How to Capture a Modern Asian Theme for Living Spaces


Tina Madsen is a design enthusiast who brings her passion for modern décor and writing to her role as the blogger.  She also specializes in turning small living areas into spacious social hubs with bar stools and counter stools.

Many people living in the West are intrigued by Asian (also known as oriental) designs. It is unusual for them, and it exudes exoticism that’s irresistible to most people who have only seen Asia through pictures and videos.

It’s so easy to find Asian-inspired furniture and accents in department stores. However, you won’t be able to fully embody the theme if you don’t consider the hallmarks of Asian interior design.

Elements of Asian/Oriental Design

The following are some of the most popular aspects and core ideas of modern oriental interior architecture:

1. Asian themes in interior design are characterized by simplicity and a close association with nature. Most Asian countries are blessed with rich natural resources, and their early ancestors had a close relationship with nature. Nature became their provider for food, shelter, and even inspired their faith. Thus, many traditional architecture and interior design concepts in this region show unity of the structure and interior with the outdoors.

Dark colors and Asian flair in this room by cg creative interiors

Dark colors and Asian flair in this room by cg creative interiors

2. Red is often a prominent color for room accessories, and it is usually offset with a plain white or black palette (although white is more preferable since it is difficult to carry out the black background and make the room look more oriental than just modern).  These contrasting colors are very common representations of traditional Chinese and Vietnamese culture.

3. Oriental design isn’t limited to red and Chinese and Vietnamese characters. There are other Asian cultures with equally popular trademark designs. Take for example the Japanese style of interior design. This one is mostly about achieving serenity, calm, and peace—a light environment that makes you feel like you are in a state of Zen.

Asian minimalism living room

Asian minimalism living room

4. Early oriental communities were highly superstitious too. They had beliefs for almost every aspect of their lives, from the cycles of the moon to the layout of their dwellings. This is why the Chinese developed feng shui. It is the art of placing objects and designing the structure of a dwelling to invite positive energy, luck, and promote a healthy energy flow. Feng shui followers believe that this is a way to promote mental and physical health of the people living inside the house; that the environment we live in influences the flow of energy, which influences our mood, our decisions, and eventually our emotions and bodies.

Applying the 4 Concepts

Having understood the core concepts of oriental design, it will be easier to integrate pieces of furniture and room accessories, or even renovate some structures, to achieve an oriental interior design theme.

1. Walls, Doors, and Windows

Japanese doors and windows are recognizably Asian. The windows are tall, wide, and have two panels that can slide sideways.

The doors are also sliding mechanisms. They may also be installed inside and serve as wall dividers for a large space.

Traditionally, the window and door panels are made from thick paper and framed with wooden grids. There are modern designs now that stay true to this design, but makes use of more sturdy and weather-proof material than paper and reeds.

Interior design by Betsy Burnham

Interior design by Betsy Burnham

Asian interior design

Asian interior design

Ideally, both windows and doors (the ones leading outside) open to a beautiful view of the countryside. Seeing nature from the inside will complete the oriental feel.

It also stays true to the oneness with nature that’s one of the trademarks of oriental style. Being surrounded by lush foliage makes it so easy to feel detached from the hustle and bustle of urban life, letting you achieve that Zen-like environment associated with Asian wellness techniques.

A round window with simple detailing

Photo by Naomi Ibuki at

Another option for windows would be large, circular windows framed with smooth wood. They should be bare and not covered with glass or mesh screen.

2. Accents and Accessories

There are many things that immediately bring to mind the Asian cultures. Here are some examples:

Photo by Joel Abroad at

Photo by sezidesign at

Room accents and accessories that are recognized as Asian in origin

-          stout, rounded lanterns with tassels at the bottom

-          katanas

-          open red fans with gold filigree

-          bamboo mats and window blinds

-          anything painted with Asian letter characters

-          Buddha

-          scarves, mantels, and quilts with intricately woven oriental designs

-          burning sticks of incense

-          delicate china or tea set

-          low-lying coffee tables with surrounding pillows

-          bamboo hammocks

-          yin and yang representations

-          traditional/national costumes (ex: samurai armor, Thai hats, kimonos) in decorative form

 3. Furniture

The intricate floral design of the screen, the simple furniture, the plants that resmble cherry blossoms, the red accents, and the neutral color base give the room a modern oriental feel

Photo taken from

There are so many furniture makers today that manufacture Asian-inspired pieces. Wood, bamboo, and rattan are still used for this theme. Synthetic materials are fine as long as the appearance of the final product still has recognizable oriental elements.


Designing a room based on Asian/oriental principles goes beyond choosing furniture and decorations. It’s more about understanding what the concepts behind the trademark designs are, and using them as basis for designing the room.

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