Ancient or previously little-known philosophies have been making their way into interior design forever, but the practice has certainly boomed recently. (Hygge, anyone?) These ideologies consist of broader life principles that, when applied to your space, add value in general. Wabi-sabi is one such philosophy that is gaining popularity, and we think it’s worth a look. So here it is! A look!
Wabi-sabi is a concept born in Japan (probably) and utilized worldwide. It’s a broad philosophy advocating tranquility, acceptance, and appreciation for things that are somehow imperfect: the disorderly, the damaged, the wonky, you might say. The goal is to provide a breath of fresh air in a world that often demands perfection.
If you’ve ever purchased a new home, you’re familiar with our modern aesthetic leanings. Every floorboard is uniform and in place, every molding seamlessly matched, every recessed light fixture along a perfect axis. Now, don’t get it twisted; in no way are we saying these are bad things! However, if you’ve owned an old home, you’re familiar with the opposite: crooked floors, uneven moldings, and lights just… who knows where? While these issues may be maddening at first glance (and may need repairs for safety’s sake, so do that), it’s worth considering whether these quirks of old construction or design can be good.
Wabi-sabi’s utilization of imperfection makes your space feel organic and cozy, even while the aesthetic is often minimalistic. Minimalist design emphasizes highlighting a few well made, high end pieces and leaving plenty of space for movement and reflection. We’re fans of minimalism (and maximalism, and… moderate-al-ism?). But we can all admit that the look can be industrial or cold — looked at rather than lived in.
With wabi-sabi design, it’s possible to avoid clutter in a minimalist way and still keep your space comfortable. Organic shapes, natural materials, and, perhaps most importantly, pieces with stories to tell can give you the serenity of a clean space while adding the bespoke feel of something that’s been around the block.
In applying wabi-sabi design to your space, you may be tempted to ask, “What, do I just throw a bunch of broken junk around my house?” That’s… not what we’re saying. (Unless that’s your thing; in that case, you do you.) Rather, infuse your space with wabi-sabi by sticking to a few core principles.
First, embrace imperfection. Maybe you love the shape and size of this garden statue, but it’s too chipped around the edges. Maybe you found this old mirror, but the patina on the glass and frame makes it look too old. Maybe your parents have been trying to give you that houseplant they keep almost killing, but it’s a little too lopsided and wild for you. Well, wabi-sabi gives you permission to reconsider your stance. Are they actually too imperfect, or are you being held back by the pressure to have something new and shiny? If you love it, display it. Don’t be scared. We’re here for you.
Second, use natural materials. Nothing is more beautifully imperfect than nature. Wood, stone, clay, sand… none of these things occur neatly in the world. Show me a chunk of wood without knots and grain running every which way, and I’ll show you a synthetic wood facsimile that was produced alongside thousands of identical twins. Stones are jagged on one end, smooth on the other, veins and striations crisscrossing throughout. These aren’t blemishes; they’re features. Embrace nature inside, and feel all the tranquility of being outside.
Finally, utilize the old. Not only is this more sustainable and, often, more affordable; it’s also more interesting. Why do we love old lighthouses and inns and graveyards? It’s not because they’re fully functional or perfectly preserved. It’s because they have stories to tell. We can’t help but imagine the times they’ve seen, and the people they’ve impacted. There’s a romance to an old piece that sometimes gets forgotten in interior design. This doesn’t mean you have to fill your space with antiques if you don’t want to. But wabi-sabi interior design does mean that you shouldn’t be afraid to show the signs of age that give space or object its character.
So there you have it: an overview of wabi-sabi that you can use in your space to add serenity, comfort, and character. It’s an aesthetic many of us weren’t aware of or haven’t seriously considered, but we think it’s worth a look. And hey, even if you don’t decide to use it in your space, maybe it can add something to your life!
Take a moment, clear your mind, and embrace the imperfect, my friends. Your ever-diminishing sense of well-being will thank you.