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What Does Wabi-Sabi Design Mean?

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. September 6, 2021
What Does Wabi-Sabi Design Mean?

Interior decoration has as many styles as humans have personalities. Still, it can be helpful to group some together so that we can know what to look for when designing our own homes. Japan is synonymous with style and wabi-sabi is one of the most groundbreaking interior decoration designs to hail from the island nation. In fact, wabi-sabi is considered as much a philosophy of life as it is a decoration style.

In terms of decor, wabi-sabi is dedicated to authenticity. To know more, oneHOWTO asks what does wabi-sabi design mean? We answer by looking at its origins and the philosophy behind its aesthetic.

  1. What is wabi-sabi design?
  2. Origins of wabi-sabi
  3. Keys to decorate wabi-sabi style

What is wabi-sabi design?

To understand what the wabi-sabi style means, we must bear in mind that it is based on a philosophy of life in which authenticity is cultivated. This happens by assuming the base reality that the world is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. In other words:

  • Perfection does not exist.
  • Nothing is completed.
  • Nothing lasts.

In terms of decoration, this style gives value to materials of a real, honest and pure version, often favoring spaces with a minimalist aesthetic to which warmth is added. This is done so through objects with meaning and history. When an expression or an object is capable of provoking feelings of spiritual longing and melancholy, you can consider them to be wabi-sabi.

wabi-sabi is considered an important part of traditional Japanese aesthetics, as it is based on ancient ideals that are upheld as unwritten laws or facets of beauty and good taste. It is an essentially untranslatable and indefinable term, so it has given rise to many interpretations.

Origins of wabi-sabi

The term wabi-sabi originated during the Song dynasty, at the height of Taoism in China (960-1279). Later, its basic precepts were develop in Zen Buddhism . The primary idea of the wabi-sabi worldview was seen as a restricted and austere way of aesthetic appreciation.

The term wabi-sabi is made up of wabi, whose meaning is the elegant beauty of that which is simple and humble. Sabi refers to the passage of time and the inevitable deterioration produced by time. The combination of wabi and sabi form a unique meaning in Japan, being considered essential in Japanese culture.

Another interesting aspect of wabi-sabi style and philosophy is that it helps to frame nature as a source of beauty, avoiding the perspective of it being merely a destructive and dangerous source. In this way, nature is the provider of designs, colors and patterns. In this way it is seen as an ally and not an enemy force. However, mortality also frames nature and is inevitable, being the decisive factor in understanding the wabi-sabi philosophy.

Keys to decorate wabi-sabi style

The wabi-sabi style is a philosophy of life or worldview with roots lying in a decorative style. To decorate with this style, you must know the following:

  • Nature and color: a sense of nostalgia defines the wabi-sabi style. Nostalgia is caused by the use of neutral colors: gray, beige and earthen. You should use them on complete and rough walls, dispensing with vibrant colors which break this decorative style.
  • Imperfections: wabi-sabi is inspired by nature and finds perfection through its imperfections. Objects that tell a story through weathering, rust, cracks and the passage of time are revered and accepted in the wabi-sabi style. Sculptures, antique vases and objects that meet this description are particularly welcome.
  • Real and natural materials: all materials used in the wabi-sabi style should be 100% natural. Choose natural wood furniture, textiles such as linen, cotton or jute and decorative objects in marble, stone, clay or ceramic. It is very important that you avoid plastic if you want to follow an authentic wabi-sabi style of decoration.
  • Minimalist aesthetics: the motto ‘less is more’ is very present in some aspect of Japanese design, particularly in the wabi-sabi style. Try to find luxury in what is essential and avoid any hint of ostentation and opulence. Find out more about this approach to design in our article on how to decorate a space in minimalist style.

The wabi-sabi style focuses on an intuitive aesthetic, guided by natural processes and cycles. Also, it engenders a modest, intimate, imperfect and asymmetrical environment. To create this atmosphere at home, look for order in things, avoid clutter, find a balance in simplicity and enhance the imperfection of natural objects and materials.

Now that you know what the wabi-sabi style means and you know the keys to decorating with it, you may be interested in learning about other decorating styles:

If you want to read similar articles to What Does Wabi-Sabi Design Mean?, we recommend you visit our Interior Design and Decor category.

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What Does Wabi-Sabi Design Mean?