What is Japandi Design? Meet Scandinavian Decor’s Cooler, Japanese-Inspired Cousin

What is Japandi Design? Meet Scandinavian Decor’s Cooler, Japanese-Inspired Cousin

May 7, 2021 Off By Mary Frances Knapp

You know it when you see it. It’s smooth, angular, slightly retro, but not Tilda Swinton. It’s [drumroll] Japandi design, which is evocative of IKEA, but not as soulless, and Googie, but not quite as loosey-goosey. No, Japandi is a little more buttoned-up than that. Not in a holier-than-thou way, but in a “my button-up is buttoned down, and it’s made of linen” way. The emerging design trend takes the very best of Scandanavian mid-century aesthetics and blends it with elements of pared-down Japanese design. It’s low-profile bed frames and functional coffee tables. It’s minimalist nightstands and elegant shitboxes for your cat.

We love Japandi. But it’s kind of funny how it’s re-emerging, given that Japan is where Scandinavians originally took inspiration for aesthetic movements like [pinkies out] Japonisme.” Minimalism is almost inseparable from Scandinavian design today, but it hasn’t always been that way. Have you seen this divine, medieval gingerbread house? Vikings were maximalists, baby, whilst Japanese minimalism can be traced back to the sixth and seventh centuries. Then the 1930s came around, Alvar Aalto said #IDidAThing, and (among other factual, historical design details we’re not qualified to build a thesis on), shablam! Minimalism got traction in Scandinavia. Now, it’s the basis of Kanye West’s home.

Anyways. The whole love affair revisted is a little incestuous, and very adult, which is cool because we have a Criterion subscription. Consider Japandi our new basis for building intimidating, yet relaxing home design in 2022 and beyond, because we want nothing more than an elevated, pared-down vibe that serves both WFH zen and chic kickbacks. So we’ve rolled out the white-tufted carpet for a smorgasbord of fitting decor—be it Japandi, Japanese minimalist, or Scandinavian minimalist—to artfully arrange in your home for the look.   

Can’t wait to almost spill our pasta sauce on it. 

A Japandi coffee table

Look at that leggy stance! Would most definitely win in a Wild West brawl. Good thing it’s staying in our living room. Stack some TASCHEN art books in its middle shelf, you erudite host.

Score a Noguchi lamp

Not that anyone is asking us, but we would give our right pinky toe for one of the Isamu Noguchi’s iconic rice paper lamps. We’ve found the best deals and dupes on late designer’s light sculptures, but some of our favorite places to find some OG Noguch’ and beautiful Japanese-inspired rice paper lamps are Amazon, Wayfair, and 1stDibs.

For a floor lamp, go with one that has curved angles and a lantern-style shade.

The best Japandi storage furniture

You know shibori, that cool traditional Japanese tie-dye? Oh—well, if you didn't, that's what shibori is. Usually you find it in shades of indigo on a white or cream background, and this friendly little credenza adds a kick of it to your entryway or makes an ideal stand for perching your Roku. Fun fact: "roku" means "six" in Japanese. 

Want your living room to feel like a Tokyo record bar? Perch your turntable on this gorgeous sideboard that will also stash all your old Japanese hardcore cassette tapes.

For plants and your butt

It’s 2022; we’re done with stools that don’t also function as a side table. And, true to the made-to-last spirit of Japandi, this one's solid pine construction will outlive us all.

Shed some more light on the situation

This wooden curtsy of a floor lamp reminds us of a Penrose triangle, in that it’s fun to look at, and we don’t think it exists in nature. The warm wood tones are sure to add some figurative richness to your tiny, “one-bedroom” studio apartment.

Upgrade your seating situation

HAY’s Uchiwa is a perfect example of Japandi design—it has the curves of mid-century modern, but is “inspired by the traditional Japanese hand fan,” according to the brand. It’s cool and cozy all at once—built for leaning back and feeling like the emperor of your domain.

For directing your life as a movie

Takeshi Nii’s NyChair X series, originally launched in 1970, is highly coveted and world-renowned for its elegant but super-modern design. The updated 80 line is just as drop-dead gorgeous, but with ergonomic tweaks to make it a little comfier. Plus, it’s lightweight, foldable, and made with durable Kurashiki canvas.

Straight and simple, the Alexander Skarsgård of couches

We were going to go with a Ben Affleck comparison, but we couldn’t decide who we’d rather sit on. This couch, on the other hand, is an easy choice. The clean lines and neutral shade will fit perfectly into your living room’s new vibe. (Warning: You may start explaining hygge to strangers.)

Sweet dreams of socialized healthcare

This minimal nightstand is made of hinoki, a type of Japanese cypress that is proven to have relaxing effects when you inhale its deep, woody scent.

For those who prefer a darker wood option, this Akana nightstand from Scandinavian Designs is a handsome pick. Fill it with luxury condoms, or your CPAP machine, or your weed stuff, or whatever gear you’d rather sequester to the confines of your bedroom. We’re not peeking. 

The best Japandi wall art

It’s time to take down the crooked matrix of thumbtacked Polaroids you’ve had since the ol’ twin XL days, and finally invest in some wall art. (They don’t have to be expensive to look expensive, by the way.) Hang a duo of terracotta-inspired prints, or these minimalist brushstrokes from Society6.

Go with a low-profile bed frame

If you’re not ready to go full tatami mat but you want that serene, understated bedroom energy that both MCM and traditional Japanese home design really nail, merge the two with a low-profile platform bed, like the popular Floyd bedframe or this higher-end (but supremely sexy) bed from AllModern, which also happens to be super highly rated by happy buyers.

This sturdy and subtle bed frame is what Japandi is all about. And, on the off chance Japandi becomes cheug in a few years (it won’t), it’s versatile enough to meld into any mid-century motif. 

Your midsommar altar

… Or dresser. Whatever. But if the flower crown fits! Hot tip: peep West Elm on the regular for beautiful Japandi furniture and decor.

Japandi bathroom solutions (for your cat)

There are better ways to do your duty, kitty cat. Same goes for your pet. (There’s a lot of cat furniture out that isn’t hideous, actually.) This litter box enclosure turns our kitty’s commode into a discreet, genuinely attractive piece of decor.

Vases with sex appeal

Daaaaaamn. Looking a little too good over here are these minimalist, graphic vases; even if you don’t have many bigger pieces of Japandi furniture, you can always trick the eye by spotlighting pieces like these. How great would they look with some yellow Billy Ball flowers?

And as a reminder, only having an Xbox and a lawn chair in your apartment isn’t minimalist. Or Japandi.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.