The New Year is just a few weeks away—just enough time for you to welcome it with a new look for your home. You may want to change the feel of your abode by incorporating an Asian influence, and that’s terrific. But if you think that it’s easy enough that all you need to do is to head to the department store and buy Asian-inspired pieces, you’ve got to think again. Not everyone knows how to properly incorporate Asian interior designs at home because despite how simple they can look, it really isn’t that simple.
The trouble is that most people generalize Asian cultures into one Eastern flavor, which they vaguely associate with nature and serenity. While that may be true in broad strokes, Asian design is much more nuanced than that, especially if you care to think about the specific regions of the continent (which is, after all, the largest in the world). So to ensure that your space makes a clear statement that’s not over the top, it’s best to know the specific Asian aesthetic influences from which you may borrow, and the underlying principles for each.
Japanese Interior Inspirations:
The New Year is a chance for new beginnings. Most people would appreciate another chance to be able to start fresh with a clean slate. This may be what you want to achieve: the chance to figuratively cast out the past by literally getting rid of the clutter and useless, old fixtures that overrun your home. If a free, peaceful new space is what you are going for, the Japanese aesthetic is something you’ll appreciate.
Japanese interior design is founded on Zen principles. It espouses clean, uncluttered spaces, which encourages meditation and reflection. Minimalism is a major part of this Japanese home décor philosophy. The overall feel that you want is one of serenity through simplicity. Nature and beauty through asymmetry are also the central tenets of Zen design. This aesthetic is suitable if you don’t want to go overboard when giving your home a touch of Asian design.
Zen-based design encourages neutral colors and muted tones: chocolate, moss green, and black are good colors for focus pieces, which are ideally set against white, light grey or light brown backgrounds. Consider adding a bonsai or ikebana flower arrangement for a natural touch. Low to mid-level lighting is best, as harsh lights are not suitable for placid meditation and living. If bright light is absolutely necessary, try to at least diffuse it through a paper screen. Using lowered furniture pieces frees up vertical space, which can add to the feeling of serenity in your Zen setup. You’ll be surprised what a difference replacing your bed with a bamboo mat can make.
Chinese interior philosophy:
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if you go overboard with Asian-inspired home design, you risk going into tacky territory. This could happen, for example, when you try to imbue your home with Chinese design elements. In your excitement to communicate an Oriental feel, you may unconsciously occupy every surface and space with bamboo accents, golden Buddha statues, and other furnishings. But to do so would ignore the teachings of Feng Shui, the philosophy that guides many Chinese interior designers.
Feng Shui, which is closely linked to Taoism, seeks to achieve balance and harmony in the home and among its inhabitants. Through the judicious use of pieces and colors—representing earth, fire, wood, metal or water—you can achieve a smooth flow of energies throughout your home. Formally-trained Feng Shui masters consider a multitude of factors, including compass positions, the location of stars, and whether a space requires yin (which is passive energy) or yang (active energy).
The bedroom, for instance, is a passive sanctuary where one seeks to replenish his or her spirit; wooden beds or cots are preferred over metal ones as wood is a benign and soothing element, compared to metal which is cold and oppressive. The living room is an active space that therefore needs yang; it should ideally be large to accommodate a large amount of energy, the flow of which should not be interrupted by furniture so that it doesn’t turn negative. Natural light is beneficial, but having too many doors or windows would cause clashing flows of energy.
Maybe you’re looking at the New Year as a chance to turn over a new leaf, in a clean and green sense. The effects of climate change are being felt all over the world, which is why sustainable living is becoming more critical than ever. A lot of new innovations and movements are being developed to accommodate this new way of thinking, including the passive house movement, which seeks to minimise the use of electrical energy by allowing nature to light and heat the home. Fortunately, one Asian design movement is well placed to address such concerns.
Balinese architectural design has long been known for its nature-oriented style. There’s a definite laid-back, life-at-the-beach feel to it, accentuated by the use of local materials. While the effect of serenity is similar to that evoked by Zen, the underlying objective is to achieve harmony among the three elements of life, which are atma (human), angga (nature), and khaya (gods). Strictly speaking, Balinese home design adheres to the seven philosophies that have different considerations, such as zoning, directions, hierarchy of realms, axes, and symbolism, but many designers and homeowners are satisfied with Balinese-inspired design.
Good ventilation is key: high ceilings and large windows are a real start if you want to go for this design mode. A white space, punctuated with touches of earthen tones, elicits a mood of freedom and relaxed respiration. The influence of nature is clear to see with bamboo, coconut wood, and teak wood furnishings. Structural details and furniture made from sustainable materials are displayed front and centre, and many designers are starting to favour fair trade by sourcing and commissioning the pieces that they use from artisans in developing countries. After all, high-quality products don’t just come from developed nations: you can find stylishly simple bamboo furniture from Indonesian craftsmen, as well as premium breathable mattresses for sale in the Philippines that would fit well in your Balinese-inspired abode.
The colours of India
Not everyone is looking for a teardown of his or her old home design. On the contrary, some may see the New Year as a chance to spice up their humdrum, bare-bones abode. If you see your life and space as a dull blank in dire need of personality and spirit, then you may want to consider Indian design.
Unlike the previously discussed principles of Japanese and Chinese interior aesthetics, the Indian concept of beauty in the home embraces richness and vibrancy. It is reflective of the country’s culture, one that is thousands of years old and hugely diverse. You only need to look at the Hindu pantheon of deities, which runs in the millions, to appreciate how Indians can so readily reject simple tones and lines in favour of bold colours and complex patterns.
For colour choice, one can draw inspiration from the Indian cuisine: curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and other spices are a great cue for the warm and burnt shades that can give homes a distinctly Vedic flavour. Teal and soft gold are good choices for a cooler mood. As for the upholstery and fabric patterns, think paisley, mandalas or block printing that adorn many Indian fabrics. You can play with textures through the use of fine silks on the furniture, carpets, and rugs on the floor, or carved wooden screens that can flexibly divide rooms. Teak or rosewood furniture and bronze or brass statues of Hindu gods such as Vishnu are fine inclusions to achieve the full effect.
A change of environment can open your mind, and with the right touches, your den, bathroom or bedroom interior can provide a much-needed spiritual escape. Of course, you have to be clear about the type of getaway you want. Whether it’s toward reflection, harmony, nature or boldness, choosing the right Asian influence to guide your design decisions can go a long, long way.