Home & Garden

Asian styles bring a sense of equilibrium, order

There is a lot of work that goes into planning my summer vacation. My goal is to round up my family once a year. It's a tall order, as my sisters, brother, kids, nieces and nephews are spread all over England, Canada and the U.S., and this year even South Africa.

I start by picking the destination (always the Italian countryside) and work out the dates in advance so that everyone can make it. When the time comes and we all meet for just a few days, I feel wonderful – we all do.

Searching for a satisfactory mix of work and play, busy time and solitude is a lifelong journey. If you manage to get the odd day right, that’s an accomplishment. Knowing what keeps you in balance is an even larger achievement.

Through my work in television, producing home-design and decorating shows, I’ve recognized what an enormous impact our home environment makes on our emotions. The color of the bedroom walls, the placement of furniture in a sitting room, the feel of a tactile carpet underfoot, these elements can all have a profound effect on the way we experience each day. Finding the right fit for you and your family is not something that will happen all at once. Your home surroundings will evolve as your life changes. And like that long-planned-for vacation, you’ll want to take the time to set a goal and work out the details.

We can learn much from the essence of Asian design, the search for balance, yin and yang. At its core is orderliness. (A bit scary that is, but crucial to the big picture.) A neutral palette provides a sense of order to a room. Creamy whites, wood tones, soft golds create a quiet backdrop that can be as simple or as luxurious as you choose. Black is a defining color; it delineates forms and the structural geometry of a room. A primary color such as red is meant to be a focal point. Whether it’s a glossy lamp or a lacquered tabletop, it should stand alone.

You can see and feel the magic of contrast with textural elements. Picture a heavy-weave fiber mat against a smooth hardwood floor, or a satin cushion on a wicker chair. The balance of rough and smooth is restful; it creates equilibrium.

The “less is more” philosophy translates to an orderly existence, so keep furnishings and accessories to a minimum. This is also a major factor in designing small spaces, where multifunctional furniture rules. A futon doubles as a seat and sleep mat, an ottoman as footrest, seat or table.

This elegant bed suite at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver captures the essence of Asian contemporary style – luxurious, restful and filled with tactile interest. Straight lines dominate in the rosewood headboard, rectangular lampshades and black picture frame to produce a strong sense of order. The golden silk duvet cover and satin pillow show a bamboo pattern, which is a popular Asian motif. Stunning wood details are a focal point – the dark-grained floor-to-ceiling cupboard door is pau ferro, a wood similar to rosewood but harder. The artwork represents a strong Asian symbol: Two fish swimming into each other signifies ongoing wealth and good fortune.

The next time you are looking for inspiration and balance in your home, some Asian wisdom just might be part of the solution.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.tritter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com.