Wabi-Sabi: Intentional Imperfection and how to Achieve it at Home

by Greg Geilman for BWID


Wabi-Sabi is the idea of squashing the impossible ideal of perfection and embracing the imperfect nature of life. Instead of becoming irritated with flaws, the concept teaches us to embrace and feature them. The Wabi-Sabi philosophy is one of the latest rising trends in interior design for many reasons. This isn't an all-or-nothing kind of style, so even those looking to focus on other aesthetics may find something they like in Wabi-Sabi.

A Brief History of Wabi-Sabi
Wabi-Sabi stems from Japanese Zen Buddhism. It was a kind of reaction to the popular trends of the 15th century that focused on lavish decor and over-ornamentation. It can be looked at as a form of mindfulness in a way as it urges everyone to stop trying to change things that don't fit the conventional meaning of perfect. There is beauty in flaws if people know how to look at something and if they can change their perspective to fit a new narrative.


(photo from Matteo Home)

Growing Popularity
Many homeowners have not heard of Wabi-Sabi, but it might not stay that way for long. Wabi-Sabi gives homeowners license to more or less "let loose". Pillows don't have to be meticulously set back into place as soon as they're disturbed, furniture or decor doesn't have to be dumped as soon as a scuff mark appears. This style opens up many different doors for homeowners, as suddenly more weathered and worn items are on the table. Natural materials are a good fit with this style, meaning those who have adopted other design philosophies featuring wood or stone already have a path to fully or partially adopting Wabi-Sabi.

Designing with Wabi-Sabi
Wabi-Sabi starts with relaxing the idea of what material possessions should bring to our lives. It's about using one's own creativity and sense of style to turn a building into a home with a lifetime of memories. Not every home has to look as though it's come straight out of a photo shoot although, somewhat ironically, this relaxed aesthetic does look quite appealing in photographs.

An important thing to keep in mind is that "relaxed" does not mean "not deliberate". This apparent contradiction is why a style like this may be a little difficult to create for those new to the world of home design. Using Wabi-Sabi techniques, a home will look harmonious if the homeowner and the residents view it as such. They should assess objects based on their merit and the character of their property.


Luxury in Imperfection
For those wondering how this humble philosophy might apply to a high-end property, take a look to the world of fashion. Is high-end clothing always ornate in appearance? Can worn or distressed materials make their way to the runway or even the red carpet? One might argue that these kinds of statement pieces have a place in this world when executed correctly. It may not be the norm and it may not be accepted by all who view it but that's not what the Wabi-Sabi philosophy is about.

It's no surprise that Wabi-Sabi connects with homeowners on a number of different levels. A home doesn't have to look as though it has never been touched by its inhabitants. Decorating for their own tastes and feelings, for the comfort and love of the home and themselves, not others.