As we ring in the new year, most of us make a set of resolutions. To lose weight. Eat better. Live healthier. Get organized. De-stress. Finding tranquility and relaxation can seem like finding a needle in a haystack. A few simple concepts can transform any home into a haven of peace and relaxation. All it takes is a little zen.
Literally translated, zen simply means meditation. In décor terms, it means balance, harmony and relaxation. There isn’t a list of strict rules and design styles that mean “zen” though it is usually associated with a minimalist tendency, simplicity and purity of line. It’s simply a way of arranging and decorating to create an atmosphere that combats stress. Sound good?
Go earthy – the zen approach is all about colors you find in nature. Soft tones of gray, beige, and creamy whites. It doesn’t have to be monochromatic, you can play with low-contrast color combinations, tone on tone effects and varying shades of a favorite color. Take your inspiration from nature with colors that evoke trees, stone, earth, water and sky.
Tread softly – smooth wood floors are the ideal in this style. Soften them, and your steps, with natural area rugs made from sea grass, sisal or jute. Area rugs placed around seating areas enhance the cocooning sense of your zen space.
Embrace natural fibers – fabrics should follow the same guidelines, soft, natural colors. Take it a step further and go for soft, nubby textures that feel cozy. Curtains soften the feel of a room, reduce noise, block drafts and provide a sense of intimacy. Cushions and pillows make seating more inviting and comfortable and throws invite lounging and relaxation during chilly winter days.
Lighten up – use natural light whenever possible, and ensure that your CFL and LED bulbs are designed to mimic the color of daylight for the most calming effect. Add a selection of natural candles to enhance the soothing impact of your space. Avoid projecting strong light directly from the ceiling, and work to ensure light comes from as many directions as possible with a mix of floor, table and indirect lighting.
Keep it simple – zen style is characterized by simple, clean lines without a lot of complicated detail or ornamentation. Choose high quality, natural materials to bring a sense of warmth to your space.
Be a minimalist – from wall décor to knick-knacks on shelves, keep it simple and minimal. Avoid large, cluttered looking collections and instead opt for a few pieces that are especially dear to you. If you have a large library, and want to keep your books, consider covering them all in monochromatic paper.
Use natural scents – use soy or beeswax candles scented with essential oils as a natural way to enhance your room with fresh scents. Vary the scent according to the time of day, or activities planned. Use calming lavender when it’s time for bed, and an invigorating citrus when it’s time to wake.
Minimize electronics – making your home a no-beep-zone may be impossible, but you can minimize the distraction of electronics. Put your TV in a discrete place, or in a cupboard where you can close the door. Hide all cables and wires, and create a charging station for phones and other devices that keeps them out of your way, and out of your sight.
Grow something green – plants have a calming effect thanks to their green color, and the oxygen they provide. Keep your botanical skills in mind and avoid greenery or flowers that require heavy maintenance, or that produce distracting scents. Small terrariums are ideal for windowsills, night stands and desks and are a perfect, easy-care fit with zen style. Bonsai are another classic zen element, but be sure you are willing to handle the upkeep.
Declutter – reduce accessories and knick-knacks to the absolute bare minimum that you can stand. Clutter inhibits relaxation, and we each have our own clutter threshold. Find yours and keep your décor well below it, adding in only those elements that you find soothing and comforting or that bring you happiness.