Creating Your Zen


You have your home theater, and you’ve got your game room, your bar room, your home office, and now all you want is a little peace and quiet. What you need is a Zen room—a calming space to relax and recharge. “People are very much affected by the surroundings they’re in—their mood, their wellness,” says Rina Okawa of ZEN Associates, a landscape- and interior-design firm with offices in Boston and Washington, D.C. She describes a Zen room as “a personal and private space surrounded by beauty that can lift your spirits up, refresh your mind, and revive your five senses.” “Especially with all that chatter out in the world,” says New York–based interior designer Charles Pavarini III, “we need a space where we can realign our thoughts, our energies.”


In keeping with the Japanese concept “to come to nothing,” Okawa says the space should allow you “to isolate from everyday life.” Okawa, an interior designer, says her firm has recently been commissioned to create a garden-viewing room and a soaking room devoted to bathing. Pavarini designed a multipurpose wellness retreat for the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York. Spa enthusiasts could first enjoy a massage in the body-treatment area (enhanced by a programmable LED lighting system said to help sync biorhythms and circadian rhythms), before performing a tea ritual (“a ritual in self-healing”) and moving on to the meditation area. “I wanted to do a space that really altered and helped the individual realign themselves and get in touch with their own energy,” Pavarini says.


“I would keep the colors very quiet, very neutral, and I’m not talking about boring, but very subdued, so when you walk in the room, you almost want to whisper or take a deep breath or let out a deep breath,” Pavarini says. “I would do warm grays, taupes, pale lavenders.” But these places are their own indulgence, Okawa says, “so people can use something that relates to what they love—but not shocking pink or anything. Something like light green, or maybe light pink also would calm.” And less is more. “The space should be less cluttered and have a good balance of open space versus occupied space. If it’s too empty, people sometimes feel a little anxious. But then, if there are too many things, they can be distracted,” Okawa says. “The void space is very important, so anything too big in the room or too small makes it unbalanced.”


Zen space. A spectacular outdoor view is desirable, but it isn’t necessary. “It can be done with natural materials or textures and colors and light,” Okawa says. For example, use stone or wood flooring. Eucalyptus is Pavarini’s suggested scent, via candles or a diffuser. He also recommends a “couple of significant plants or trees in the room. His No. 1 rule? No electronics allowed.