Instant Expert: So What is Wabi-Sabi?

wabi sabi room
Everything you need to know about this popular way of decorating your home in the wabi-sabi zen way.

Wabi what?! Wabi-sabi is not a particular design look (like French or Shabby Chic), but rather the Zen Buddhist philosophy that believes in making the home your super-restful sanctuary. How dreamy, right?

What is this philosophy? It's about creating a home that is clutter-free, without disturbance or distraction, and using furniture and decor pieces that are focused on natural elements. Think: unfinished wood that's only given a top coat of walnut oil. How simple! It's the use of found wild flowers or branches instead of pristine roses. It's handmade items such as clay mugs, knit wool throws and salvaged goods. It's also the process of ritual—taking the time (remember that?) to finish a project or to give yourself your own space and time—a.k.a. meditation.

Wabi-sabi is not: Floral arrangements, machine-made goods, man-made materials and fluorescent light to name a few. Besides, no one looks good in fluorescent lighting anyway.

Wabi means: Stemming from the Japanese word, Wa, wabi means harmony, tranquility, peace and balance. According to our favorite reference -- the book Simply Imperfect -- wabi is "the helpless feeling you have when waiting for a lover." How subtle!

Sabi means: "The bloom of time," says Robyn Griggs Lawrence in Simply Imperfect. It's basically the appreciation of any object that shows its years and the wear of time. It's all about impermanence and the celebration of age slash wisdom. Remember the saying "respect your elders"? Well, that is sabi.

Photography by Joe Coca for Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House


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