Forget bonsai, bamboo, and shoji screens. They can look great in decorating, but they’re not what Zen interior design is about.
Strictly speaking, Zen interior design doesn’t even exist … but you shouldn’t let that keep you from creating ‘Zen’ rooms in your home! These spaces can be large or small, modern or antique, as long as they follow certain principles.
Which principles? Well, Zen is a spiritual Buddhist practice (and it doesn’t contain interior design concepts of any kind). As a Zen practitioner, this is what you do:
1. Cultivate a calm, clear, pure, wide-open attitude of mind.
2. Practice conscious awareness.
3. Practice loving-kindness towards all beings (not just the human ones).
4. Meditate in the ‘zazen’ style, sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing.
So how do you translate these practices into something that might be called ‘Zen interior design’? Here’s how:
1. A CALM, CLEAR, PURE, WIDE OPEN HOME
Gradually take away all clutter, including things with large patterns and colorful area rugs (visually, they are clutter as well).
If you find this prospect a bit daunting, you could start with a Zen ‘test space’ – a part of your desk or a coffee table will do just fine. Clear it completely, and decide that nothing is going to disturb this free, clear, calm space. No decoration, no things, nothing. Look at your ’empty’ space often to see if you would like to have more of it in your home. You may not do – interior design is not for everyone! But if you do, here’s your next step: Reduce the color palette to calm, ‘quiet’ colors and as little pattern as possible (neutrals, water and earth tones work very well). Use natural materials and mix textures. Keep it simple.
2. CONSCIOUS AWARENESS
This is easier to maintain in a low-key environment. The less there is around you to stimulate your senses, the more you will notice what is there, and how it affects you. Just compare how you feel in a quiet, gentle environment (think spa or yoga studio), to what happens once you step outside into the noise and traffic.
3. A SPACE FOR LOVING-KINDNESS
Express love for yourself and those who share your home by creating a sanctuary. Choose quality materials and exquisitely simple furniture that gets even more beautiful with the years. Zen interior design isn’t about being fashionable; it is not about getting attention or impressing people. It’s about true quality of life.
There are many ways to focus and clear your mind, and Zen interior design can help you do this with ease.
For example, consider keeping a large-scale photo or a beautiful natural object in a ‘strategic’ place where you see it often – maybe on the wall opposite your sofa. The fewer and simpler your objects are, the better: pebbles, a piece of driftwood, a flower, a picture of a waterfall or a seascape work beautifully.
But doesn’t Zen interior design need to ‘look Japanese’, somehow? Not at all. Buddhism originated in India and it was developed in China. It is practiced the world over. Just treat this as a less-is-more, anti-‘bling’, luxuriously simple way of life. Zen interior design is about being free.