Asian Style Defined

Bring a little bit (or a lot) of Asian influence into your home with this design inspiration

By Lisa Frederick

Asian design reflects traditions and cultural nuances that have existed for millennia. The beauty of the natural world is one of the crucial common threads that ties together specific design customs from the far-flung regions of Asia, as is a sense of elegance and integrity. Although the style has an exotic edge, it feels restful and approachable.

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Dramatic Contemporary Kitchen
Elina Katsioula-Beall

The Basics

Tranquility and balance are two hallmarks of Asian style and inform every aspect of a home, from the architectural envelope to the smallest accents. Interiors offer clean, open spaces instead of clutter. Nothing is random—the placement of each object, the choice of every color, and the orientation of the rooms are carefully thought out to create a harmonious whole.

These designer rooms display Asian design:

Get the Look

If you feel like your home could benefit from a little Asian flair, here's how to get it.


A mix of neutrals, metallics, and brights. Colors pulled from earth, water, and sky anchor the Asian palette. Think light and airy instead of heavy and dark: tan, khaki, and beige; pale greens and grays; faint oranges and yellows. If you crave more drama, punctuate the color scheme with shots of shimmering gold and bronze, dashes of black, or a few notes of rich red—one of Asian culture's signature colors. 

Graceful furnishings. Furniture details and specific styles vary a good deal depending on which part of Asia inspires a given piece (sleek tansu chests for Japan, curved-back chairs for China, fabric or woven poufs for India). Generally speaking, Asian-style furnishings have strong profiles, pleasing proportions, and an air of harmony. Tables, seating, and beds tend to be low to the ground. Although wood is a key material, lacquer, mother of pearl, gilt, and other embellishments are traditional as well. 

Gabriel Benroth, Adam Rolston & Drew Stuart

Natural surfaces. Bamboo, rattan, rice paper, and jute all integrate well with Asian decor. Lay tatami mats on the floor, cover walls in grass cloth, and use shallow baskets for storage. Pottery and earthenware add another organic layer of texture.

Ample, soft light. Gentle sunlight floods homes in this style, which emphasizes wide and unadorned windows, translucent shoji screens, and other elements that allow for plenty of illumination. Leave ample open space in your interiors and, wherever possible, play up connecting vistas so as not to block light's flow. 

Water. From fountains to koi ponds, water features are vital to the Asian aesthetic. Incorporate a trickling fountain or water wall into your home, garden, or backyard, or consider adding a small reflecting pool. You can even incorporate simple fish tanks or bowls inside if your space and budget are tight.

  • If you like Asian style, you may love Art Deco style design, as well.  

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