Coming from a different background, Wabi-Sabi is a difficult term to define. It is a combination of two words whose meanings overlap. Wabi is originally referred to as oneness with nature, while Sabi refers to the beauty that comes with imperfection.
It is a Japanese philosophy, dating back to the 15th century. This philosophy actually emerged as a reaction to various trends based on the lavish portrayal of interior design – trends that focus on heavy ornamentation, detailing, the use of rare and often non-eco-friendly materials.
It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three signs of existence - impermanence, suffering and emptiness. This "imperfect beauty" aesthetic cheers the true nature of materials, and asymmetry with a slow-living approach.
Principles and Application
We can interpret the wabi philosophy as a way of life, but that would be an understatement as wabi sabi is based on three simple truths that recognize and accept complexity in all aspects of life, while also valuing simplicity and above all appreciating authenticity.
These truths tell us the ultimate truth - nothing lasts forever, nothing is fully complete and nothing is perfect.
Wabi sabi philosophy and principles represent a quest beyond materialism and prefer minimalism as a conscious choice.
Wabi-Sabi is much more than a design trend. There are seven aesthetic principles to keep in mind when embarking on this new lifestyle. These are Kanso or simplicity, Fukinsei or disorder, Shibumi or understated beauty, Shizen or natural, Yugen or subtle grace, Datsuzoku or freedom and Seijaku or serenity.
Real art is to bring together these principles, which will provide great benefits to aesthetics, health, lifestyle and the environment, in all areas of life. Most importantly, Wabi-Sabi helps us strengthen our relationships with ourselves, the planet, and the food we eat.
Wabi-Sabi represents everything that is not today's technology-driven, mass-produced, luxury culture. It celebrates farmers' markets instead of malls, with textured and aged wood for smooth laminates and rough cotton for silk. The Wabi-Sabi thought process is about healing imperfections. It has to do with the ability to understand the raw beauty of a dull and cloudy landscape or the beauty of an abandoned warehouse or shed. All the texture, grain, scratches, cracks and crevices of any object or material has the ability to tell its own story. Learning to explore this story and honour flaws is to discover true Wabi-Sabi.
There's a certain reassuring calm that comes with the Wabi-Sabi ethos. Wabi-Sabi as a design term encompasses linearity, cleanliness, simple silhouettes, materials in natural form and organic masses.
Materials that age over time add character to living spaces while telling the story of each material. The texture and patina make them uniquely imperfect and 'perfectly imperfect' is impossible to predict. The style derives from an overwhelming appreciation of nature. Interiors with organic life, shapes, silhouettes, textures and masses are the perfect way to channel Wabi-Sabi.
Authenticity is a key concept for Wabi-Sabi, so organic materials and colours play an important role in achieving this. Wabi-Sabi colours are meant to transform spaces into calm and harmonious atmospheres that focus on naturalness.
Turning to nature for colour inspiration reveals a neutral palette of brown, beige, grey, white and green. Wabi-Sabi is an aesthetic that works with natural pastels of the Scandinavian palette or Mediterranean earth tones. An anodyne colored room provides the perfect serenity and spaciousness to embody Wabi-Sabi.