Have you heard the term wabi sabi and wondered what it means? I don’t blame you. The term is so fun to hear and say that it begs to be used. It is also just as fun to be around.
Wabi sabi philosophy is about beauty in imperfection. It is different than how we typically think about interiors in the Western world. It is in tune with Zen Japanese philosophy, focusing on the uncontrollable aspects of nature and humanity’s reaction to it.
As an interior designer, I find wabi sabi style the most fascinating and fun. It brings added depth and richness each day, bringing more interest while grounding you in a more human and natural experience. It also works in every room, including your home office.
In this article, I review wabi sabi style, how it started, and how you can adopt it at home and work.
What is Wabi Sabi Style?
Describing wabi sabi style is best defined by saying what it isn’t. Wabi sabi designs are not aspirational items. They are imperfectly handcrafted, aged, or damaged and later repaired in ways you can recognize. Every crooked corner, worn surface, chip, and crack tells a story. They are beautiful and yet connected to time and experience, and both traits intertwined are part of their beauty. As a result, they ground you in the natural world.
How Did Wabi Sabi Get Started?
Wabi sabi philosophy doesn’t have a defined starting point. Many sources date it back to 15th-century Japan, but some date it back to the early Song dynasty (c. 960-1279 CE) in China since Chinese Zen Buddhism was a forming principle.
Wabi sabi became most known for its involvement in tea ceremonies, an elite activity. Over time, the ritual became more defined and stripped down to its rawest form to celebrate simplicity. It culminated into two mats and irregular-shaped cups. But the most famous story dates before this refinement.
In the 15th century, A shogun sent his favorite tea bowl to China to be repaired. It came back poorly repaired with metal staples, so Japanese craftsmen invented a new solution. They used a lacquer resin and gold blend to join the cracks together. Instead of hiding the cracks, they celebrated them with beauty. The shogun loved the look, finding it more beautiful than before because the piece now told more of a story. This type of pottery became known as Kintsugi pottery.
How to Create a Wabi Sabi Home
Wabi sabi interiors are still gaining ground in the Western world. Still, you can adopt it easily, even without having experience. I had no trouble with it. Here are some ways of thinking about wabi sabi interior design and applying these approaches in real life.
Celebrate Beauty in Imperfection
Wabi sabi interior design embraces worn, aged, and slightly asymmetrical design treatments to bring more character. Here are some traits:
Use aged objects: Grandma’s vintage clock, slightly faded rugs, and charmingly tarnished silverware tell tales of times gone by, adding layers of rich narratives to your living spaces. The items gracefully carry the weight of time in ways that evoke memories, spark conversations, and add a sprinkle of nostalgic magic to your home.
Flaunt the flaws: Examples include rugged stone countertops, wooden tables with knots and irregular grains, and hand-made ceramics with slight, delightful imperfections. These elements bring in a depth of character that mass-produced items can’t.
Show Off Repaired items: A damaged item that has been repaired shows its history for a deeper experience and more appealing story.
Wabi sabi teaches that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect, and this is where the beauty lies. Here’s how you can incorporate this same wabi sabi mindset at home.
Stay Rooted While Changing With the Times
You can tap into new and creative ways of living while still rearranging, shifting, and swapping items you currently own. You maintain character and history while keeping the energy fresh and flowing. This includes designing in ways that embrace different seasons of the year. Put seasonal blossoms in a vase of spring grace or swap in autumn-colored throw pillows.
Live Artfully with Less
Simplicity is at the heart of Zen aesthetics. You can create that feeling with minimalist design treatments, tapering items down to the pieces that resonate with your soul. Let every element in your home be something that brings joy, that speaks to you.
Adopt a Natural Color Palette
Opt for earthy tones and textures that evoke the serenity of nature while being warm and welcoming. Examples include gray, beige, taupe, brown, cream, and white. Green and blue also add a natural feel thanks to their resemblance to plants and water. Gold and silver, both elements found in nature, also work. All these colors are easy on the eyes and soothing to the soul.
Use Natural Materials
Wabi sabi is tightly in tune with nature, evoking it through natural imperfections. It is made from items tightly in tune with what you see in the natural world. Clay, wood, stone, dirt, and natural weaves are all a part of the aesthetic.
Bring Nature Indoors
Incorporate plants, stones, woods, and all the delightful fragments of nature to cultivate a space that breathes life. Your indoor space is a home for outdoor nature, and plants are an easy addition to bring the outdoors in.
Get Creative with DIY Wabi Sabi Style
Celebrate your creative side by creating pottery, textured wall art, or custom Japanese art. Get those creative juices flowing and make pieces that resonate with you. It adds warmth and character to your home, and you also revel in the satisfaction of creating something with your hands that is uniquely yours and screams YOU.
How to Create Wabi Sabi Style in Each Room
Here is how you can achieve the look in the most popular rooms of your home.
Entrance: Where It All Begins
Your entrance is where you introduce your style and prepare visitors for what is to come. This makes it an ideal place to showcase a treasured item and show your love for wabi sabi design.
Use Furniture with Patina: The same furniture can be used to store entrance items, such as keys and shoes.
Display a Vase with flowers: Display an antique or personally-made vase. This is also an engaging home for kintsugi pottery.
Hang Wall Hooks: You can use pieces of treasured items or make your own hooks to create an engaging home for family and guests’ jackets, hats, and umbrellas.
Set Out a Natural Shoe Basket: Choose a rustic, woven basket as a warm and inviting home for shoes.
Show Off Classic Artwork: If you have a family portrait or landscape painting, your entrance can help finish off the look of the entrance while showing your history.
