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Article: What is wabi-sabi? 10+ ways to combine Wabi Sabi design in your home

What is wabi-sabi? 10+ ways to combine Wabi Sabi design in your home

Written by Henry Phan Update
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Wabi-sabi is one of the interior design trends gaining significant attention in interior design magazines and serves as a manifestation of our longing for inner tranquility, and harmony. It is undeniably one of the most accessible trends to adopt. In the following passage, Rowabi offers some suggestions and concepts for incorporating wabi-sabi into your living space.

What is Wabi Sabi?

Wabi-sabi can be applied to landscapes, objects, and even human beings. It is an admiration for the beauty that is destined to fade away or a transient contemplation of something that becomes more captivating as it ages, fades, and acquires a new charm.

The term "wabi-sabi" is composed of two kanji characters. The second part, "sabi" (寂), originated in the eighth century as a poetic expression for desolation. From the twelfth century onwards, it began to refer specifically to the beauty of faded or withered objects. "Sabi" can also imply "old and elegant" or "being rusty," encompassing an untranslatable sense of tranquility.

wabi sabi
The term "wabi-sabi" consists of two kanji characters

The term "wabi" emerged in the 15th century and was primarily associated with the tea ceremony, encompassing both the overall atmosphere and the objects used in this ceremonial practice. Its origins can be traced back to feelings of solitude or melancholy, as well as a desire to cultivate a serene and uncluttered existence, detached from the chaos of urban life.

Wabi-sabi in Japanese aesthetics

The influence of wabi-sabi on Japanese art and design spans across various fields, including zen gardens and pottery making. A prime example of the wabi-sabi aesthetic can be seen in the tools used in the Japanese tea ceremony, where imperfect and mismatched cups and utensils are highly valued.

This concept can also be loosely connected with other ceramic movements like kintsugi, which involves repairing broken ceramics using a mixture of gold and lacquer. While wabi-sabi embraces the idea that nothing is perfect from the beginning, kintsugi draws attention to the repaired aspects of an object, symbolizing how its history contributes to its beauty.

wabi-sabi has influenced japanese art and design, including zen gardens and pottery
Wabi-sabi has influenced Japanese art and design, including zen gardens and pottery

According to Japanese architect Rie Allison, wabi-sabi is a spirit that appreciates and finds beauty in old or rusted things that have undergone diverse changes over time. As an architect, when renovating a space, Allison takes into account the beauty derived from the aging of the building thus far and seeks a harmonious balance with new design elements.

The concept of wabi-sabi can even extend to clothing. Fashion enthusiasts appreciate and embrace the wabi-sabi philosophy when they value vintage garments. In the trendy Tokyo suburb of Shimokitazawa, there are numerous vintage stores that cater to customers seeking stylishly worn-out clothing items.

10 ways to combine wabi sabi design style

Incorporating the art of wabi-sabi into your home can involve several practices and intentional choices that celebrate imperfections and embrace the beauty of simplicity. Here are some suggestions on how to bring this Japanese lifestyle philosophy into your living space:

Be Intentional About Your Style

According to Marie Kondo, a renowned tidying expert, wabi-sabi is deeply rooted in a profound respect for nature and its unadorned beauty. When incorporating this philosophy into your home's design, it is imperative to approach the process with mindfulness and introspection. Every item you select for your living space plays a role in defining how you want to live your life.

item you choose for your living space shapes your lifestyle
Each item you choose for your living space shapes your lifestyle

Personal connection

When adopting this philosophy in your home, it's important to resist the temptation of picking up glossy new home items. Instead, focus on selecting mindfully-chosen treasures that align with the principles of wabi-sabi. Whether it's a striking art piece or a vase hand-spun by your child, intentional choices are key to creating a space that celebrates authenticity.

resist the temptation of buying new glossy home items
Resist the temptation of buying new glossy home items

Opt for Natural Touches

According to Karin Sun, Founder of Crane & Canopy, the wabi-sabi philosophy is rooted in the principles of asymmetry, simplicity, and intimacy. It encourages us to accept imperfections and value what is natural and authentic. To bring this philosophy into your home design, you can incorporate natural touches like plants.

incorporate natural touches like plants
Incorporate natural touches like plants

Make Your Bed

Karin Sun suggests incorporating this Japanese philosophy into our daily lives, specifically in our bedrooms. Making the bed is a simple and effective way to embrace this Japanese lifestyle philosophy. Instead of striving for a perfectly tidy and spotless bed, we can embrace imperfections in a more relaxed manner.

