In the western world, where perfection is king, there is something so freeing about the wabi-sabi interior design aesthetic. I find myself captivated by the idea of abandoning “perfect” and embracing the scars and flaws that living a full life brings. Loving the crows’ feet and laugh lines and wholeheartedly embracing the imperfections of life for the gifts of soulful beauty.
The eastern philosophy of wabi-sabi is embracing imperfection, but that is not to say that it is shabby in any way. It is more about being well cared for and finding beauty in the asymmetry and organically aged. I love how the wabi-sabi interior philosophy supports the slow living lifestyle and embraces mindful living. When you look at Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, you can see wabi-sabi in all its glory. It’s simple, organic and well placed, with room to breathe. Both Ikebana and wabi-sabi fully integrate the beauty of form.
Wabi-sabi is a zen-inspired design style that focuses on the simplicity that a minimal aesthetic will bring. The details and nuance are where the visual magic lives. In the stillness of the aesthetic, the white space of the design allows the organic objects in the space to breathe. When experiencing the expression of the wabi-sabi, those affected by its vibe will find themselves deeply moved, myself included.
There are seven aesthetic principles of the zen philosophy that are integral for a wabi-sabi style.
Kanso – Simplicity
Fukinsei – Asymmetry
Shibumi – Beauty in the understated
Shizen – Natural without pretense
Yugen – Subtle grace
It is simplistic minimalism, not meticulous minimalism. It is not an excuse for shoddy craftsmanship; instead it highlights the long-lasting and well-made. It appreciates the age and organic nature of all things and is the Zen of interior styling.
When creating a wabi-sabi interior style, what you leave out of the design matters more than what you add.
Seek balance between warm and cool elements in a way that creates harmony and simplicity. Warm materials are wood, paper, textiles and clay. Cool elements include stone, metal and live plants.
Here is a list of examples you can incorporate in your home:
Most of us are inundated with a vast sensory overload of everyday life. This makes the possibility of incorporating the wabi-sabi life into your styling very appealing- I know it is for me. Slowing down long enough to develop an appreciation for the organic and straightforward is the essence of wabi-sabi. The perfectly imperfect- oh yeah, I am all in!
So how do you achieve a Wabi-Sabi environment without falling into the paradoxes of consumerism and perfectionism?
Well, incorporating this into your life can be a series of edits. Get rid of anything that you don’t love or is just taking up space. Aka Marie Kondo. You won’t miss it, I promise! When shopping for items, take the time to examine them. When looking at silverware, does it feel nice in your hand? Do you like the look, the weight and the finish? Buy well made and lean into the “meant to last” mentality. Choose items that have meaning regardless of age. You want loved pieces, not worn, unless the worn enhances the beauty of the object. Remember, you invest in these items to improve your lifestyle and add calm and harmony to your decor.
Shop handcrafted goods and forsake uniformity. Use low light and a subtle color palette. Skip the big box store and repurpose an old piece of furniture. Opt for materials meant to age, intended to have multiple lives or ones that have already lived numerous lives. Use open reclaimed shelving and highlight some often-used items and store the rest in cabinetry. Choose comfortable, not bulky, upholstered furniture and make sure to leave extra space around groupings so the room can breathe. Keep accessories to a minimum and only items that bring peace and calm to your room. Most of all, mix your materials consciously. Make sure you are incorporating warm and cool finishes. The balance of the elements will give way to a calm, harmonious environment.
Coming soon, I’ll publish a collection of ceramicists who are committed to the process of mindful making and living.
You can find these wabi-sabi mindsets practiced in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. It’s a ritual that celebrates the beauty of time and place, honoring objects, tea and the people who join. Read more about the intention of this ceremony and the thoughtful items involved here. I’ve also covered the basics of matcha, and I include a recipe and tool list to include in your morning routines and centering practices.
Wabi-Sabi minimalist styling pairs well with:
The simplicity and thoughtful living of Scandinavian design and the antiquity of European Farmhouse styling along with Mid Century Modern interior styling
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