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What Is Wabi-Sabi?

Wabi-Sabi Design Uncovered

We've seen a lot of wabi-sabi design out there — but not a lot of explanation. If you're scratching your head wondering what wabi-sabi is, here's your chance to learn a little something new about this ancient Japanese style. While it includes an entire Japanese philosophy of living, wabi-sabi also applies to a specific design style that celebrates rustic imperfection, mismatched items, and simplicity. Wabi-sabi is a sort of yin and yang balance, because designs are simultaneously structured and simple while weathered and irregular. Accepting transience of the material world, wabi-sabi recognizes that the world is an imperfect place and that material goods wear away and change form over time.

Rather than seeking design perfection or preservation of material things, wabi-sabi submits to the ephemerality of material items. All things gradually and naturally change over time — be it a chip in a ceramic bowl, a scrape across a leather sofa, or the fading colors in a woven fabric. In the philosophy of wabi-sabi, these imperfect items are actually seen as more valuable and interesting! If this style appeals to you, learn how you can easily decorate your house with wabi-sabi design.

Here are simple ways to integrate wabi-sabi design:

  • Organic materials: Keep the space looking organic and natural with large windows, exposed wood cabinets, ceramic tile, and natural paint colors.
  • Storage: Add built-in cabinets that store away electronics or other "stuff" from plain view so you are left with a clean, uncluttered space.
  • Horizontal lines: Use simple, modern, unadorned furniture with horizontal lines to give the illusion of space and order.
  • Ceramics: Adorn shelves and tables with antique ceramic bowls and vases.
  • Weathered cloth and leather: Adorn the space with items that look better when beat up over time like antique kilim or woven pillows and weathered leather chairs.
  • Organic life: Fresh flowers, potted plants, and bowls of fresh fruit add color and a burst of freshness to the room.

Sources: Desire to Inspire and House Beautiful

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