Wabi sabi is a design principle that accepts imperfection and impermanence as the heart of every creation. Nothing is finished, nothing is perfect, nothing is ever lasting, and its origin were found in Japanese philosophy. As a concept it is very opposite to a continuous hankering for regularity, symmetry and refinement as these are things that can only be aspired for and never touched continuously. Wabi sabi celebrates rusticity, modesty and simplicity.
Think of your faded, old and tattered jeans and you will understand what wabi sabi is trying to convey. Jeans is valuable with these imperfections and not so much in their absence. To borrow Thomas à Kempis’ word, “Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it and no learning of ours is without some darkness.”
The world of art and design are following the principles of wabi sabi for a long time now. The hagi tea bowls, rakuware and bonsai incorporate wabi sabi in their designs. “Wabi” connotes with rusticity while “sabi” indicates the beauty that comes with age. The clay wall around Ryoan-ji’s famous zen garden is a visual embodiment of “wabi” and the rock bed itself is a “sabi”.
To create a wabi sabi interior we will apply some of its basic tenets and have a serene, habitable, cosy and unpretentious space for our homes.
Rugged, irregular and humble accessories would augment the beauty of a wabi sabi home. You can create a few of these yourself using a variety of materials like clay, wood, distressed fabric and discarded metallic elements. Handmade articles like these will not only help personalise your home but bring out the beauty in imperfections even more. Also, wabi sabi is not equivalent to shabby chic. It believes in minimalism, so choose your accessories accordingly.
You can also think of creating a small rock garden at a corner of the living room or terrace. Use utensils to plant small herbs and orchids. Surround them with stones and candles to create a soothing ambience. Be assured that anyone who steps in a space like this is going to be positively surprised by your design skills.
Believe in the intrinsic beauty of imperfections – a quality that is bourne out of modesty and not carelessness. A wabi sabi interior can even be somewhat decadent, once again not due to any kind of base habits but humankind’s failure to reach and sustain a perfect state of being. This loft designed by Lev Lugovskoy evokes the essence of wabi sabi. Here everything is finished yet nothing really is. It is rugged, modest and beautiful in true wabi sabi way.
Varying the wall textures between exposed brick, rock, unfinished concrete cover and paints are perfect ways to give your home a tactful wabi sabi feel. The emphasis is on generating an unrefined and down to earth feel. The grubbier the surfaces the better they would look. However, you will have to create this squalid interior by varying the materials and paints and not by any unwholesome means.
A part torn off wallpaper showing the bare concrete or brick surface behind, walls studded with broken ceramic crockery or irregularly shaped tiles would help to evoke a suitably grimy feel.
A wabi sabi home is dominated with earthen tones, except the exposed brick red walls. Apart from the transparent protective coating wooden furniture, wall panels, screens and floors receive little or no paints. White is also acceptable as long as you do not attempt to give it a shiny and prim finish. Keep the curtains or shades suitably understated. Do not use refined motifs in rugs, cushions, linen or any other type of soft furnishings.
No sophisticated lighting fixtures for these type of houses either. Recycle old earthen pots, bamboo baskets and soon to be discarded metal utensils as lampshades. Place good old pillar candles and earthen oil lamps in the corner of the rooms, console tables or side tables. If the interior seems overly grim due to rampant use of grave tones increase the flow of natural and artificial light. A wabi sabi interior must be calming and not depressing in any way.
While selecting the furniture look for same kind of rusticity and a lack of genuine refinement. Try to recycle your old trunks as coffee tables, use mismatching chairs, irregularly shaped items, rough surfaces, crinkled and slightly faded upholstery. Both wood and wrought iron are acceptable as materials for the furniture, kitchen cabinets and storage units.
Blocks of log covered with cushions can be used as stools. The slender branches could provide support for small coffee and console tables. Bamboos or canes can be arranged to create magazine shelves or kitchen racks.
Rustic timber floor, casually arranged rock bed or an unkempt concrete floor looks best in a wabi sabi house. If you are one of those with good hands at woodcrafts you may create a traditional planked floor yourself. Use this article as a guide to select the right kind of wood for flooring. You may create a stained look by using special pre-mixed stains or leave them as is only with a transparent protective layer of paint.
If you are opting for stone floors, make sure the natural rocks, boulders or mosaic chips that you are about to use are smooth but not polished. Use a mortar mix to install the stones on the floor. For a genuinely wabi sabi feel do not gloss over the surface.