Established in 2013, Black & Milk is spearheaded by the dynamic husband-and-wife team, Olga and Anatoly (Toly) Alekseev. Olga serves as the Creative Director, breathing life into the design narrative, while Toly ensures seamless project execution from inception to completion. Leveraging their extensive multidisciplinary expertise, the couple excels in propelling projects forward, steadfast in their commitment to creating interiors that transcend fleeting trends. Collaborating closely, they craft meticulously balanced spaces that exude cohesiveness and authenticity.

Among their notable projects in London is the collaboration with Architect Rem Koolhaas on the design of a Holland Green apartment. Additionally, they recently unveiled the Soho Loft, a testament to their prowess in design and a comprehensive exploration of feng shui for aficionados.

 

What is Japandi Interior Design?
Originating a few years ago across various creative industries, Japandi has emerged as a prominent design direction. This style blends coveted elements from Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics, infusing homes with a profound sense of serenity and harmony.

The Japandi style combines the warm minimalism of Scandinavian design with the Japanese appreciation for functionality and natural materials. Employing neutral colour palettes, varied textures, and clean lines, this aesthetic achieves a minimalist yet inviting look.

The philosophy underpinning Japandi has propelled its prominence in modern interior design. Black & Milk, in their endeavour to implement the Japandi style, integrate principles such as feng shui, colour therapy, thoughtful lighting design, and the use of natural materials. The result is a unique space that embodies both the essence and aesthetic of Japandi.

Implementing Japandi design contributes to creating an expansive and calming ambiance, offering a retreat from the external chaos. Black & Milk's involvement in designing a one-bedroom apartment in Soho, London's West End, presented distinctive challenges due to size, layout, and specific client requirements.

Despite the compact nature of the apartment, it lent itself well to Japandi style. The converted warehouse with floor-to-ceiling windows already exuded a light and airy feel. The focus was on amplifying natural light, expanding the space, and seamlessly incorporating the client's affinity for Asian design. Adhering to Japandi Interior Design principles, all materials used were cruelty-free, with an emphasis on sustainability and natural elements.

An additional challenge was the client's musical background, requiring a soundproof space for a grand piano. Further, the client's interest in feng shui emphasized the importance of optimizing energy balance in the environment for a harmonious and comfortable living experience.

 

Space
A defining feature of Japandi interior design lies in its adaptable approach to space utilization. In facing the challenge of preserving an open and spacious atmosphere while ensuring privacy for our client, we employed sliding and bifold screens to delineate the bedroom and dressing room from the living area. Crafted from authentic Japanese rice paper, these screens permit the transmission of light while effectively dividing the rooms.

The decision to expose beams and raise the ceiling was pivotal in generating additional vertical space, compensating for the relatively modest footprint. The exposed beams, especially when adorned in a contrasting colour to the rest of the home, make a captivating visual statement.

To amplify the apartment's openness and infuse Japanese design principles, we opted for low-level furniture. The use of a low-level seating area not only contributes to an immediate increase in vertical space but also imparts a laid-back and inviting ambiance to the apartment.

Diverging from traditional minimalist interior design, Japandi style distinguishes itself through the strategic incorporation of texture to infuse warmth into the space. This becomes particularly significant in a home characterized by neutral colours and minimalist decor. The inclusion of diverse materials and finishes introduces dynamism and character to the room.

Wood takes centre stage as the primary material throughout the apartment, extending from the flooring and kitchen fittings to even the bathtub. The utilization of wood and wood-effect elements enhances the natural ambiance, epitomizing both Scandinavian and Japanese interior design. The bespoke stained ash dining table serves as a striking centrepiece, elegantly complemented by soft pendant lights.

Various other materials, such as steel, wool, felt, hemp, and faux suede, are thoughtfully integrated into the home. For instance, the metal basin in the bathroom creates a beautiful contrast with the wooden bathtub, while the soft textured wool rug in the bedroom adds a cosy and welcoming touch. These nuanced textural variations elevate what would otherwise be a simple space, paying homage to the outside world and seamlessly blending design principles from both the East and West.

