Keep It Simple: The Art of Wabi-Sabi


Looking for a new way to decorate? Try incorporating the natural, relaxing elements of wabi-sabi design into your home.

Hungry for a quiet, clean, elegant oasis for you and your family to return home to after a long day? Picture stone colored walls encasing an airy, open room. A distressed wood china cabinet sits adjacent to a warm rust chair and multiple plants adorn the top of each table and counter. If this earth-inspired decor sounds appealing to you, wabi-sabi might be the key to your family’s decorating success.

Nearly everyone has heard of the functionality of feng shui—the practice of positioning objects in the home for a beneficial life—but another ancient, philosophically driven concept is making the transition from show room to living room.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic principle, often associated with the tea ceremony in the Shinto religion. During this ceremony, utensils and cups are used that appear and often are old and cracking. The tea hut and space used is very natural, making for a wabi-sabi setting that interior designers are picking up and fashionably incorporating into their portfolios.

The view of the world this concept creates is one of appreciation and adoration toward all things, old or new. In order to understand wabi-sabi as it is utilized in the home, it is important to have a clear understanding of just what it means when something is wabi-sabi.

In Japanese, the word wabi roughly translates as witnessing beauty in the simple and humble. All things gaudy need not apply. Sabi means beauty in things that are worn from use, imperfect, and unique. It is the combination of these two words, however, that defines the aesthetic of wabi-sabi—a celebration of what is imperfect, impermanent, and humble. In essence, viewing the world through wabi-sabi eyes allows for an appreciation of life in all of its forms and variances as well as a profound respect for those things that thrive and those that wither.

Applying the wabi-sabi style to your home can be accomplished by first eliminating those things that contradict it’s principles. For example, an excess of clutter distracts from the natural beauty of the home that is found in open, spacious rooms. Avoiding harsh angles in your furniture decisions can help create a more subtle living space, allowing rounded off edges to flow. This makes the house appear as though everything is connected in some way, rather than having abrupt halts at every bookcase and appliance. And stainless steel in the kitchen is a no-no. More and more, kitchen cabinets, counters, and appliances are appearing as though they could sit right in the living room, rather than having that sterile, inhospitable feel.


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