What Is Japandi Design? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

published Nov 20, 2021
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Japandi style living room by Allspace design

Interior design has always been influenced by a fusion of styles and cultures, and the Japandi aesthetic is no exception. This fairly new design movement, which began to take off in 2016 and is now very popular, is a blend of age-old Japanese and Scandinavian methods, both of which focus heavily on simplicity and natural elements. Essentially, Japandi style combines the Japanese principle of Wabi-Sabi (the philosophy of appreciating the beauty in natural imperfections) with the Danish concept of hygge (the feeling of cozy contentment). After the last few years, where many have spent more time at home than ever before, the notions of comfort and simplicity seem especially attractive.

Japandi’s not just about design — it’s a lifestyle, too. “It’s about recognizing, accepting, and embracing the imperfectness of life,” says designer Shanty Wijaya of Allprace, who has decorated projects in this style, an example of which you can see above. “It teaches us to find beauty in imperfection, form deep connection to the earth and nature, and to enjoy to the simple pleasures of life.” 

Quick Overview

What Is Japandi Style?

Japandi is a style — and a lifestyle — that embraces the beauty of imperfection and cultivates connection with the natural world. The following features would contribute to a Japandi design at home:

  • Sustainable natural materials like bamboo, rattan, stone, and leather
  • Subdued color palettes made up of off-whites, warm neutrals, and soft greens
  • Clutter-free, organized interiors
  • Soft, natural light that creates a relaxed, comforting environment
  • Contrast of light and dark accents
  • Connected indoor and outdoor spaces 
Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Japandi style by definition

Defined by its neutral palette and use of natural materials, Japandi focuses on the ideas of sustainability and craftsmanship. “Japandi is an East-meets-West movement,” Wijaya says. She notes that the six key principles of Wabi-Sabi are also important in Japandi-style interiors: Kanso (simplicity), Fukinsei (asymmetry), Shibumi (beauty in the understated), Shizen (naturalness without pretense), Yugen (subtle grace), and Datsuzoku (freeness). (Editor’s Note: Some interpretations of Wabi-Sabi also include a seventh principle, Seijaku, aka tranquility).

Credit: Muji

Japandi elements in product design

Design objects and Items created using Japandi principles are well-crafted and pragmatic. Kanako Hatai of MUJI, a Japanese retail company, uses their toaster as an example. “Our designer Naoto Fukasawa explains that the form of things should be determined by use and placement in a home,” she says. “A toaster is more square with flat sides so it may be placed against a kitchen wall, while a tea kettle has more rounded edges that fit well in the hand.”

Japandi vs. minimalism 

Japandi style is simple, but it’s far from minimalism in both theory and practice. Minimalist designs have the intention of being functional, and items are chosen based on how essential they are. Like the Japandi aesthetic, minimalist spaces tend to have a neutral color palette, but there’s no ornamentation or room for imperfection in a purely minimalist design. Minimalism is meant to be cool, slick, and rigorous. In contrast, Japandi style is all about finding the beauty in irregularity and appreciating the craftsmanship of each item. Designer Jarret Yoshida of Jarret Yoshida Inc., emphasizes how important these differences are. “Japanese design values, above all, the idea of texture and age — not an unachievable perfection with flawless reflected polished surfaces,” Yoshida says.

According to Yoshida, Yakisugi, a traditional Japanese method of burning and preserving wood, is a great example of this principle of imperfect craftsmanship. “These surfaces are neutral and natural but take a space from looking like a clinically-cold showroom to being a real home filled with age and texture, which is inviting and relaxed,” he says.

Japandi vs. Scandinavian style

Scandinavian modern design took off in the 1940s and was heavily influenced by the mid-century modern movement of the 1950s. Scandi style since become even more popular, thanks to the design world’s overall movement toward simplicity and sustainability in the 1990s and 2000s. Like Japandi style, Scandinavian design focuses on functionality, clean lines, and bringing nature in. One notable contrast between the two aesthetics though is in color. While Japandi design tends to stick to soft, more monochromatic color palettes, Scandinavian design uses pops of pastel colors like light blues, pinks, and sage greens to brighten up spaces, particularly to help offset the long, dark winters Scandinavian countries experience. Scandinavian design is also a bit more casual, featuring unfinished blonde woods that tend to look more farmhouse that hand-hewn.

Credit: James Ryang

How to get the Japandi look at home

If you’d like to bring some of Japandi’s design characteristics into your space, here are some ideas to consider.

  • Paint walls cream, beige, or a soft pastel shade to create a light, calming space
  • Bring plants and greenery into a room for natural touches
  • Opt for organic textiles with subtle patterns like striped linen bedding
  • Incorporate darker accent items to create a high-contrast look with light walls and furnishings
  • Mix in natural materials like rattan and bamboo and look for striking, sculptural paper light fixtures 
  • Avoid clutter by storing things that do not need to be seen out of sight
  • Choose vintage or reclaimed pieces when possible, keeping sustainability in mind