We all spend over 90% of our time indoors, at home or at the office. So, it isn’t surprising that, according to Harvard studies, the home environment can impact physical health.
Luckily, the simplicity, sustainability, and realness of wabi-sabi design and aesthetics can help you create a healthier home, enjoy a more relaxing indoor environment, reconnect with nature, and romanticize your routine. Use the tips below to incorporate the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and living with simplicity into your home.
What Is Wabi-Sabi?
Wabi-sabi is much more than just a home design trend or a decluttering fad. Introduced by Japanese tea masters Murata Juko and Sen no Rikyu in the late 15th century, the wabi-sabi aesthetic developed to become a life philosophy that focuses on simplicity, realness, authenticity, and intentionality.
The Japanese term wabi-sabi describes the principle of creating a home that is personal, cozy, romantic, and calm. In particular, “Wabi” refers to the imperfect quality of any object, while “Sabi” can be roughly translated into “flawed beauty.”
As a whole, the name wabi-sabi has developed alongside the philosophy behind it, but it continues to describe a sense of beauty that acts as a guiding principle in creating a home environment that values imperfection and is in harmony with nature.
10 Tips for Wabi-Sabi Home Decor
Wabi-sabi is not just a house style trend, but a whole philosophy that can revolutionize your living space and lifestyle. So, while there are some home improvements you can start working on today, don’t forget that transitioning to this way of living can take time and effort.
Below you can find 10 simple tips that can help you put into practice the guiding wabi-sabi design principles.
1. Reconnect with Nature
Originally, the term “wabi-sabi” referred to a deep connection with nature, remote living, and a contemplative lifestyle. Of course, this meaning has evolved, but the importance of bringing nature into the home environment hasn’t changed.
Natural elements can help you introduce asymmetry, intimacy, and simplicity into the home, while also strengthening your connection with nature, which, according to eco-psychology studies, can improve your mental and physical health.
2. Keep It Simple but Intentional
The driving principle behind the wabi-sabi home design is that the items and furniture you choose for your home will define how you want to live your life. That is why wabi-sabi encourages introspection and mindfulness by choosing and positioning home decor and objects. Some principles to keep in mind include:
- Framed emptiness—values empty space and gives each item space to shine.
- Intentional placement—the objects in your home can be imperfect, symmetric, or one-of-a-kind. When intentionally placed, they can offer greater aesthetic value and add meaning to the indoor environment.
- Ikebana—the Japanese art of flower arrangement can help you value each stem or flower, and bring nature into more aspects of your daily life.
3. Imperfection Is Beauty
Just like Kintsugi—the Japanese art of mending pottery with gold to highlight its unique traits—wabi-sabi room design focuses on unique traits, flaws, imperfection, and asymmetry.
When incorporating this principle into your home, make sure to look at the items you already have and learn to appreciate their imperfections.
While we all strive for order and perfection, a casual stack of books, wrinkles in the linen, or aging materials can add beauty and character to the home’s indoor environment.
4. Focus on an Earthy Palette and Rustic Textures
If pursuing a wabi-sabi decor, you should focus on earthy hues, muted colors, and tones with low saturation. This color palette derives from the original interiors in Japan, where materials such as mud, earth, brick, and concrete were commonly used in house construction.
To complete your wabi-sabi style with rustic textures, you can embrace peeling paint, rusting metal items, and aging wood. The principle of Shibumi—elegant simplicity and beautiful imperfection—can drive you in the choice of materials, textures, and arrangements.
5. Enrich Your Home with Repurposed, Upcycled, and Homemade Items
Similar to the Japandi style, the Wabi-Sabi style focuses on celebrating imperfection and flaws that tell the story of each object. That’s why upcycled furniture and repurposed items, with their signs of age and unique features, are ideal to complete your desired home decor.
What’s more is that these items are ideal to live more sustainably, extend the lifespan of different objects, and support the local economy.
6. Create Cozy and Romantic Corners
Your home should be the place where you can relax, enjoy special moments with your loved ones, and take care of yourself. So, following the principles of the Danish Hygge style, you should focus on creating nooks and corners in your home that are cozy, relaxing, and comfortable.
Use pillows, blankets, cushions, throws, carpets, and coffee tables to create the perfect corner to kick back and enjoy a relaxing time in your home.
7. Pick Materials That Add Character When Aging
Some modern items are only attractive and stylish when they are new. However, nothing in your home will stay exactly as it is for years to come, especially because of the natural wear and tear things and furniture are prone to.
Luckily, all you need to do to create a timeless home is pick items that age elegantly and add value, texture, and character to the home.
For example, vintage quality pieces continue to gain personality and depth with time. Or, you could opt for elements that naturally age with character, such as metals and wooden items, which tend to form a patina over time.
8. Discover Your Home’s Unique Light Signature
Sunlight is a natural element that can truly enrich your home, elevate the space, and add depth to each item and piece of furniture in your home.
What’s more is that a home that benefits from plenty of natural light is healthier, and boosts productivity and efficiency. In the case of Japanese wabi-sabi design, light defines the room’s dimension and highlights the color and texture of the various elements.
You can refine your home’s light signature through mirrors, reflective surfaces, windows, and artificial lights.
9. Incorporate Sustainability
Just like in the case of the Scandinavian style, in the case of wabi-sabi house design, the focus is on sustainable, eco-friendly materials. Choose metals, wood, and natural textiles to create a home that is in perfect harmony with the environment.
10. Find Balance Through Asymmetry
One of the pillars of the wabi-sabi interior design philosophy is asymmetry. While other movements such as Feng Shui focus on symmetry, wabi-sabi encourages you to bring together different textures and items such as pottery, ceramics, plants, works of art, and elements of your everyday life.
Wabi-sabi is not just about choosing a room’s decor. The wabi-sabi design helps you create a home environment that is calming and healthy and stimulates the senses with incense, water features, and sounds.
Lastly, the activities you enjoy in your home will define your affinity with a wabi-sabi philosophy—try out hobbies such as pottery making, creating art, reading poetry, and cultivating Bonsai.