We are all about the Scandinavian look and style too but there is something about the Japanese aesthetics that is so appealing the more we look at it. The Japanese philosophy called wabi-sabi, evident and relatable to many mainly via the physical characteristics of Japanese interiors, is about the art of finding beauty in the imperfections, the weathered and the organic.
Right now, we need wabi-sabi in our homes and minds more than ever because we are oversaturated with glossy images of “perfection” – there is simply far too much in the media to compare ourselves to, seemingly always telling us to do more. A wabi-sabi viewpoint pushes these ideals aside and urges us to appreciate a different kind of ideal, such as people, places, and things with humility and simplicity, giving little importance to what is perceived as cool or of-the-moment.
Imagine two scenarios: One, stepping into a large house that is filled with new, perfectly polished materials, brightly lighted up with the latest State-of-the-Art lighting system. Two, stepping into your grandparents’ house that is still filled with furniture pieces that you have used since you were a child and that painting that you did when you were 10 years old is still hanging up on a corner of the wall. How would you feel in each scenario?
Wabi-Sabi is not about new items intentionally distressed in order to look antique. Instead, the beauty of wabi-sabi appears when age and time are allowed to take their intended course. Think of nature materials that show age with time, such as wood and leather. The faint water marks on your wooden table accumulated from the many gatherings you had at your place and the lumpy pillows that you love hugging at your couch. The patina acquired over the years is almost nostalgic and one-of-a-kind; not something that you can just buy off the shelves.
How do you then try to achieve the wabi-sabi look or incorporate it into your living space?
1) Quality Natural Materials Opt for quality materials when curating pieces to your home, be it old or new. Instead of adopting a throw, buy and replace attitude encouraged by many commercial retailers today, try sourcing for items that you feel can be treasured for a longer time. The most beautiful materials are those with history of its own or those in its simplest state with minimal processing. The beauty usually comes from within.
Over here at etch&bolts, we focus on using quality materials, such as solid wood, natural marble and genuine Italian leather, for our custom-made furniture pieces. When we design a furniture, we know that the piece is going to be touched, to be in contact with a human being. The material should not stop someone from using it, with unnecessary worries of dirtying and destroying the surface of the materials. Our custom-made furniture is built to last and age with you.
2) Pare down to the essentials Wabi-sabi is all about simplicity and humility. Your furniture and home accessories may be minimal in arrangement but the richness comes from the material used. A single handmade vase finished with crackled glaze is much more beautiful than putting a handful of mass produced plastic vases.
3) Go easy on the colors Due to the use of mostly nature materials, the colors palette tends to go towards earthy neutral tones. They are easy on the eyes and a lot more comforting in a living space. Think clean, not sterile.
4) Comfortable and functional yet beautiful We are all about tailoring to the needs of each family. What might work for one may not be suitable for another. Instead of going for the trendy pieces that looks great in that magazine’s photoshoot, consider the needs of your family first. That crinkly, lumpy yet very comfortable back cushions on your sofa can be beautiful in its own way too.
5) No fussy lines Organic. Rustic. Live-Edge. Handmade. Do I need to say more? Wabi-sabi is an acceptance of the old, of the worn, of the asymmetrical. It is a rejection of lavish, opulent, and excessive.
6) Let it age Allow your space to grow, fade and age gracefully with you. It is not about the end results but the transience and learning to accept the natural cycle of growth and death, as well as embracing the imperfections that come with this progression.
Decades ago, the primary consideration with furniture was strength and durability but we now live in an age of constant renovation and disposable commodities. Is new always better? The concept of wabi-sabi may not be understood immediately but with time, those imperfections will definitely grow on you.