In a world that is often obsessed with perfection, it is refreshing to see a decorating style that celebrates exactly the opposite. Wabi-sabi is an ancient Japanese philosophy which focuses on finding beauty in the imperfect, transient and incomplete. The concept is derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence: impermanence, suffering and emptiness. While these three aspects might sound incredibly morbid, wabi-sabi is all about accepting the natural cycle of growth and embracing it.
This design principle promotes simplicity, asymmetry, authenticity and the appreciation of natural objects and processes. Cracks and imperfections are cherished for symbolising the passage of time and loving use.
Embracing wabi-sabi in the home teaches dwellers to be content with their immediate situation without constantly wanting more. It’s the perfect contradiction to consumerism. So, look to your weathered floorboards, chipped tableware and faded curtains and try and see the beauty in them. The floorboards are likely worn from visits from family and love ones, the tableware from a lively dinner party and the curtains from bright summer sunshine. Wabi-sabi can’t be bought, but if you have a shiny new build and are looking to add a “lived-in feel,” here are a few pointers.
Pottery is one of the best examples of wabi-sabi and is easy to introduce into your home. In Japanese tea ceremonies, the items used are often rustic, simplistic and uneven. Hagi ware, for example, comes in colours and textures that emphasise an unrefined style. It is common for tea bowls to be deliberately nicked or chipped and glaze tends to change over time with the constant use of hot water.
Often wallpaper or paint serves the purpose of making a surface look fresh and polished. With wabi-sabi the idea is to embrace a rough and weathered look. You can create a shabby, crackled texture with simple paint techniques, distressed wallpaper or antique tiles. Secondhand materials work well as they look worn and promote the idea of making the most of what you have and not consuming unnecessarily.
Linen is the most complementary fabric for this decor due to its rough and often faded appearance. Its texture has a very raw element which links it closely to nature and, in turn, wabi-sabi. For rugs, look for designs that tell a story. If you decide to go for pattern, pick one which is less defined and looks like it has stood the test of time. Again, hand-me-downs or preowned textiles are favoured.
Choose organically-shaped pieces made out of natural materials when it comes to furniture. Reclaimed wood and teak work really well. Embrace simplistic designs where the focus is on the cracks, indents and so-called imperfections that give the pieces character.
In true wabi-sabi style, remember to appreciate what you have first before going out and buying lots of items for your home. Think carefully about your purchases and make sure they are worthwhile and really add to your space.
Top photo credit: Furn