What Is Japandi?

Updated: Dec. 12, 2023

Master the art of the functional, fashionable marriage of Japanese and Scandinavian interior design styles. Experts explain how.

The portmanteau Japandi may sound new, but its design origins decidedly are not. A mix of the words Japanese and Scandinavian, Japandi style has emerged as an interior design trend in recent years, alongside the rise of minimalist interiors, Marie Kondo and a return to natural materials in interior design. These design elements have been centuries in the making.

What Is Japandi Style?

Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer for Trendey, says Japandi smartly blends Japanese minimalism with Scandinavian functionality.

“The result is the perfect balance between form and function,” she says. “We are seeing a rise in Japandi’s popularity because people are tired of bare minimalism that lacks warmth and comfort. It’s popular now because it adds color, pattern and warm natural materials to your clean lines and muted neutrals.”

Translation: If you’ve done up your house in all white and it’s leaving you feeling a little blank, Japanese style elements and influences may help warm it up for an easy interior design transition.

The Origins of Japandi: Where Did It Come From?

Overstock lead stylist Amber Dunford explains the Japanese concept wabi-sabi emerged around the 15th century. “As a design style, it essentially embraces the beauty of imperfections,” she says. It also focuses on austerity, simplicity and natural materials.

Scandinavian style enjoyed a big boost a few years ago with the resurgence of the Danish concept of hygge, a word that loosely translates to “cozy.” As a result, light oak and other natural wood, geometric patterns and a super-neutral color palette showed up in many homes, fostering a feeling of simple intimacy.

Scandinavian influence also merged with Japanese style centuries ago, perhaps owing to their shared values of efficiency and natural materials, as well as the opportunity to do some transoceanic trading. Dunford says around 2017, wabi-sabi again merged with the mega-popular Scandinavian design style.

“This may have been a timely merge, as our mental health has become increasingly more important, especially when it comes to our homes and the role they play in fostering our well–being,” says Dunford, who has also worked as a therapist. “This style tends to promote those values.”

How Can I Incorporate Japandi Style Into My Home?

DelMonico and Dunford say there are a few basic design tenets to keep in mind if these design elements speak to you.

Add the Simplicity of Japanese Design with Clean, Sleek Lines

This is aesthetically pleasing, but rooted in function and helps rid your space of clutter. “Japandi design isn’t sparse, it’s intentional,” Dunford says. “When picking pieces for your home, think quality over quantity and opt for furniture with little ornamentation and sleek lines.”

And borrow some lessons from Marie Kondo. Physical clutter can easily become an emotional burden, as humans will continuously scan a cluttered environment to see if anything has changed that might require our attention.

Bring in Rich and Colorful Tones

If you’ve already got a neutral palette, you’re starting from the right place. Continue to consider calming, tranquil, and peaceful palettes and incorporate color intentionally, especially hues from nature.

“Chalky neutrals found in trees and soil, or the range of vegetable greens found in plant life are examples of colors you might work with in a Japandi-styled space,” Dunford says. “Primarily monochromatic spaces with subtle changes in colors are found to be the most calming environments to humans.”

Inspire Hygge with Natural Materials Like Stone, Wood, and Greenery

Sustainability meets comfort, says Dunford. “Embrace imperfection by repurposing furniture or incorporating natural stone or wood into your living spaces,” she says. As for fabrics, stick with linen and cotton. Real plants are welcome, too.

Embrace Contrast

DelMonico says there are a few other contrasting elements to consider: “Mix dark and light materials such as black with light woods or dark wood with soft cream,” she says. Still, punctuate those neutrals with naturally based colors, such as a deep teal.

Similarly, think about blending styles by using furnishings inspired by both backgrounds. “You could have a Scandinavian-inspired sofa and a Japanese-inspired accent chair,” DelMonico says.