11 ways to use Zen-inspired interiors for your home

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Zen inspired interiors and techniques to achieve simplicity and subtlety at home.

The word “Zen” is so popular it has become a catchall for themes of minimalism and serenity.

Zen originates from Japan and is a school of Buddhism that emphasises intuition and meditated. It is a practice rooted in Chinese 12th century philosophy, which talks about satori (悟り) or sudden enlightenment. Similarly, Zen inspired interiors rely on this concept.

Zen Buddhists believe that satori can be attained through seated meditation under the guidance of a teacher. Self-development, productivity, and even design all benefit from Zen's paradoxes, all of which can be applied to a multitude of situations, scenarios, and industries.

Design specialist Matthew May outlines the Shibumi Seven which are principles that help you eliminate the non-essential from your home. As a result, you're able to create Zen inspired interiors that encourage simplicity.

Here are 11 design elements and techniques that exemplify May’s Shibumi guidelines

1. Create a cocoon

Firstly, Zen Buddhism respects nature’s rhythms and patterns. One clear model of this is the cocoon, which provides a safe and ideal space for growth, development, and maturity.

Similarly, humans need cocoons or enclaves to develop and grow, just as caterpillars need cocoons to allow metamorphosis to take place. Creating an austere office space that allows your ideas to flow and expand towards clarity is a perfect example of Zen.

2. Experiment with Ikebana

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Japanese flower arrangement follows distinct rules that support balance, form, and blank space. These arrangements, called Ikebana, possess a subtle balance between the object itself and the environment that surrounds it.

Ikebana emphasises restraint in Zen inspired interiors. For that reason, leaving empty spaces and teaching yourself to refrain from adding what isn't necessary is one way of practising Zen Buddhism.

Give your space a breather

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Our eyes, which receive constant stimulation, need regular breaks. Creating gaps and rest areas helps our eyes process information optimally and makes us feel comfortable. The spaces we live in work the same way.

By eliminating clutter, we introduce more white space or blank areas, allowing our senses to rest. Zen inspired interiors actually provide us with literal room to breathe.

Create a rock garden

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Simplicity is key in Zen Buddhism and one way of conjuring simplicity is through nature. Therefore, a rock garden is a great alternative to a landscaped garden and is also easy to maintain.

Japanese rock gardens give us flexibility, allowing us to play with configurations of rocks, sand, and different patterns as often or as seldom as we want.

As a result, we are able to wipe the slate clean, and start over with a fresh pattern whenever we want to. It symbolises how we are able to eliminate what doesn’t matter, so we can make space for the things that do.

Situate areas that work with human nature

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Zen applies wherever human nature is considered and put front and centre. Furniture and spaces that accommodate our natural patterns as human beings make living in a space effortless, easy, and simple.

It is very natural for people to gather around food—an open living and dining room setup makes this possible.

Highlight nature

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Noticing the way nature appears, forms different configurations, and creates patterns is important in Zen. Pockets that highlight the reflection of water, the shadows formed by leaves, and even the sound of running water is an important part of Zen.

Add a screen

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Decorative screens are delicate, beautiful and functional because they offer privacy and leaves a lot to the imagination. Zen supports limiting information to spark one’s curiosity.

Therefore, by adding a screen to keep a particular corner or space away from prying eyes can make guests pique curiosity about what lies behind these screens.

Make way for negative space

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Zen inspired interiors put emphasis on empty spaces that make an impact. While clutter can take away from the poignancy of a blank space, alternatively, a room that is sparsely decorated allows us to focus on the few, remaining items that are actually important.

One way to apply this principle is by making use of the space on a gallery wall. Leaving gaps between wall art and employing blanks between frames is one way to create visual appeal and drama without being over the top.

Utilise asymmetric patterns with shelves

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Western and classical design principles bank on symmetry to create balance. However, in Zen, it is perfectly all right to leave some things missing. This is because you are encouraged to engage with the space around them. It arouses curiosity and leaves your guests wondering about all the other surprises in your home.

So, differing colour schemes, blank spaces, and varying levels of items on a shelf, for example, can make a visually arresting collection of objects.

Allow disruptions in one’s routine

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Zen Buddhism talks about how people need a reprieve from the norm. Hence, disrupting your routine can be good for you, no matter what comprises your day.

For people who work in an office or work remotely at home, taking regular breaks helps prevent overwhelm, stress, and burnout.

Therefore elements like foosball tables, dartboards, or a dedicated game area encourage regular will encourage breaks. As a result, this helps people return to the job at hand feeling refreshed, invigorated, and motivated.

Make it minimal

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Finally, meditation is an important tenet of Buddhism because it offers an avenue to solitude and tranquillity. Therefore, a minimal space encourages a meditative state of mind because it is free from unnecessary distractions.

Minimalism is a visual representation of quietude and calmness. Likewise, living in a space that encourages stillness can help instil zen in our minds as well.

Which of these Zen inspired interiors are you most looking forward to imitating?