In the 1930s, the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright—known for his prairie-style designs—was influenced by Asian design principles. At Fallingwater, one of his most celebrated works, Wright incorporated low- pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, and open floor plans meshing the house with nature.
Fast forward 80 years, and tranquil Asian-inspired spaces—from yoga and meditation rooms to zen gardens—have become increasingly important in western architecture and decor, says Miami-based designer Adriana Hoyos. “It’s about the materiality, the balance, the natural tones, the different textures.”
“Each country in Asia has its own identity in design,” says Hoyos. Light-colored woods dominate in Japan. In Thailand, wood is dark, and the aura is “more tropical, more engaging, and more colorful.” Chinese decor has pops of red. Chinoiserie wall coverings provide ornate, colorful patterns of flowers and birds. Traditional wood furniture is intricately carved, and in eclectic settings, elegant, porcelain vases add flair.
Some developers of luxury high-rise condominiums in busy cities such as Miami and Manhattan incorporate meditation gardens in common areas to give residents a place to relax, meditate and enjoy nature.
In California, the living within nature lifestyle has an even greater affinity with Japanese design and philosophy of living, including building with sustainable and energy-efficient materials, says Stephanie Lamarre, a broker associate at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty.
Authentic Japanese joinery practices were used to build West Wind Estate, a formal Japanese home on a 32-acre ranch overlooking the Nicasio Reservoir, near San Francisco. “It’s not just Asian-inspired, it’s authentic,” says Lamarre. An antique temple bell in a traditional structure is near the entrance. Skilled craftspeople from Japan were brought in to build the 3,000 sq ft residence. Crafted from aged cedar, its joinery was assembled without nails, and each post was hand-planed using traditional Japanese tools.
In each room, custom wide-plank cedar ceilings are complemented by sakura—or cherry—hardwood floors. Handmade copper wall sconces give a Japanese touch to the exterior doors, entrances, and hallways. Though the owners are not Japanese, “they have an affinity for the zen lifestyle,” says BG Bates, a co-listing agent at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty.
Completed last year, the “Kura” or “treasure house,” was built to withstand earthquakes and fire. “West Wind Estate could be a great yoga retreat with its cedar ceilings. It smells great and looks beautiful,” Bates says.
The detached 2,200 sq ft guest house has a Japanese genkan, a traditional inside/outside Asian entryway, with black slate floor tiles, a shoe cupboard and a large coat closet. Tall shoji doors slide open to the two-bedroom two-bath residence.
In Japanese design, insulating shoji screens “filter the light in a gracious way”, promoting relaxation, says Hoyos. “You are more open to receiving that light, and it is better for you and your wellbeing.” The property also includes a Japanese-style art studio, a winery and a 2,400 sq ft wine cave with barreled 12ft ceilings.
Indoors and outdoors meld. A koi pond wraps around the house, approaching the front door. A walking path leads from a formal Japanese garden to vineyards and an orchard through bamboo gates.
Property ID: MGZJ9M
Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty
Stephanie Lamarre +1 415 806 3176
B.G. Bates +1 415 706 1026
Indoor-outdoor living reaches new heights in a private setting near downtown Napa Valley. Set on almost 11 acres, with soaring views of vineyards and distant mountains, the home is a peaceful retreat in the Coombsville AVA. Designed by Michael Guthrie + Co Architects as an ode to the essence of Napa Valley, this dream destination suits intimate entertaining, memorable outdoor gatherings, and relaxation. The property includes a coveted cabernet sauvignon vineyard of around 2.5 acres. A treasure to be enjoyed for its impeccable design, generous indoor-outdoor entertainment venues, and close proximity to wineries and restaurants.
Property ID: CZ46HP
Sotheby’s International Realty — St. Helena Brokerage
Hillary Ryan +1 707 312 2105
CHARLESTOWN, RHODE ISLAND
Just minutes from some of the most pristine beaches in New England, this private compound of more than 19 acres awaits. Architect and interior designer Soheil Tavakoli brought the homeowner’s vision to life by combining Persian and Native American influences. From the indoor fountain bordered by sculptured bas-relief, to the multi-faceted dome ceiling with celestial lighting and skylight, every detail is intended to soothe and inspire. The covered terrace with fountains and waterfalls offers multiple spaces for alfresco entertaining, while the outdoor yoga platform overlooks lush gardens and welcomes you to the hiking trails beyond. This home is a true oasis in harmony with its natural setting, with indoor and outdoor living spaces that pay homage to the Asian tradition of the home as art with a distinct connection to nature.
Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty
Amy I. Doorley-Lucas +1 401 935 7117
John Blair +1 857 919 0923
COURTENAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Nestled in the center of the valley lies the estate at Glen Urquhart Drive. The home features oak-paneled walls, maple flooring and a prominent stone fireplace in the vaulted great room. The 4.27-acre estate is a landscaping masterpiece, including an expansive garden of rhododendrons. Among the grounds is an enchanting space carefully crafted to encapsulate pure zen. The Japanese-inspired garden adheres to the principles of simplicity, balance and harmony, while fine gravel is meticulously raked into delicate patterns, symbolising the flow of water. From the meticulously placed Japanese maples and bamboo to the strategically placed stones dotting the garden, visitors are invited to reflect.
Property ID: 76BQ23
Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
Shane Wilson +1 778 585 5010
Logan Wilson +1 250 857 0609