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In ancient Buddhist tradition, there exists the concept of perfect equanimity and balance, a state of peace and awareness that is both minutely self-aware and yet conscious of our place in the universe. This is called Dhyāna in Sanskrit, Chán in Chinese and Zen in Japanese.
When we refer to Zen concepts in interior design terms, we are talking about bringing these elements of clarity, mindfulness and peace into a living space. Often the term has come to imply clean lines, simple furniture and plain décor, but creating balance rather than Spartan minimalism is key to making your home both welcoming and a sanctuary. When done well, a Zen interior design aesthetic is about letting the space breathe and allowing for positivity and energy to flow freely through your home.
While a certain amount of austerity is expected in Zen interiors the focus should be more on creating harmony; simplicity and tranquillity should be at the forefront of the design concept rather than cold severity. This balance is usually achieved by drawing on nature, and nature-inspired, harmonious tones and textures. A key aspect of Zen decorating is layering similar tones and shapes to create depth and interest, while keeping the overall effect modest and clean.
Another key aspect of Zen design is that simple clear lines are the norm across various elements of the design and décor. Excessive design elements, flourishes or complicated curlicules are avoided, instead giving way to sleek curves or pure straight lines. Furniture is pared down and is often the focal point of a room. Décor pieces are selected to integrate well with all other elements of the room rather than to contrast or call individual attention. For example, if your floors are in a neutral bamboo tone, a bamboo motif might repeat through soft furnishings or in colours throughout the room.
Perhaps the most attractive quality of zen concept interior design, especially in today’s stressful reality, is the promise of relaxation and sanctuary. Having a simplified and clutter-free home and restful atmosphere will help create a happier mindset at the end of a messy and chaotic day. Remember the KonMari teaching that if it does not “spark joy”, it probably need not be in your Zen home. And while the initial process of decluttering might seem daunting at first, the new uncomplicated nature of your space can actually make tidiness easier to maintain in the long run.
Straightforward and uncomplicated, Zen style interior design is
also ideal for smaller homes or houses with an open plan interior as the flow and order will serve to make your home seem both airier and more cohesive.
As with any other interior design style, keep the structural realities of your home in mind while you plan your décor and finishings. And working with the framework of your space, these are a few key areas to concentrate on when planning your Zen interior design inspired home.
Keep your palette both natural and neutral. Take your inspiration from nature – the golden beiges of sandy beaches and deep wood tones of pine can play against the soft cream of sandstone. Or the blues of an evening sky can be matched with muted matcha and pale slate grey for a aacooler toned nature palette. Soft pinks, deep greens and warmer whites can add lift and brightness without being overpowering. The perfect Zen shades to bring into your home are organic and complementary and you should keep your chosen palette limited.
Real wood, bamboo and stone are the ideal way to bring nature into your home, so source your furniture, and maybe even flooring, keeping these in mind. Especially if you have the option of fitting your floor to your design theme, choose finishes that are barefoot-friendly, such as wood, stone or even carefully used terracotta. Introduce layers of texture in the form of wood grain or furnishings in natural fabrics, like linen, cotton or wool. Keep these in colours that reflect the overall theme and complement your core furniture.
Another key element of a minimalist Zen interior design theme is uncomplicated and simple furniture pieces. Often floor level, or low-to-ground styles, furniture should preferably be made from wood or other natural materials. Here you might want to prioritise higher-quality items, such as a platform bed or a low wide seating unit, and make this the main focus of a room. And since you do not need to fill every nook and corner with furnishings, you can invest a little more in better made pieces. Plan for storage and remember that the key to maintaining minimalism is keeping clutter under control.
Avoid large prints or bold textures and patterns when designing your home interiors. Paisleys, chintzes, big English garden floral drapes and bright traditional art cushions have no place in your Zen style interior design plan. Instead, lean toward block colours and simple geometric patterns if you want to provide a visual break.
When you first step into a Zen designed space, the immediate impression should be of light and airiness. This can be achieved best with strategically placed warm white lighting. Use tall torchiere style lamps in the corners of a Zen living room, and accessorise with paper or woven lanterns either hanging or at low levels. A simple combination of focused task lamplight and soft accent lighting (using concealed LEDs in a warm colour) will create the ideal well-lit, serene ambiance. For your windows, there are two ways to go – thick natural fabric curtains to cut out city sounds and create intimacy or light cotton sheers to let in as much natural light as possible. Indeed, a combination of these might work best for your space.
The final step to making your home interior design as soothing and reinvigorating a haven as you possibly can, is inviting nature into your space. The customary Zen suggestion is that an area should have a representation of each of the elements (earth, wood, fire, water, and metal) to achieve true harmony. These representations can be in the form of simple artwork, a small rock garden, a water feature, a tiny metal gong, a candle, real house plants or even a small Zen raking table. If you have the space you can even do all of the above!
Having discussed all of the rules to creating a Zen home we should also point out that the objective of the Zen ethos is to focus on achieving tranquillity and awareness for the individual, rather than to follow specific design trends. Therefore, your personal tastes and the spatial needs of your home will play a large part in the final look and theme.
For instance, not everyone will have the luxury of choosing flooring that is real stone or natural wood. If you are trying to achieve your Zen interior design on a budget or perhaps even in a rented home, invest in a thick cotton or woven reed area rug for a
similar barefoot-friendly flooring effect. Translucent paper shades and warm white bulbs can change even apartment lighting into serene ambient light. And, as discussed above, natural fabric curtains of the appropriate weight can change the whole atmosphere of your home.
Or maybe you are only looking at converting a single space into a quiet retreat for contemplation. Some smart Zen bedroom ideas are to choose a low set bed as the centrepiece of your room and to flank it with soft focused lamps. You can make a meditation nook separated from the rest of the room with a simple screen or room divider. Indulge yourself with a woollen throw and add oxygen into the environment with potted plants.
So now that we’ve demystified zen design and how to achieve it, we hope you’re inspired to put your ideas into practice!
If you still have questions or are just yearning to introduce a touch of peace and serenity into your home, then why not get in touch with our team? Here at Beautiful Homes Service by Asian Paints, we’ll partner with you to make sure you’re getting a Zen inspired home that’s not only beautifully planned but accomplished masterfully! Whether it’s assisting you with flawless installation and all the design decisions, or helping you to source the latest fittings, home accessories and décor styles from our curated collection, we’re here for you, every step of the way.
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