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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Get the Look: Asian Style


Whilst Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and other Asian countries have developed distinctive styles of their own, when most of us think of Asian style, we think of China and Japan first. As distinctively different as their styles of furniture, interior decoration and landscape architecture are, both of these Asian styles share a look of elegant serenity in common. If you're looking for a way to make your home a retreat from the hustle and bustle of our busy modern lifestyle, take a look at Asian style.

Elements of Chinese Design

Heavily influenced by ancient Taoism and the age of the Chinese empires, Chinese furnishings and decor tends to be richly ornate. Tables, chairs and other timber furnishings include highly detailed wood carvings; upholstery is woven into elaborate patterns; and screens and wall hangings feature fish, dragons and other symbolic animals. As ornamental as these furnishings are, the use of muted colours gives them an elegantly subdued look. A symbol of good luck, red is a predominant colour in Chinese design, but it is usually a deep, rather than a bright red, as are the blue, green and yellow tones that also compose the traditional Chinese colour scheme.


Everything in traditional Chinese style has symbolic significance. At the heart of Chinese design is the concept of fengshui. Literally meaning "wind-water", fengshui is the attempt to bring one's surroundings into alignment with positive energies (Qi). With roots going back at least 4000 years, fengshui is an important aspect of Chinese building design as well as interior design. Even modest rural homes in China were traditionally placed in alignment with the stars, the sun or in some other auspicious position. Today, many Australian interior designers and architects are using the principles of FengShui in both traditional and modern ways as part of a holistic, environmentally friendly design scheme. 



Get the Look: Asian Style

Elements of Japanese Design

In contrast to richly ornate Chinese decor, the hallmark of Japanese design is refined simplicity. Highly influenced by Zen Buddhism, traditional Japanese furnishings, interior fittings and landscape architecture take a "less is more" approach to design. 


The colour palette used in Japanese design begins with the natural materials used in the construction of homes, furniture and interior fitouts. Floors in traditional Japanese homes are covered in straw tatami mats and bamboo is used extensively in construction. Too much colour was traditionally considered garish, so clear or black lacquered finishes were used to protect timber furniture. 



Traditionally, seating in the Japanese home was on the floor, with pillows instead of chairs surrounding a low dining table. At night, the bedding would be removed from a tansu closet and rolled out on to the floor. More contemporary interpretations of this living style can be seen in low, centrally placed coffee tables surrounded by cushions and platform beds. 



How to Get the Asian Look

Western artists, architects and designers have been drawing on the Asian look for centuries. Chinese style can be seen in delicate blue and white porcelain; in the ornate fabrics used in Victorian furniture; and in the arts and crafts of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras. The Japanese influence can be seen in the designs of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 2oth century and in more recent Scandinavian furniture.


To get the Asian style look in your home, a good place to start is with your colour palette. If you're going for a Chinese look, choose jewel-like colours such as gold (brass), deep ruby red, sapphire blue and emerald green. For a Japanese inspired look, choose soft, neutral colours like parchment white, sandstone and shades of grey. To emphasise an area, gloss black against a neutral background can create a stunning effect.



You needn't go all out to get the Asian look in your home: Chinese, Japanese or other Asian touches can be all it takes to make a dramatic effect. You may want to use painted Chinese screens or Japanese shoji screens as room dividers, for example. A low platform bed with a futon mattress can be a great way to make a small bedroom appear much larger. Hang some Japanese-style lanterns with LED lights in your garden or to illuminate a natural stone pathway. Draw inspiration from Asian style and create a living space that is uniquely yours.




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