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The biggest design trend of 2020 was “cottagecore,” an interior aesthetic movement that was all about maximalism with a heavy use of colors, patterns (especially floral), and chunky furniture that were all reminiscent of grandma’s country house. Since we spent most of last year inside our home pondering the past and the future, it made sense for us to want our interiors to be extra comfortable, filled with nostalgic beauty, and connected to nature in a reassuring, old-fashioned way. But in 2021, we’re moving on. To leave last year far behind, we’re making a 360-degree turn from granny chic and diving head first into this year’s new design trend: Japandi.
What is Japandi?
Japandi is a portmanteau of the words “Japanese” and “Scandinavian” to describe an interior design trend that is a fusion of both regions’ classic decor features.
Japanese and Scandinavian home decors share fundamental similarities: They are both minimalist aesthetics; they favor neutral colors and clean, straight lines; and they strive to bring simplicity, functionality, and a sense of artful elegance to a space. But they are not identical — Japanese interiors lean more towards a pared-back decor using traditional material and layouts whereas Scandinavian homes tend to have a homey feel while using contemporary, 20th-century furniture. The marriage of both achieves a beautiful balance for a clean-yet-warm, rustic-yet-modern, serene-yet-cozy decor that is extremely appealing to those who want to organize their homes without them looking clinical.
Defining characteristics of the Japandi design trend include the overwhelming use of natural materials such as wood, paper, woven textiles, ceramic, and bamboo, as well as the incorporation of greenery, whether through indoor plants or via openings that give an outdoor-indoor feeling. Similarly, the use of color is in line with nature — earthy tones such as browns, greys, and beiges, and muted colors are favored. Japandi is a design trend that aligns with the idea that the natural world is a source of peace, and bringing elements of the outside world inside the home is key to the serenity of its occupants. Japandi is also tied to sustainability through its minimalistic ethos and its emphasis on durable, quality, timelessly beautiful, handcrafted items.
Typical Japandi furniture mixes contemporary Scandinavian design with the Japanese style of low-to-the-ground movables like sofas, chairs, and beds. And while Japandi tends to emphasize straight lines, the interiors and their furnishings don’t lack comfort with large rugs, thick mattresses and seats, high-quality sheets and throws, and often a very Scandinavian fireplace.
Japandi hotels, retreats, and Airbnbs
While Japandi is trending, it has not yet reached every corner of the hospitality industry in the way fake mid-century furniture has, so finding a Japandi hotel room or Airbnb listing is still a welcomed rarity for now. Below are a few hotels, Airbnbs, and even a retreat cabin that have followed the Japandi design trend.
Hotel K5, Tokyo
Hotel K5, located in Tokyo, is the creation of Swedish architecture and design firm Claesson Koivisto Rune, making the connection between Japan and Scandinavia even more natural. Hotel K5 only has 20 rooms, as well as a restaurant, wine bar, coffee shop, cocktail bar and beer hall, all of which follow the Japandi design trend. There is a heavy use of light-colored wood, paper light fixtures, an abundance of greenery, low-to-the-ground furniture, sleek lines, wooden sliding doors, and even a touch of traditional Japanese indigo dyeing for textiles such as window coverings and room dividers. However, in a departure from Japandi, deep and rich colors have been favored over neutral hues.
Nobu Hotel, Palo Alto, California
The Nobu Hotel describes itself as being “where modern Japanese design meets West Coast Luxury lifestyle,” and while there is no mention of Japandi on their website, the photo gallery speaks for itself. All the rooms are bathed in light and pared-back to a minimum with functionality, peace, and comfort in mind. The 73 rooms of the hotel feature clean lines, earthy colors, wood panel and textured walls, and modern wooden furniture. The tea and coffee corner of each room has a traditional Japanese tea pot, a high-quality modern-design black kettle, as well as beautiful ceramic pieces on minimalist wooden shelves, summing up Japandi perfectly. The bathrooms are equally stunning with high-quality items and wood and stone used throughout. The seventh and eighth floors of the Nobu Hotel are set up as a ryokan that offer a luxury sanctuary feel.
The Bergaliv LoftHouse, Sweden
Located on the hillside of Åsberget mountain, about six hours north of Stockholm, the Bergaliv Lofthouse is an off-the-grid cabin with exceptional views that could easily be described as a Japandi retreat. The entirety of the cabin is made of pale wood, with heart pine and spruce wood on the outside, and birch and ash inside, to create a peaceful accommodation that matches the natural setting in which it is located. Inside the cabin, it’s as minimalistic as it gets, with futon mattresses laid on a tatami-inspired mat on the floor. Seating is limited to two built-in window meridiennes, as well as plushy floor cushions. The cabin is rather small, but its Japandi aesthetics prevent it from feeling claustrophobic with raw, natural colors throughout, lots of natural light, and very few items to avoid clutter.
Delightful Japandi Retreat | MUJI concept, Butterworth, Malaysia
This two-bedroom Airbnb in the city of Butterworth in Malaysia ticks all the Japandi boxes to bring a sense of calm to its guests: a minimalist aesthetic with nothing on the walls, pale wood throughout, neutral-colored textiles, and contemporary and low-to-the ground furniture that doesn’t compromise on comfort, greenery, lots of natural light, and very practical feel. And if you need an even more relaxing vibe, check out the views of Penang Island and the ocean.
Stylish Japandi designer Villa in Canggu, Bali
This Balinese villa that can accommodate up to six guests is stylishly decorated in the Japandi design trend, with simplicity and functionality in mind. The kitchen is mostly polished concrete with open cabinets and wooden shelves and wicker storage boxes, keeping the few items in the kitchen visible for an airy and very practical look. Throughout the villa, the furniture is decidedly Scandinavian style with caned headboards and bedside tables in the bedrooms, and canned light fixtures, armoires, and chairs in the living space, but it remains lower to the ground for a Japanese feel. Most of the furnishing is wood, with visible grain to recall the beautiful natural world outside the home. The many plants in the house also help bring the outside in. All the items present in the home emit an air of quality and luxury in line with the fundamental aspect of craftsmanship and durability of Japandi. The colors inside and outside the home range from off white to pale blush, whether in the textiles used or on the floors and the walls.