Oriental or Asian themed designs have a classical appeal in part due to the ancient nature of the civilizations upon which these design styles are based. When most nations were little more than feudal chieftains fighting their neighbors for food and land China was developing gunpowder, garnishing silk and had century-long traditions already in place.
This rich culture while somewhat diminished by their slow acceptance of industrialization nevertheless provides Asian races a long and varied palette against which to design a unique and colorful collection of interior themes and garden decorations that are as varied as they are beautiful.
Whether you want to invoke the feeling of richness of the Ming dynasty or follow the simple and almost mystical aspects of Feng shui design, go with Chinese elements, Japanese or more exotic or simple designs from Korean to Indochina cultures few other design styles incorporate such a vast mixture of races and cultures into a single design theme – and this allows you a wonderfully rich palette and available list of design themes attributes from which to draw your concepts.
First you should decide if you wish to have a darker more somber design or a light and airy feeling – both are readily available and distinctly oriental in nature but will demand differing color palettes and design elements.
Then you should decide whether you wish to fill out the design theme you choose with rich and lustrous items or more common and relaxing pieces. Once you choose which of these four basic methods to proceed towards you are ready to begin.
Dark and Rich
If you choose to take a darker and more somber design with rich décor and fittings then you will probably be looking at using black lacquered pieces, Ming dynasty replicas, ivory statuary with large pieces of artwork and shoji screens as these are typical of this style of design.
Wall colors in a rich and dark room will actually need to be neutral or off-white, since most of the pieces will be large and dark and a backdrop that will not hide them needs to exist. If color is desired it should be bold such as dark blues and greens or light blue in kitchens or baths.
Furnishings should be elaborate with shiny silken fabrics and rich patterns. Wood elements should be elaborately carved and darkly stained or lacquered. Use of copper or wooden carvings and heavy wall hangings with lighting that draws attention to key pieces will complete such a look.
Floors can be hardwood or bamboo and should have elaborate carpets and throw rugs in key areas, preferably in unique sizes and shapes with designs and colors to help set the theme of the room.
Dragons are common design elements and are completely in place in any richly outfitted room although for Dark and Rich pieces should be exquisite in nature or subtle in placement to avoid seeming out of place.
Dark and Easy
As with the richer variant lighter colored backgrounds for the walls and floors are advised, although in this case variants and accent walls are more in keeping since the feeling of richness will not be from the heavy furnishings and fittings but rather from an overall theme and meshing of design elements. Using less Chinese and more Indian, Japanese or Indochina furnishings and design elements is more in keeping here – with lots of wicker and black frames and lighter, smaller furnishings helping to keep the theme less rich and more utilitarian in nature.
Furnishings in an ‘easy’ dark Asian room should be more of the Indonesian or Thailand variant with rattan and teak being common material choices.
Light and Rich
Choosing to go with lighter brighter colors and the richer variants places you in a more Japanese or Thai pattern, where sleek modern lines with subdued color palettes in grays, greens and golds mix with craftsmanship of celadon pottery and shoji screens to create a distinctly Asian-themed room that is light bright and airy.
Wall colors can be tans, camels or white and tapestries and wood carvings along with expensive carved wooden chests help fill out the rich nature of the room, with few pieces of artwork and modern but modest lighting to help complete the feel.
Light and Easy
Similar to the lighter colors with richer fixtures the light and easy Asian look relies more on the vibrant blues and reds of Indian and Indonesia design to add a touch of spice and vibrancy that allows for more of a feeling of everyday use and less a showplace or shrine that light and rich can evoke.
Less commonly seen then other styles of Asian influence using a theme like this with accents of Buddha’s and dragons and a few select pieces of pottery along with comfortable and modern although obviously Asian-influenced furniture designs can create a modern American space with a distinctly Asian feel that will never go out of style.
Concepts of Asian Design
Due to the vast nature of “Asia” there are really many different styles which can be mixed and selected from regardless of which ‘tone’ is chosen. To aid in understanding the available themes and formats as well as common design attributes of each we list the more common below:
China influenced design features highly detailed artwork that is rendered in bright colors and a variety of materials. China featuring both real-world elements from nature and famous landmarks as well as fantasy such as dragons abound. Wall hangings and specific style of furnishings with heavy use of dark wood and upholstery is common.
Although its own design style as well, India is considered in part ‘Asian’ and attributes such as the northern India use of vibrant reds and blues in tapestries and materials is often used in Asian design.
Japanese design is all about simplicity. With sleek modern design elements in their furniture and subtle palettes of grays and greens, black and whites this style is all about relaxation and comfort in small spaces. Shoji screens and platform beds are common, as is using simple black and white artwork, bamboo mats and rich screens as window treatments and coverings. Adding Imari pieces of Asian porcelain will also help on the task for decorating your interior.
Often featuring wooden chests called “Tansu” with brass accents, decorated stair-steps and decorated screens Korea has a proud and unique heritage although it has often been referred to as the ‘melting pot’ of Asian design concepts.
The Thai design features simple rattan furniture, gold-leafed statuary (often of the Buddha) and crisp designs in pottery such as the celadon style.
When it comes to Asian design the problem is not one of conforming to a theme, but in isolating a theme from the vast number of available options and staying true to that design concept. Whether you go with the rich Chinese, simple Indonesian or somewhat eclectic Korean as your base a well-done Asian theme brings feelings of harmony and comfort to any abode.