Living Room: The Heart of Wabi Sabi Style
This is where family and friends gather for long conversations. Your wabi sabi furniture works as the ideal backdrop for feelings of enduring friendship, even spurring conversations along the way.
Choose Soothing Palettes: Use soft, earthy tones to paint the walls, evoking a sense of calm and peace that resonates with the Wab sabi aesthetic.
Celebrate Vintage Decor: Introduce a blend of vintage décor items with their own narratives. From a classic sofa and chair to a coffee table, lighting, clock, or, slightly tarnished mirror, each element creates an engaging story.
Focus on Natural Centerpieces: Consider an aged wood piece or a rock as a centerpiece, embodying the spirit of Wabi sabi.
Proudly Display Potted Plants: Large and small plants in worn or weathered pottery add more richness and permanence to the room.
Dining Room: A Feast for Wabi Sabi Style
A dining room is a gathering place where we split bread with friends and enjoy festive feasts with family. Like a living room, a dining area allows you to show your value for relationships with a feeling of warmth and permanence.
Feature an Aged or Antique Dining Table: Whether the wood is solid antique or just made to look that way, show that the table is meant to be enjoyed.
Show Off Handcrafted Dinnerware: Opt for handcrafted dinnerware, bearing slight imperfections, embracing the hands that crafted them. The pieces will spark questions. Whether you made or found them yourself, you and your dinnerwear will have a story to tell.
Embrace Rustic Lighting: Install lights with a rustic charm, creating a golden hue that invites people to linger a little longer. You don’t need to hold back since gold and other metals are considered natural elements.
Primary Bedroom: Your Private Sanctuary for Wabi Sabi Style
This is your haven… your peaceful escape. Wabi sabi helps you create a space that exudes relaxation and history.
Use a Family Bed and Dresser: A bed and dresser brings back memories of you and your family’s years of using it, showing rich history and creating an enduring story each day you use them.
Use Bedding with Personality: Choose bedding with natural materials, gentle hues, and soft textures that connect you to nature as you sleep.
Set Out Personal Artefacts: Display personal artifacts that bring positive emotions to you and your partner, such as family photos or paintings with favorite themes.
Guest Room: A Welcome Retreat for Wabi Sabi Style
A guest room is another billboard to your history. Your home is essentially their B&B; the more interesting, antique, and hand-made items are, the richer their experience becomes. This is also where you have an excuse to have a little fun.
Proudly Set Out Your Quirky Furniture: Consider having a slightly quirky piece that tells its own tale of uniqueness.
Lay Out Linen with Character: Dress the bed with linen that shows gentle, loving signs of use, offering a comforting embrace.
Display Books with History: Stock a small shelf with books that have been loved and read to share the love.
Children’s Rooms: An Imaginative Home for Wabi Sabi Style
These are the rooms where your children’s dreams take flight. Their creativity is an ideal home for wabi sabi.
Feature Creative Corners: Set up corners where they can display their imperfect but perfect creations, encouraging them to find beauty in every endeavor.
Use Furniture with Stories: Opt for furniture that carries tales, maybe a rocking chair or bed that has seen generations of dreamers.
Feature Interactive Décor: Encourage them to interact with the room, perhaps a wall where they can paint their dreams, fostering a relationship with the room that grows with them. Chalkboard paint is an easy solution that keeps up with their imagination.
Home Office: Where Wabi Sabi Style Boosts Productivity
This website is all about home office setups, and wabi sabi has an essential place in this all-important room of a home. A well-designed home office is a birthplace for ideas and a home for productivity. Wabi sabi and its related style Japandi help with both. You can also use the style to check all your boxes for creating a professional home office. The natural feel helps you feel more grounded in your work. Here’s how to achieve wabi sabi in your home office.
Bring Naturally Beauty to Your Workday: Incorporating natural elements like solid wood, plants, and artisan pieces you have crafted yourself. Natural wood products such as desks and accessories and homemade items like pots and art boost productivity.
Embrace an Anti-Perfect Workspace: An office can be so well designed and prepared that you may prefer to stare at it instead of work. Wabi sabi helps you reject the sterile, pristine office setup so the space feels more alive and inspires creativity instead of leaving you feeling like you have nothing to do.
Use Artisanal Office Supplies: Use supplies to create a minimalist desk setup that is not just a feast for the eyes but also begging to be used. Think of handcrafted pen holders, artisanal notebooks, or a desk with a history to share. You should feel like you can bring your history to these items. Every chip along the way is an expression of that journey.
Let the Space Evolve With You: Your workspace should reflect your journey. Let it change, grow, and be a canvas of your evolving ideas. Add items over time, and shift out items to create a backdrop that keeps you going. You can also reposition family items for a fresh take.
Display Motivational Pieces: An office is an ideal home for items that keep you motivated, and those items can be as personal as you want. The most important aspect of a home office is productivity, so display anything that keeps you moving. Also, they work as engaging pieces on an accent wall during your next Zoom call, showcasing your personality and permanence through history.
Celebrate Imperfection: Celebrate your workspace’s idiosyncrasies. Embrace the quirks of awkward walls and windows or decorate in slightly mismatched ways, bringing out the unique character of each piece. A space that fosters imperfection is a space that fosters creativity.
Wabi Sabi Style: Your Recipe for a Rooted and Naturally Beautiful Home
Embarking on a wabi sabi journey is like embracing the beauty of ever-changing life. As you step towards creating a home and workspace that feels genuinely yours, remember it’s all about finding beauty in the imperfections, celebrating the quirks, and, above all, cherishing the journey. So go ahead, infuse your spaces with the heartwarming charm of wabi sabi, and watch your productivity soar.