This very high quality design book is actually a bargain at the price. David Scott's excellent introduction is in itself an inspirational gem, beginning (appropriately) with the Buddha being born. The Buddha taught meditation as a means to end suffering. Meditation is the meaning of the Japanese word Zen. There is an experience of meditation that each moment is new and to be approached with a bright, positive mind. The interiors depicted in Simply Zen are, for the most part, intended to be a serene minimalist palette encouraging mindfulness undistracted by clutter. "The overall emphasis on simplicity is integral to Zen, which teaches that it is possible to hone down the clutter and extraneous matter of everyday life and create a clear, ordered setting to allow free rein, mentally, physically, and spiritually."
There are lots of books on clutter management, but none of them come remotely close to providing the inspiration that is often the key to getting there. Stringent minimalism is not appealing to everyone and clutterbugs can even see it as stark and boring. The interiors in Simply Zen are most definitely not stark and not boring!
The bulk of the book (65 pages) is devoted to interiors of both traditional Japanese and modern minimalist. The hefty garden section is 40 pages and is 100% strong traditional Japanese influence. Sumptuous color photographs illustrate gardens of raked gravel and large stones, serene water features and the archetypal exquisiteness of water trickling from a bamboo pipe.
This advice on color is from page 60. "…the limited color palette dictated by the reliance upon natural materials creates a sensuous environment and, as the interiors age, the materials change in color: tatami fades from sage green to soft yellow, and polished wooden components and floorboards acquire a rich, lustrous patina." The interiors are far beyond a mere 'oatmeal neutral,' and the color palette in some of the pictures is anything but limited. It is simply used with appropriate restraint. If you have ever wondered what is a perfect color for the "wealth corner" look at the incredible blue couch on pages 30 and 31. That's it! Note that not all the couch is brilliant blue. That's restraint and it let's you use those saturated jewel tones most effectively.
Bay Books and Tapes, San Francisco, CA, www.somabooks.com, 1999, 1-57959-058-6, 128 pages, color photographs, hardback, $30.00