‘Japandi’: Why Japanese-meets-Scandi design is taking over the Internet


Written by the author Hannah Pham, CNN

The comfortable cleanliness of Scandinavian interiors and the minimalist beauty of traditional Japanese decor have made them staples of modern home design. Now, there is a growing trend that combines the two: “Japandi”.

In the winter of 2020, Google searches skyrocketed as people around the world remodeled their homes amid Covid-19 lockdowns. According to data from Google Trends, interest has steadily increased.

“I think a lot of people were looking for a style that’s relaxing,” Laila Rietnergen, author of the new book “Japandi Living,” said in an email interview. “Japandi style’s calm and relaxing aesthetic and more durable handcrafted elements fit perfectly within these needs.”

An earthenware teapot sits on an elegant wooden table. Credit: We are Kees

Zeitgeisty as it sounds, this design fusion dates back to the 1860s, Rietnergen said. The aesthetic has its roots in Danish naval lieutenant William Carstensen, who visited Japan when the country opened up after two centuries of self-isolation. It was his book “Japan’s Capital and the Japanese” that forced the Danish designers to travel to Japan, where they discovered that both cultures valued simplicity and natural beauty, Rietnergen said.

To this day, contemporary interior designers are rediscovering the characteristics of neutral tones, natural materials and a penchant for minimalist decoration.

In addition to providing practical advice for readers, Rietnerg’s book presents dozens of photographs of clean Japanese-style homes. As elegant as they are cozy, the living room is decorated with delicate paper lamps and cozy cream sofas hand-carved by Scandinavian designers.

A delicate paper lantern completes a neat shelf.

A delicate paper lantern completes a neat shelf. Credit: Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen

In one, an elegant kitchen is revealed to reveal light brown cabinets that complement the dining room’s wheat and flat tones. A plant adds a touch of green to the room. Rietnergen says that both Scandinavian and Japanese designs emphasize the importance of nature, not only through colors such as light browns, tans and soft whites, but also through the use of materials such as linen and wood to create an atmosphere of tranquility.

Hygge and wabi-sabi

The key to Japandi design is to create something that’s subtly decorated without feeling empty, where it’s stylish but “makes you feel at home and relaxed,” said Rietnergen, whose Instagram page @japandi.interior has nearly 450,000 followers.

Doing so revolves around two design principles: ‘hygge’, a Danish and Norwegian term relating to a sense of coziness and warmth, and ‘wabi-sabi’, a Japanese concept of accepting flaws.

To achieve both, de-cluttering is essential, Rietnergen said, citing Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo, whose home organization methods became a global phenomenon after the success of her Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Rietnergen, like Kondo, recommends treating tidying less as a chore and more as a celebration, and an opportunity to reflect on whether the elements around you make you happy.

Japandi style also celebrates craftsmanship, be it the delicate light sculptures of Isamu Noguchi or the furniture of Carl Hansen, whose chairs sell for thousands of dollars. But Rietnergen emphasizes that the aesthetic can be achieved even by those who decorate on a budget. Ultimately, he says, it’s a philosophy driven by the belief that “less is more.”

Soft white and tan tones combined with a tree.

Soft white and tan tones combined with a tree. Credit: We are Kees

Rather than buying cheap, mass-produced furniture that isn’t durable, Rietnergen suggests buying second-hand to keep those few standout pieces you can keep for years. And, in any case, the beauty of Japandi design should not be followed by strict criteria, adds the author.

“Each house and interpretation of the Japondi style is different,” he said. “It’s really important to dare to make your own choices. Your home isn’t a showcase and shouldn’t be a pasted copy of something you’ve seen. An important part is adding personal items and touches.”

Credit: Cocoon

Japandi Living: Japanese Tradition. Scandinavian Design,” published by Lannook, is available now.

Image above: Interiors by MENU Space.