First of all: what is wabi-sabi? It’s a Japanese expression that can roughly be translated as “melancholic beauty”. We could sum up what it stands for with the mantra “nothing is everlasting, nothing is finite, nothing is perfect”. Because of this, we could apply the description “wabi-sabi” to anything that is able to make us feel a sort of calm and peaceful melancholy: that quiet, content pensiveness that comes from the observation that nothing is meant to last. In a nutshell, what does this mean for our interior design? Basically, it means styling a house that’s still perfect even with all its imperfections, precisely because nothing will ever be perfect (as in “flawless”) anyway. Does this sound complicated and possibly, contradictory? Perhaps! But wabi-sabi teaches us to accept life -- contradictions, flaws and all. So let’s take a look at a few ideas to style a calm, peaceful home that will be flawless despite, or rather thanks to those same flaws, “wabi-sabi” style.
If you have already embraced a minimal approach to life and interior design, you’re already halfway to making your home acquire that wabi-sabi feel. However, minimalism and wabi-sabi are not to be confused. The main difference is that minimalism has a more rigid approach to decluttering. Minimalism invites to be minimal for minimalism’s sake: decluttering has to happen because it has to, and that’s it. On the contrary, the whole purpose of wabi-sabi is to invite a sense of calm, peace and tranquillity in your home, and this happens through a careful decluttering process.
Simplicity also means we shouldn’t be looking at all costs for ultra-refined home décor pieces. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t strive for your house to be elegant! You should just meditate on what can actually make a house look this way: simplicity is the way to go. For instance, a warm timber floor, especially when combined with contemporary furniture, will always manage to look simple but, at the same time, effortlessly classy.
Keep what makes you happy
Another difference between a minimalist approach to home décor and a wabi-sabi one is that a true minimalist is going to throw out his favourite vase or favourite pillow, blanket, etc., if he feels that item clashes with his perfectly decluttered house. A wabi-sabi lover, instead, has a much more philosophical and laid-back approach. The wabi-sabi lover knows that nothing lasts and nothing is perfect, so why should he deprive himself of an item that makes him happy, for the time being? The life cycle is ever-changing and unstoppable, so wasting excessive time decluttering and getting rid of beloved memories is ultimately useless. Minimal homes often have an impersonal character, while a wabi-sabi home is still clutter-free, but at the same time filled with precious memory. The rule is: if something makes you happy for the time being, keep it!
However, this doesn’t mean you cannot try to reconcile both philosophies in your home! The living room we see in this picture below is a great example of how the very same room can be both minimal and wabi-sabi. The color pattern and the super-regular and tidy disposition of the various pieces of furniture is a clear indicator this room’s owners loves their minimalism. And yet, the abundance of pillows and the cute -- and purely decorative -- knick-knacks on the window-sill show how these people valued comfort and coziness over a cold and mercilessly decluttered home.
Don’t discard mismatched colors
Don’t be over-judgemental of your home! Of course, we are not encouraging you to just throw everything together in colorful mess; if you take a look at this bedroom, for example, you will notice the velvety bed frame matches the armchair, in the same way as the pillows match the wall decorations and the rug. However, you’ll also notice the presence of unmatching colors, like those bright, fuchsia pendant lights. So what? They may not match the rest of the room, but adding colors more freely than what you’re used to will certainly add personality to the room! Remember that a 100% matchy-matchy interior design is likely to make you feel like your house has just jumped out of a catalogue. Moreover, why strive to be perfect at all costs? Wabi-sabi is the celebration of imperfection!
What follows from embracing imperfection, is the value we can give to home décor pieces with a sort of artisanal, rustic or homemade vibe. If you’re feeling crafty, you could start manufacturing your own home décor! If you’re not, but you always make sure you never miss out on local markets and op-shops, anything coming from there will be enough to give your home an artisanal vibe. Alternatively, you can always opt for buying furniture with a strong handmade feeling about them. This is a feeling that is best expressed by all those pieces of furniture with simple, essential lines, and that combine different materials. This shelving system, for instance, looks like a skilled amateur built it in his free time, with love and passion.
Still, an artisanal vibe is also given out by furniture and home appliances that look more refined. For instance, this bathtub may not be a combination of different styles and materials, like the above shelving system, but it still looks like an artisan with exceptional craftsmanship skills had sat down to manufacture this polished wooden tub. The feeling of craftsmanship is further reinforced by the faucet, which is freestanding and placed outside of the bathtub, thus creating the impression of a refined and revisited old-time tub.
Plants, flowers, greenery in general and natural materials are a must for a wabi-sabi home. Why? First of all, they’re a constant reminder of the impermanent permanence of the circle of life. Secondly, plants and flowers are often imperfect: their texture is never perfectly regular, leaves turn brown, petals fall, and all of these characteristics are a natural celebration of the beauty of imperfections. A great way to bring the outdoors inside your home is to decorate it with lots of succulents! As much as we love imperfection, it’s nice having a plant you don’t have to look after 24/7 for it to stay gorgeous and not dry up. Cute succulents in tiny pots all over your house will add new freshness to the atmosphere!
We see no reason why you should have no plants in your home. However, if you’re either too lazy to look after them properly, or if you simply want to reinforce that green, natural vibe, why don’t you decorate your walls with some artificial foliage? Would you like a tip? Well, we think that you would get an even more striking effect if you decorated a two-storey wall with this artificial jungle! Take a look at the picture below: the wallpaper is employed in a huge, lofted room, thus creating the vibe of a jungle that is slowly but surely invading the home. Remember that, according to wabi-sabi, life is a circle, and so nothing is more inevitable than Nature regaining what was originally hers.