Design Dilemma: Cultivating the Wabi-Sabi in Your Home
A lot of people want everything in their homes to be bright, shiny and new. But seasoned designers know that the far more evocative spaces areÂ those thatÂ feature the time-worn, aged, home-made and organic. The Japanese refer to this conceptÂ as “wabi-sabi” and the ideaÂ refers not just to home design but actually aÂ whole approach to life. In the interior decorating arena, however, wabi-sabi connotes a certain earthy simplicity that feels cozy, intimate, and with an acknowledgement of the passing of time that you just can’t get by purchasing a whole house of furniture out of a West Elm catalog. Authenticity is what it’s all about.Â So the questions is in a disposable age and an insta-culture, when people move constantly and often do not have treasured family antiques, how can you make a space feel considered and authentic in that wabi-sabi way? Here are some tips:
1) Declutter first. Keep your interior on the spare side. Wabi-sabi philosophy is thatÂ it is just as important to know when NOT to buy as to know when to buy.Â Overcrowded interiors can makeÂ occupants feel weighed down and restricted. Open, airy interiors hintÂ at freedom and the possibilities of life. The key is to not veer so much in the direction of austerity that things get ostentatiouslyÂ minimalistÂ again. Keep things comfortable.
2) Focus on natural, organic materials and shapes. Wabi-sabi appreciates first and foremost nature. So look for ways to bring nature inside the home. This might mean linen slipcovers, a jute rug, a rough-hewn oak dining table and bamboo floors. And remember that the natural materials don’t have to be the most exalted. Wabi-sabi holds a special appreciation for the simpler materials that might include bamboo, paper, mud and rocks. Expensive marble and granite countertops are natural, but not really humble enough to be considered wabi-sabi.
3) Eschew symmetry. Wabi-sabi thrives on the irregular and asymmetrical. The goal is to look beyond conventional beauty to find pleasure in what some might even consider the ugly. So avoid “matching” anything and go for a much more casual, unplanned look that is confident enough to incorporateÂ that weathered sideboard or distressed table.
4) Allow things to age. Did the kids just scratch up the dining room table? Did the cat just put a new rip in the rug?Â Did you chip that dish or dent that chair? Great! The wabi-sabi way appreciates the patina of age and signs of a life well-lived. Remember not to take this too far. Wabi-sabi doesn’t mean messy or slovenly, so when things truly need to be repaired, fix them.
5) Use colors found in nature. Color should help foster a sense of tranquility, intimacy and serenity. That means for most of us, that wabi sabi colors will take inspiration from plants, stones, rocks and wood, incorporating greens, beiges, grays, whites and tans.
6) Shop second-hand. Items found on Craig’s List or in second-hand stores are already imbued with the dignity and authenticity of age, so enjoy it!
7) Bring nature indoors. Plants, stones, rocks, driftwood, can function as natural sculpture, helping to keep your interior in touch with the great outdoors.
8.) Make it yourself. Wabi-sabi celebrates the homemade and handmade. So why not build a table yourself, recover a chair, or paint a picture? Doing-it-yourself lends a home a special kind of vibe that comes of knowing that what’s in your house can’t be found or replicated anywhere else.
Images: Rebekah Sigfrids via DesignSpongeOnline, Apartment Therapy.