What happens when you blend two of the most elegant minimalist design styles in the world? “Japandi,” an intersection of Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics that produces clean, curated, and highly functional interiors. Though its popularity is exploding in 2021, this style has actually been around for a long time. Cultural exchange between Denmark and Japan first began about 150 years ago when the latter opened its borders after centuries of seclusion. The two countries soon bonded over their shared devotion to spectacular craftsmanship, timelessness, and simplicity, subsequently leading to a beautiful intermingling of cultures.
You’re probably already familiar with two of Japan and Denmark’s most widely recognized design styles: wabi-sabi and hygge. It’s easy to see the overlap between the two, especially when it comes to natural materials, coziness, and a general lack of clutter. Eschewing ornate embellishment in favor of sculptural simplicity of form, Japandi style takes elements of both to achieve an extraordinarily harmonic result.
Minimalism and Simplicity
Sleek, uncomplicated silhouettes cut down visual clutter for a more relaxing vibe. That doesn’t mean you can’t have drama in the form of large sculptural pieces, but look for objects with shapes and surfaces that aren’t broken up too much by unnecessary frills and ornamentation. Each object should serve a clear purpose, even if that purpose is just to provide visual balance in the space or bring in a certain color. Try to think like an art director: how does this item interact with those around it? What message does it send? Does it enhance the feeling you’re trying to create, or is the space more powerful without it?
Emphasis on the Organic
Natural materials echo the natural world, encouraging a sense of harmonious flow as you move indoors. Both Japanese and Scandinavian design styles elevate the beauty of wood in its own right, highlighting the color, texture, and grain to become a focal point in the room. Wool, rattan, seagrass, jute, linen, stone, leather, and cork are among the other organic materials you could incorporate, along with living plants, to enhance that connection to nature.
Warmth and Comfort
Close your eyes and conjure up the most relaxing space imaginable. No, really. It’ll tell you a lot about the sights, smells, sounds, and textures that comfort you and make you feel safe. Bring in cozy textiles, seating you can snuggle into, warm mood lighting, and even scented candles or the perfect platter for your favorite treats to keep on the dining room table. Whatever helps you achieve “hygge,” the pleasures of everyday well-being, while maintaining an overall sense of cleanliness and balance.
Perfectly Balanced Colors
Scandinavian style typically embraces softer, more neutral colors like white, beige, gray, and black, while Japanese palettes might carefully bring in richer, more saturated hues like jewel tones. Combine the two by creating a neutral backdrop enlivened by rust, moss, peach, or any other accent color that expresses your personality without overwhelming the space.
A Sense of Timelessness
Even more important to the Japandi style than aesthetic is a feeling of heft and durability, and the sense that an object will have a long life. In both Japanese and Scandinavian design, quality is immediately evident in the form of fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, and sustainable materials. You can see it in how evenly a basket is woven, or in the visible joints of a wooden table. Look for handcrafted items as well as well-built antiques that seem like they’ll stand the test of time even with regular handling, their weathering contributing to their beauty in the spirit of wabi-sabi.
It might sound like a contradiction, considering the fact that Japandi is often spun as a trend, but avoid trendy mass-produced items, even if they fit within the general design style; the idea is that each piece you choose will feel classic and timeless decades into the future.
Top image: Jenna Peffley via Architectural Digest