and practical needs,” says Norm Architects. “Therefore, there has been a long and mutual exchange of ideas between Scandinavia and Japan, which is evident in both traditions.”

One of the inescapable principles, mutual love of nature, is evident through the choice materials of both cultures. Although these principles are expressed in different ways – note that Japan Wabi-Sabi philosophy embraces the natural imperfections of raw materials while Denmark hygge The concept seeks “cozy feelings” rooted in warm woods and natural textiles – the combination creates its own material comfort.

While the precedent of the Japandi style existed long ago, the fully realized aesthetic has coalesced in recent years. What made it such a success?

According to Gunawan, Japandi’s focus on high-quality, durable items fits with today’s sustainable spirit. “From furniture to lighting and decorative items to ceramics, people value and seek quality over quantity,” says Gunawan. “Japandi also emphasizes long-term sustainability. Investing in a high-quality design that is built to last a long time is an enduring practice.

A Japandi-style interior with clean-lined furniture

(Image credit: Ferm LIVING, courtesy of Laila Rietbergen)

Of course, if it’s only now on your radar, the serenity of Japandi interiors comes into its own in today’s climate, where our home environment is a priority.

“During the pandemic, a lot of people were spending more time at home,” adds Rietbergen. “It has become their workspace, their daycare center and the place where you also spend your free time. [I] think a lot of people are looking for a relaxing style. The serene and soothing aesthetic of the Japandi style and more durable handcrafted items perfectly meet these needs.

How to give your interior a Japandi look?

If you’re drawn to Japandi interiors, there are a handful of basics that will help you bring the style into your home. For starters, designer Amanda Gunawan recommends grounding your interior in a neutral color palettehighlighting tones like gray, white, beige and brown.

Next, Gunawan says to consider your accessories and decor, opting for organic materials whenever possible (think ceramics, dried plants, and rugs with natural fibers) to lend natural character and texture to your space. This same logic applies to natural materials and finishes – “linen, concrete, light wood, brass, anything raw,” notes Gunawan. When it comes to lighting ideasGunawan also recommends creating a space that emphasizes “lots of natural light during the day and warm light at night.”

And, if there’s a proven way to create the Japandi vibe, it’s to declutter your space of unnecessary items. “In Japandi interiors, especially in Japanese interiors, almost all decorations have a purpose,” says Laila Rietbergen. “These are functional objects, like ceramic cups, a teapot or books.”

About Gertrude H. Kerr

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