If you’re looking to take your home décor in a new direction, the latest trend on the block might very well be what you’re looking for. Wabi-Sabi is an age-old, Japanese philosophy that’s all about embracing the simple, the natural, and the authentic. Finding and seeing the perfect in the imperfect is the name of the game, and if the early signs are anything to go by, it’s a game that’s going to revolutionize the world of interior design.
What Does Wabi-Sabi Mean?
To understand what Wabi-Sabi is all about, a crash course in Japanese might be in order. According to Ideal Home, (the experts in language as well as home design, doncha know), Wabi means “understated elegance through rustic, simple and natural design”, while Sabi translates as “seeing beauty in the flaws that come with age”. So, that’s it- being at one with nature and taking (and accepting) life as it really is, warts and all. That’s all: nothing complicated, nothing technical, and fortunately for anyone looking to jump on the bandwagon, nothing too difficult about incorporating into our own homes.
What is a Wabi-Sabi Home?
It’s one thing knowing what a concept means, but quite another to visualize how this looks in reality. So, what exactly is a Wabi-Sabi home, and what exactly does it look like?
Explaining the phrase “Wabi-Sabi” might be easy enough with the help of a certain online translator, but describing what it means in real terms is a little trickier. Wabi-Sabi is a broad, all-encompassing concept, and as with all broad, all-encompassing concepts, it can mean many different things to many different people. One person’s idea of a Wabi-Sabi home might be a completely different thing to another’s, depending on just how they interpret the natural, and just what they consider the imperfect.
Narrowing the concept down to a defined, prescriptive brief is impossible: this isn’t a design concept that will dictate colors, arrangements, styles, or anything else. And that’s the beauty of it. Its fluidity, the potential it offers for individual expression, the complete absence of “do this” or don’t do that” … providing you stay true to your idea of the simple and the authentic, you can’t go wrong.
That said, you’re in the right place if you want to get inspired….
Mix and Match
The anathema of the Wabi Sabi home is anything overly contrived or matchy-matchy. As Reality Executives notes, don’t buy something simply because it matches the rest of your furnishings. Of course, if you fall in love with a teapot that just so happens to be the exact same shade of duck-egg blue as your cups, don’t not bring it home just because you’re worried about things looking pre-planned: the point is that whatever you buy, you should buy for itself, not because of how well it is or isn’t going to look with anything you already own. Wabi-Sabi homes are meant to be an extension of your personality, so pick purchases on the strength of that: love the teapot for its shape, its style, its function? Buy it. Like the teapot because it matches your cups? Leave it.
A Little Bit of Minimalism
Remember when we said Wabi-Sabi wasn’t a prescriptive design theory? While we weren’t lying, there is a tiny little caveat. Wabi-Sabi isn’t about excess or a display of material wealth, it’s about simplicity. While you don’t need to strip your house to the bare bones, you might want to get rid of any unnecessary, unwanted clutter. Wabi-Sabi might not be minimalist in the sense of stark white walls, sharp-edged furniture, and zero accessorizing, but is it minimal in the sense that it encourages you to think twice about what you already have in your home, and what you could possibly stand to lose. If you love something, keep it. If you don’t, bin it.
Welcome the Outside In
Wabi-Sabi is about the natural, the rustic, the beauty of the imperfect…. and what better way of expressing all three things than by welcoming a little bit of the outside into your home? Whether you opt for plants in pots or flowers in vases, their perfectly imperfect natural beauty will put you bang on-trend.
Embrace the Cracks
These days, no sooner does a plate develop a chip, a sofa acquire a scratch, or a table blossom a watermark, it’s out the door. Not so in a Wabi-Sabi home. It’s the chips and the cracks that can sometimes give that little bit of authenticity, that little bit of imperfect beauty, that’s at the heart of Wabi-Sabi. Although we’re not suggesting you let your house fall into disrepair, don’t necessarily throw everything out at the first signs of age or wear. If something’s gone past the point where it can feasibly be used for its original purpose, consider whether you could perhaps repurpose it. While going Wabi Sabi doesn’t mean you’ll never get to go shopping again, it does mean you might have to reconsider the disposable fashions and lifestyle choices we’ve all got so used to.
As The Spruce notes, Wabi-Sabi is all about finding the authentic and then praising it to the rafters. If you’re not quite sure what’s “authentic” in your home and what isn’t, just consider how and why an item was made. That flat-packed sofa you picked up in IKEA? Nope. That heirloom photo frame from your mom? Yep. The table your dad made by hand for your wedding present? Absolutely. Homemade or artisanal items have a homespun, authentic quality that you’re simply not going to get from an international company spewing out millions of identikit pieces at bargain prices. When you’re buying new items, look at how and why they were made- choose ones with a backstory, and we guarantee it’ll add more warmth to your home than a thousand mass-produced tealights.
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