Wabi-sabi is derived from Buddhist teachings and is an all-encompassing view of Japanese aesthetics that finds beauty in “imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness.” Whatever your lifestyle or decorating preference, the principles of wabi-sabi can be cultivated in beachfront homes in Santa Cruz and Capitola to palatial estates in Los Altos Hills and Monte Sereno as well as everything in between.
The nuances that embody the practice of wabi-sabi include asymmetry, simplicity and austerity. The focus is one of accepting and nurturing authenticity as well as a deep appreciation of the “ingenuous integrity of natural objects and the process of nature.”
The word wabi signifies harmony, freshness and a rustic simplicity that imbues an understated elegance in natural and man-made objects. Quirks and imperfections add interest and refinement.
Sabi means ‘the bloom of time, and connotes the beauty and serenity that comes from age. As such, tarnish, rust and patinas all add to the appeal of objects. The blue-green patina of copper as it weathers is a perfect example of sabi.
The practice of wabi-sabi is a change in perspective to one where imperfections and age add to an object’s unique beauty. When applied to home décor, it isn’t so much a ‘style’ as an over-arcing philosophy and way of living.
When wabi-sabi is incorporated within a home, it can help to create a sanctuary, a place to relax and unwind. It achieves this by making each space inviting, intriguing and welcoming.
There are five key principles to integrating wabi-sabi in your home:
1. Open space
Space and light are highly sought after aspects of wabi-sabi. Achieved a state of visual peace by minimizing clutter and including only items that are crucial to function and comfort. Avoid filling each room and every space with items.
2. Thoughtfully-chosen objects
Everything in your home should earn its place through exceptional utility and beauty. Focus on items that are of the utmost quality, are useful and that offer resilience and emotional resonance.
Says Julie Pointer Adams, author of Wabi-sabi Welcome, “[Wabi-sabi] is a way to think about the things that you purchase. Ultimately, it means that you’ll really need less stuff when you have utilitarian things that also serve the purpose of being beautiful in your home and become decor.”
3. Create a takonoma
Most of us have accumulated many pieces with which we may not wish to part. Wabi-sabi offers a solution referred to as rotating storage. Divide your art, objects and important items all meet the wabi-sabi criteria into four seasons. Dedicate a special alcove, called a tokonoma, in which a few of your thoughtfully chosen objects will be displayed during the appropriate season. Remember to keep these to a minimum so they can be enjoyed in addition to maintaining that sense of calm simplicity you’ve created.
Our home is a refuge and part of creating this peaceful space is to include items that minimize sound. Approximately 25 percent of every room should be noise-absorbent materials such as window coverings, rugs and upholstered furnishings. White noise machines also work well in rooms where sounds from other rooms or outside may permeate the space.
The practice of wabi-sabi honors cleanliness but also understands that homes are places in which we live. By keeping our home tidy and uncluttered, we create a place free of stress and one of welcoming relaxation. Wabi-sabi encourages a balance of order and calm. Avoid piles, keep surfaces clean, utilize multi-purpose containers like baskets for storage.
When choosing items to include in our living spaces, using the principles of wabi-sabi inspires us to be selective and thoughtful to make our residence into a welcoming refuge. Items including handmade pottery, organic materials, a rich earth-based color palette and raw surfaces, such as exposed brick and rough-hewn wood, are all ways in which the philosophy of wabi-sabi can be assimilated into any home. Discover more about how to live a wabi-sabi lifestyle in this Good Home article.
To cultivate this Japanese concept into your home, consider quality over quantity, ensuring each piece embodies usefulness, timelessness, comfort and simplicity. Embrace pieces that offer a distinct beauty because of their blemishes and patina rather than avoiding impermanence, imperfection and incompleteness.