9 Essential Zen Interior Design Characteristics

japanese living space

Following Zen interior design concepts is an excellent way to bring harmony and peace to your living space.

Zen design is a great representation of minimalist design concepts. In turn, every feature of zen living space from the colors to the style of furniture is meant to give off a simple, yet orderly elegant and sophisticated tone.

The Japanese of course originally pioneered this design concept. Throughout history, the Japanese have promoted beauty through simplicity. By placing value on the essential elements and not any additional embellishment, less can mean more from a design standpoint.

However, although this type of interior design values simplicity, there are many elements to this sort of styling to take into consideration.

Here you can discover 9 key zen interior design characteristics.

Open flowing living space

Zen designed living spaces emphasize “setting the energy free”. In other words, these living areas are typically incredibly open to allow for unrestricted movement and flow through every room. There is even a theory that spaces with this quality foster imagination and creative thinking.

Of course, to achieve this sort of feel to your living space, you could certainly knock down unnecessary walls and widen your doorways. However, this is obviously not a feasible option for most.

Instead, you can focus on removing any wall art, drapes, and other various fixtures around your house that can easily distract you or get in your way. The goal is to make sure that there isn’t any unneeded clutter that can divert your attention from the more important fixtures of your living space.

Soft and natural lighting


As far as zen design goes, natural lighting is the best type of lighting for a few reasons.

First of all zen, in general, zen living spaces do not promote the use of many electronic devices. In turn, having too many lamps and ceiling lighting fixtures goes against this philosophy.

Secondly, zen interior design has a focus on integrating natural elements with your living space. In turn, using natural light is the best way to illuminate your living area.

It is also important to note that zen interior design puts a ton of emphasis on setting up your living space to encourage relaxation and peace. One of the most surefire ways to sabotage your relaxed state is to fill your living area with a bunch of bright fluorescent lights that hurt to even look at.

In turn, having plenty of windows, and glass doors without light blocking curtains is a great way to achieve this zen atmosphere.

Storage and staying clear of clutter

Storage is critical when it comes to maintaining a zen vibe in your living place. This is because eliminating clutter is one of the most important characteristics of zen décor. Having stuff laying around on the floor, couch, coffee table and counters makes you unorganized, distracted and it can disrupt the flow of your living space.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have a lot of stuff if you need it all. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, as long as you aren’t using stuff, you should put it away. Cabinets, drawers, and shelves should all be utilized.

Natural materials


One of the most important parts of zen interior design is the incorporation of natural elements in your living space. The Japanese have always believed that peace and tranquility can be found in nature. Thus, incorporating nature into your living space through furniture and decorations can bring harmony to your living space.

This means that wood, bamboo, stone, and other natural materials should be prevalent.

For instance, stone tile floor looks great in a zen style bathroom. Bamboo curtains or mats can look charming in the kitchen. Wood furniture can be fitting for the living room.

Minimal electronics

Electronics can take away from the natural, earthly ambiance of your living space which is of course, not ideal for a zen living space. Its almost as if electronics can draw us away from the peaceful tranquility that natural zen living spaces provide.

In addition, one of the biggest downsides of electronics is that they can become major distractions. With lights flashing and the various buzzes and other sounds that too many electronics in one space can make, electronics can add a bunch of unnecessary clutter to a living space.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you necessarily need to throw away every electronic device. After all, we live in the 21st century. However, if there are electronics that you just don’t use anymore like that electronic apple peeler in the kitchen corner collecting dust, you might want to throw them out.

Earth tone colors

stacked rocks

The colors of zen style interior design tend to be earth tone colors. They shouldn’t be too bright or flashy but rather they should be muted natural colors to match the natural style décor of the living space.

Common natural colors may include shades of beige, gray, white, and of course soft shades of really any other color. However, for an artistic touch, a small flash of a brighter color here and there may not be such a bad thing. For instance, a pink orchid can add some artistic flair but still fit in with your natural interior design.

However, no crazy patterns on furniture or carpets should really be used as this can be distracting and can disrupt the minimalist ambiance of the living space.


To complement the natural ambiance of your zen interior design, having some plants and shrubbery here and there is always a good idea.

Some of the most popular plants for your zen interior design are typically low maintenance, easy to take care of plants.

Some of these plants include for instance…

  • Bonsai trees: These plants are the classic Japanese shrubberies that you can find in any zen gardens.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo, of course, is quite fitting for a zen interior design given that it is such a well known Asian plant.
  • Snake grass: Snake grass is one of the most low maintenance houseplants to take care of which makes it ideal for a minimalist style living space.

Minimalistic furniture and appliances

chair and couch

Most furniture and appliances of zen style living arrangements are minimalistic and not overly complicated. In other words, these fixtures do what they are designed to do without any additional bells and whistles added on. It is also important to note that these devices should also be aesthetically pleasing as well.

For instance, when it comes to coffee makers if you want to get a coffee maker that matches your zen design, you may possibly want to get a French press that doesn’t require electricity at all. This sort of coffee maker would match the authenticity of your livings space. If you are interested in an electric coffee maker, consider getting one that basic in terms of functionality and if possible is not super flashy or modern looking.  

Artistic decorations

The simplicity of the interior layout doesn’t mean that a little bit of decoration is not advisable. A little bit of artistic flair such as a statue or flower can bring life into your living space.

A few popular zen style decorations include…

  • Candles: Candles are great for creating a tranquil atmosphere within your living space. The beauty of candles is that they also smell quite pleasant when lit which also creates a calming environment. Essential oil diffusers can create the same effect.
  • Flowers: Flowers, in particular, are great for adding a bit of decoration to your living space. Of course, they also enhance the natural theme to your living space.
  • Statues or sculptures: Stone statues and sculptures are also great for zen style living areas. Stone waterfalls, for instance, are classic zen sculptures that fit nicely in meditation rooms.

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