How to apply wabi-sabi in Japandi?
Japandi is a blend of Scandinavian and Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic style, people say. But what is wabi-sabi? Actually, it is not a design style, but rather a Zen-influenced aesthetic philosophy that emerged in the 15th century, discovering beauty in seemingly negative elements such as solitude, decay, imperfection or smallness. So it seems that it is a bit of a stretch to directly apply it to interior design (most Japanese won’t do that). Instead you can use wabi-sabi influenced design elements.
Look for “Zen design”
Although Zen design is not a thing, Zen had a tremendous influence on Japanese aesthetics, including wabi-sabi. In the Zen, behavior and consciousness shapes your life and are reflected in how you design buildings, rooms, and especially gardens; you may already know that the Zen rock garden (kare-sansui) is a major wabi-sabi art.
Look for “elegant wabi-sabi (kirei-sabi)“
As mentioned above, wabi-sabi is about embracing seemingly negative notions such as imperfection, so it’s anti-elegance by design. If you want to add elegance to wabi-sabi, you should turn to Kobori Enshu (1579-1647), a unique figure who was a high-ranking samurai bureaucrat, Tea Master AND great designer. He added design refinements, elegance and brightness to otherwise subdued wabi-sabi, which has come to be called “kirei (elegance) sabi.”
Shoji is the traditional Japanese screen/sliding door/partition made of a wooden frame and paper. Japandi seems to appreciate the quality of shoji: fine lines add aesthetic order, and translucency that softly connects the interior with the outside environment. Since you may not able to use shoji in a room surrounded by load bearing walls, you would have to make some structural “tweaks” for your Japandi experiment.
Learn about chashitsu (tea room/hut)
Although it may not be widely recognized, chashitsu (rooms/huts used for sado (traditional Japanese tea ceremony)) best represent the essence of wabi-sabi, including architecture and interior design. They traditionally come in small sizes and are full of architectural adventures that leverage materials/details that are natural, untreated, unpolished and vernacular.
Apply actual architectural style
Chashitsu is used only for tea ceremony, but its architectural details were embraced by 数寄屋造り (sukiya zukuri), a traditional architectural style you still see in authentic hotels or restaurants today. Sukiya zukuri is not necessarily wabi-sabi, but it’s possible that it’s what you are looking for.
Blur boundaries leveraging Zen rock garden
Gardens – the outside area adjacent to rooms – have been playing a pivotal part in traditional Japanese architecture. Since they are so close, gardens have always been part of your room design, and that’s something you may want to incorporate in your Japandi approach. When it comes to wabi-sabi, there’s nothing as important as kare-sansui (Zen rock garden) to express its beauty.
Garden as a microcosms in your property
Japan does not have a lot of flat land. People have been living in small area by inventing many hacks to make small living comfortable and beautiful. Tsubo niwa is a super small garden that can be placed in between building units.