The main Japanese influences on western interior design for most people are Zen and Feng Shui, so we will take a short look at them below.
Zen Interior Design
If you would like to bring some aspects of Zen into your home, the interior design will have to be minimalistic, peaceful and tranquil. Nature will be an essential part of creating that impression.
Minimalism means simple, basic colours, nothing loud. Furniture and ornaments ought to be kept to a minimum too.
People relate Zen with Japan, but in fact it is Chinese in origin. Zen is a form of Buddhism, so it is not really a style, but a life style, a state of being, a form of religion. Zen teaches meditation in order to gain enlightenment.
Therefore, in order to create features of what we call Zen into your interior design, you will have to clear all unnecessary items out of your room and paint with plain colours that will not sidetrack your mind. This is harder to accomplish than you might imagine, but do your best to visualize what a monk’s cubicle would be like to live in.
It is almost certainly sensible to make over only one room in your house in what we call a Zen style, because the majority Westerners would find it hard to live without all their ‘stuff’.
No knick-knacks, very little furniture and bland colours are the order of the day. So, it would be best to begin by taking everything out of the room, because it is simpler to put a few things back than to take a lot out. Then emulsion the walls white or off-white, say ‘smoke white’ – a very pale shade of grey.
An inspiring photograph with a Zen saying could go on a wall. Maybe something by Matsuo Basho like: ‘Do not seek to walk in the footsteps of the wise men of old, seek what they sought’.
Feng Shui Interior Design
‘Feng Shui’ is usually translated into English as ‘Wind and Water’ and it is the art of arranging items to achieve harmony. Once again, Feng Shui originated in China, not Japan.
The real Feng Shui devotee uses the art not only for interior design but also to choose a house and a burial plot. Students believe that Feng Shui has an effect on wellbeing, wealth and personal relationships.
Early Chinese Feng Shui employed astronomy to find the equilibrium between man and the universe and Feng Shui measuring appliances have been found in tombs going back to 278 BC
Modern Feng Shui seeks to locate places with good ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘Chi’). These locations are deemed to be good for humans to live in, others should not be settled but left as nature intended.
Qi means ‘air’ and is used to describe the flow of energy, perhaps based on solar energy. It is the balance between two bodies and is the principal behind Feng Shui. The opposites in this balance are the ‘Ying’ and the ‘Yang’.
Feng Shui was almost unheard of in the West until Richard Nixon went to China in 1972. Regrettably, it has been re-invented in the West and now has been mixed up with magic and mysticism in the USA.