 

Lighting
Illumination holds a pivotal role in every interior, and its significance is particularly accentuated in Japandi interior design, where the minimalist decor places heightened importance on lighting to elevate the space.

Benefiting from floor-to-ceiling windows, this apartment inherently enjoyed abundant natural light. Our focus was on maximizing this feature and ensuring ample illumination for darker days and evenings.

To achieve this, LED strips were strategically installed atop each exposed beam. These strips redirect light upward and into the room, creating a soft, diffused glow as opposed to the harsh glare often associated with exposed or visible light fittings. All supplementary lighting in the apartment adheres to a soft and unobtrusive design, seamlessly integrated to emit a gentle radiance. To offer flexibility, dimmer switches allow the client to adjust brightness according to their preferences.

In addition to these measures, we incorporated various standalone lights, including floor lamps, table lamps, and wall lamps. These fixtures contribute extra layers to the simple interior, enhancing the overall warmth, welcoming ambiance, and a sense of relaxation.

 

Function
Within a Japandi-style residence, each piece serves a distinct function, often embracing multifunctionality.

An exemplar of this principle is the custom-designed window bench, not only opening up the space and establishing a sociable seating area but also doubling as additional storage. The simplicity of floating shelves elsewhere in the apartment strikes an ideal balance between aesthetics and functionality.

Elsewhere in the living space, a pronounced emphasis on functionality is evident. An acoustic wall serves a dual purpose, soundproofing the room for our client's grand piano sessions while introducing a unique texture that aligns seamlessly with our neutral color palette. Accompanying this, acoustic curtains contribute to soundproofing, affording our client a serene retreat without the disruptions from the lively Soho streets.

 

Colour
Two predominant techniques are commonly employed when incorporating colour in Japandi interior design. Many designers opt for a neutral colour palette, relying on varying textures to infuse character. A neutral and monochrome interior, with its accessibility to the eye, exudes a sense of tranquility.

Alternatively, another approach involves the use of contrasting colors to define areas or elevate the space. Although the color palette remains uncomplicated, it features more saturated hues.
In the Soho Loft project, we embraced the latter method, delineating night and day areas through contrasting wall colors. The flooring seamlessly extends from one area to another, creating a connected space while maintaining a clear distinction between the two zones.

Throughout the apartment, anthracite serves as the accent color. From pendant lights framing the table to the vertical radiator and exposed beams, these black highlights act as sharp and contemporary contrasts against the neutral color palette, adding a touch of sophistication to the overall design.

 

Feng Shui
Feng Shui principles play a significant role in Japandi interior design, leveraging the ancient and intricate science to infuse positive energy into the home. Achieving harmony and balance involves various techniques.

A fundamental Feng Shui principle involves creating separation between different areas of the home, a challenge particularly relevant in open-plan spaces. In addressing this, we utilized colour and sliding screens in this apartment to delineate the living room from the sleeping area, effectively balancing the yin and yang energies. Yang spaces, such as the kitchen and living area, embody activity and sociability, while yin spaces emphasize passivity and rest.

In the bedroom, black walls and accents serve to distinguish the yin sleeping area from the bright and neutral yang living space. The use of contrasting colours and Japanese rice paper screens offers flexibility, allowing the rooms to be divided as needed.

Throughout the apartment, subtler Feng Shui principles are subtly interwoven. A large, rectangular dining table is framed and balanced by rounded pendant lights, contributing to a harmonious arrangement. Additionally, a sleek black handrail and soap holder make efficient use of often overlooked wall space beside the bathroom basin.

By seamlessly incorporating both Japandi style and Feng Shui principles, we successfully crafted a tranquil space for our client—a soothing retreat from the bustling energy of Soho.

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