Asian style interior design, sometimes called Oriental design, showcases the cultures of Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and other prominent Eastern societies. Some room designs are true to one style, while many Asian themed rooms are a combination of two or more cultural influences. The most recognizable design styles are Chinese and Japanese.
Feng shui is practiced in many Asian countries, but it is becoming increasingly popular in Western cultures. This is a set of ancient Chinese guidelines for properly placing objects and buildings. Feng shui states that all objects have energy that is positive or negative, so care should be taken to balance these energies.
Chinese inspired interiors display bold colors along with ornate furniture and accessories. The furniture pieces tend to be carved wooden designs with hand-painted details and high-gloss lacquered surfaces.
Accessories continue this dramatic style by featuring animal motifs and mythological beasts, such as monkeys and dragons. Porcelain ginger jars, large vases and fish pots painted with complex patterns in multiple colors or in classic blue and white are also fashionable in Chinese interiors. Other stylish items frequently seen are large wall murals, plaques and folding screens, which depict historical characters and legendary scenes in vibrant or striking color palettes.
Red is a prominent color in this Asian style interior design, perhaps because it means "good luck" in Chinese culture. Other bright colors such as yellow and green are used as accents as well. Colorful paper lanterns are often made in very vibrant colors, while wood tones tend to be dark and rich in color.
Chinoiserie is an art form where furniture and accessories are patterned after the detailed embellishments and complex decoration of Chinese designs. While Chinoiserie is very much sought after today, it was originally popular in mid-1800s Europe. This Chinese influence can also be seen in the architectural style used in many pavilions and garden pagodas.
The calming, Zen-like feel of Japanese style interiors is accomplished through the use of natural materials and subdued colors. These natural elements include indoor water fountains and using tatami mats as floor coverings. Tatami are supple straw mats edged in cloth which measure 3- by 6-feet and help establish room sizes.
Bamboo, stone and other natural materials provide the basis for a soothing color palette of brown, gray and green. Soft floral patterns and colors are incorporated with decorative pottery and embellished textiles.
Furniture and accessories tend to be clean-lined and geared towards living near the floor of the room. The simplicity of Japanese style is particularly appealing to modern and minimalist design fans. Uncomplicated futons are traditionally used for bedroom furniture while low tables and floor cushions are used for dining. Simple, elegant floral arrangements such as orchids and bonsai add a graceful touch.
Natural fibers like silk are a must, and some silken fabrics are artistically embroidered with intricate designs (such as a beautiful kimono, which can also be used as wall art).
Translucent fusuma or shoji screens are the choice for room dividers and doors. Shojis are also used as window treatments, along with fiber shades, which both allow for plenty of natural light to fill a Japanese inspired room. Rice paper lamps provide a soft glow at night.
Asian Style Furnishings
Accessories can help to cement the Asian style design in your home, but the furnishings will help to create the base. Look for cleaned lined, low tables, bamboo and lacquered wood chests and sleek sofas. A few resources to help find Asian style furnishings include:
Asian Design Resources
Great websites and books on Asian style interior design:
- Asian Design House
- Horchow's Asian Collection
- East Meets West: Global Design for Contemporary Interiors by Kelly Hoppen
- China Style by Sharon Leece, Michael Freeman
- In the Asian Style: A Design Sourcebook by Fiona Dunlop
Commit Fully to the Design
Asian style designs work best when embraced fully throughout a room or home. Reduce clutter, keep the lines of the furniture clean and simple and infuse the accessories with just a hint of Asian style to start. From there you can begin adding the pieces and Feng shui needed to complete your home.