Need More Zen in Your Life? See Our Zen Design BEFORE & AFTER


Need more Zen in your Life? Maybe update your space with a little Zen Design!

Zen refers to a word used in buddhism to define harmony and an enlightened state achieved through meditation and devout living. As a yoga teacher and interior designer, I can relate to this and I say, “Yes! Yes Yes!”. In fact, the word Zen is derived from the Chinese word “chán” and the sanskrit word “dhyana,” which means “meditation.” In sanskrit and yoga philosophy the root meaning is “to see, to observe, to look within.”

The idea of Zen is a way of life — a personal search for meaning that elevates simplicity to an art form. Zen design embodies the idea of minimalism, making use of natural materials and patterns and emphasizing a space free of clutter so that we can live in the present moment.

A slightly more modern approach to a Zen style Japanese tea room.

In our design below we focused on 5 Zen Design principles to achieve a happy, uncomplicated home.

1. We Enhanced Natural Materials- (Shizen) BEFORE, the existing natural wood ceiling fought with the stark white walls and carpet. We replicated the natural materials of the ceiling down on the floor, running hard wood flooring in the same direction. Grasscloth wallpaper was added to the soji screens that divided the living room and dining room. This created a harmony of natural materials often seen in Zen design.

Zen Design Remodel before and after

BEFORE Zen Design Remodel

Zen Design remodel before and after

AFTER Zen Design Remodel–Showing unification of space and harmonious materials. Look at how much larger the space feels due to the uncomplicated cohesive design elements.

2. Design and Furniture Retain Simple Forms- (Shibui) Seating and wood furniture items where kept in simple rectilinear forms. Sofa for example was selected to repeat the window pane grids. The repeating of one shape in a room helps to create an uncomplicated Zen feel. –Seating can be found at

After Zen Design remodel

AFTER Zen design remodel–All horizontal grain in wood, furniture, fabric and rug meet with an unexpected asymmetrical break in the form of a circular glass table.

3. We Broke from the Perfect and Symmetrical (Fukinsei) – These two principles are a big part of creating Zen Design, so we brought in a glass covered shagreen drum table and surrounded it by modern, rustic backless benches. This organic round form against all the austere rectangle forms gives a person a break from symmetry. The idea in Zen is that the viewer or inhabitant will supply the missing symmetry through a creative act. When form is broken creativity can emerge. –Occasional furniture such as coffee table, drum table and side tables can be found at Century Furniture.

BEFORE our Zen Design palette and natural materials where introduced, this room looked stark and disjointed.

4. We Eliminated Clutter- This idea (Kanso) dictates that beauty and utility need not be overstated, or fanciful. The overall effect is a fresh, clean, and neat environment that emphasizes only the essential–leaving room for what matters, such as a favorite piece of art, a few books and minimal collectibles that have meaning to the inhabitants.

We eliminated items that weren’t needed creating a Zen room feel. Cocktail table styling resembles in a way the design of a Zen style garden. Grains of fabric and wood flow in the same direction as the grain of the rug creating visual flow.

5. Went for a Subtle (Yugen) Earthy Color Palette and Repeated the Same Overall Pattern – Colors chosen where gold, warm grey, brown, and black with touches of red and orange. Tones which represent the earth, its minerals, and colors seen in the sunset. Chairs, rug, coffee table and other wooden elements in the room were all chosen to run in the same linear direction creating the peaceful visual flow found in Zen design. This gave the room a similar effect to a Zen garden which displays a collection of subtle forms running in one direction and then flowing around an unexpected object here and/or there.

Zen garden showing pebbles flowing in one direction, broken by a single larger pebble.

I hope these shared principles help to create a little more Zen in your space and life!