How Japandi Design Can Bring Comfort and Simplicity to Your Home

Japanese and Scandinavian influences come together to produce a look that’s serene, organic, and refined.
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A hybrid aesthetic combining the comfort and functionality of Scandinavian design with the simple elegance of Japanese style, the "Japandi" look is on the rise, regardless of one’s thoughts on the portmanteau.

Inspired by a homesteading commune he documented in Western North Carolina, photographer Mike Belleme built the Nook, a minimalist retreat in the woods that draws from both Japanese and Scandinavian design. He foraged much of the wood for the 400-square-foot cabin. "Every kind of wood has a certain mood and personality," he says. The exterior features an entranceway of oak blackened in the traditional Japanese method known as shou sugi ban.

It’s a natural marriage between two cultures that privilege minimalism and tranquility, and their differences also complement each other. The Scandinavian concept of hygge veers rustic, utilizing light wood, crisp neutrals, and simple layouts that can bring earthiness to a space; Japanese design contributes an emphasis on warm, rich colors and an indoor/outdoor experience that allows a home feel cozy, yet tied to the environment.

In California’s idyllic Sea Ranch community, a vacation home by Malcolm Davis Architecture privileges views of the Pacific Ocean and fog-shrouded trees. The bright and airy interiors, following a crisp, Scandinavian aesthetic, are pared back to retain focus on the spectacular surroundings.

Architect Charlie Lazor designed this peaceful, lakeside prefab in Ontario, Canada, with a Japanese-style bathroom clad in richly stained teak with a matching tub and sink by Bath in Wood.

The Summer House in the Stockholm archipelago, designed by Kod Arkitekter, emphasizes a strong connection with the forested surroundings and exceptional sea views beyond. The architects achieved this by combining a Scandinavian cottage vernacular with a simplicity inspired by Japanese design.

To bring Japandi design into your own home, begin with intentionality. One of the main tenets is a focus on beautiful, practical designs that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. "We strongly believe quality and easy living will affect people in a positive way," explains architect Johan Tran, who renovated a compact apartment in Oslo with these principles in mind. "Owning less leads to having more time and focusing on the important things in life." 

An Oslo apartment by architect Johan Tran features a Nordic and Japanese sensibilities. A Japanese-inspired sliding door made of birch plywood acts as a flexible room divider.

Each object in a Japandi home has purpose, and everyday items are themselves artful accessories. Focus on simple, useful, and impactful decor.

Birch plywood floating cabinets line the wall, carving out room for a painting that commands the dining room. The rest of the decor is quiet with subtle pops of greenery to echo the striking piece.

Japandi homes are restrained when it comes to color, but differing tones can create microclimates of mood within a space. Stick to neutral hues, but incorporate both light, open areas and darker, more intimate spaces to balance crispness and comfort.

Both the interior and exterior of this Japandi tiny home feature contrasting shades of black and natural wood tones, which homeowner Stephen Proctor first imagined after picking up a Theo coffee mug and teapot by the brand Stelton. The matte-black ceramic base and simple bamboo handle and lid inspired him to mimic the combination throughout the tiny home.

Brown and beige are staple tones, while grays and blacks create drama. Muted pinks, blues, and greens can be used to accent meditative spaces and complement natural wood.

In a sophisticated main bathroom in Seattle, sea-green concrete floor tiles with a geometric pattern provide a lawn of color against wood walls and white tile. The paper lanterns are also a clear homage to the building’s Japanese inspirations.

Drawing on the Japanese concept of wabi sabi—the appreciation of perfection in imperfection—Japandi emphasizes natural materials and a deep connection to the environment. Look to local materials, goods, and greenery to feel grounded in your home.

Architect Johan Sundberg looked to Japanese architects like Kengo Kuma for inspiration for the design of a holiday home in southern Sweden. "We call it the Katsura typology, but that's probably sacrilegious," he says. The eaves of the gently sloped hipped roof extend generously in all directions, turning the deck into a covered retreat that’s part veranda, part engawa, the Japanese version of a porch.

Stephen Proctor, the owner of a Japandi tiny home, perhaps expresses the meditative quality of the style best. "I previously spent time with Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura as well as Keiko Yanaka, a Japanese tea master apprentice," he says. "Between Makoto's ‘slow art’ and Keiko’s tea ceremonies, I’ve been on a journey of learning to be. I wanted my space to reflect this contemplative posture as a place of peace." 

Custom furniture made of locally sourced oak tie the interiors to the outdoors.