Make Your Space at a Cozy

Creating a cozy home environment is crucial, ensuring that you have a space where you can truly unwind and relax. According to Sun, incorporating elements like throw pillows and blankets can contribute to that lived-in, comfortable aesthetic. These additions are ideal for the essence of wabi-sabi.

creating a cozy home environment is crucial for relaxation
Creating a cozy home environment is crucial for relaxation

Consider Washed Linen

Adding washed linen to your home is a fantastic method for infusing a gentle and well-loved aesthetic that perfectly complements the core principles of this Japanese philosophy. Whether used as bedding or for kitchenware, linen's relaxed and naturally wrinkled appearance serves as a testament to the idea that beauty can truly be found in imperfections.

incorporating washed linen is a great way to create a  cozy atmosphere
Incorporating washed linen is a great way to create a  cozy atmosphere

Look For Items That Age Gracefully

Opting for high-quality pieces that can withstand the test of time and bring character and substance to your space as they age. For instance, choosing items that naturally develop a patina or show signs of wear, such as a beautifully hand-carved solid wood cutting board or serving bowl.

choosing high-quality items that can withstand time
Choosing high-quality items that can withstand time

Appreciate the Imperfections in Your Home

Rather than feeling pressured to chase after the latest trends in homeware, take a moment to find joy in the imperfections that already exist within your home. You should let go of the constant pursuit of perfection and embrace the subtle beauty in the wrinkles on linen sheets or the charmingly slightly leaning stack of books.

let go of the constant pursuit of perfection and embrace the subtle beauty
Let go of the constant pursuit of perfection and embrace the subtle beauty

Romanticize Your Everyday Items and Routine

You should embrace the wabi-sabi philosophy by finding beauty in your everyday objects and routines. To make everyday tasks more memorable, you can turn your morning coffee or tea into a ritual. For example, you can grind your own beans or create a unique tea blend.

embrace wabi-sabi by finding beauty in everyday objects and routines
Embrace wabi-sabi by finding beauty in everyday objects and routines

Use pendant lights for your home

If you want to fully embrace the rustic vibes of wabi-sabi, you can take it a step further by incorporating pendant lights made from materials like bamboo and rattan. Not only do these natural elements add a touch of organic beauty to your space, but they also align perfectly with the wabi-sabi aesthetic.

fully embrace wabi-sabi by adding pendant lights for a rustic touch
Fully embrace wabi-sabi by adding pendant lights for a rustic touch

By choosing Rowabi's bamboo or rattan pendant lights, you can bring a warm and rustic feel to your walls.  These materials have a natural and effortless charm that effortlessly blends with the principles of this philosophy. The combination of the warm glow of pendant lights and the textured look of bamboo or rattan can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere in your home.

Features of design according to Wabi Sabi philosophy

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that emphasizes the beauty of imperfection and impermanence. The features of design according to this philosophy include:


Wabi-sabi design embraces imperfection as a fundamental principle, recognizing the inherent beauty found in flaws. Instead of seeking perfection, this design philosophy values the authenticity and uniqueness that imperfections bring to an object or space. Imperfection is seen as a reflection of the transient and evolving nature of life itself.

In this Japanese philosophy, imperfections are not something to be hidden or corrected, but rather celebrated and embraced. For example, a chipped ceramic bowl may be considered more beautiful than a perfectly pristine one because it adds depth to the object. This design encourages us to appreciate the imperfect and find beauty in the unconventional.

design cherishes imperfection, finding beauty in flaws
Wabi-sabi design cherishes imperfection, finding beauty in flaws

It reminds us that perfection is not necessary for a design to be beautiful, and that imperfection can add a layer of depth and character that enhances the overall aesthetic experience. Ultimately, this design reminds us that true beauty lies in the acceptance and celebration of imperfections, both in ourselves and in the world around us.

Natural Materials

The design philosophy of wabi-sabi places a strong emphasis on incorporating natural materials into the aesthetic. These materials, including wood, stone, bamboo, clay, and paper, are chosen specifically for their ability to reflect the organic qualities of the world around us.

design prioritizes natural materials
Wabi-sabi design prioritizes natural materials

By using these materials, this design seeks to create an environment that honors the imperfections, the passage of time, and the inherent beauty of the natural world. The combination of wood, stone, bamboo, clay, and paper fosters a sense of connection and harmony, inviting a deeper appreciation for the simplicity and authenticity of the design.

Aging and Patina

Wabi-sabi design philosophy appreciates and celebrates the inherent beauty that emerges over time. It acknowledges that objects and materials have the ability to change, develop a patina, and exhibit signs of wear and tear as they age. Instead of perceiving these changes as flaws, this philosophy embraces them as qualities that add depth to the design.

this philosophy celebrates the beauty of time's passage
This philosophy celebrates the beauty of time's passage

For example, the presence of rusted metal or tarnished copper elements adds a sense of rustic charm and visual interest. These materials exhibit a natural patina, a unique surface texture that develops over time due to exposure to the elements. The patina not only creates an aesthetically pleasing effect but also represents the ongoing transformation and evolution of the material.

Awareness of the Present Moment

The design philosophy of wabi-sabi goes beyond the aesthetic aspects and extends to a broader concept of living mindfully and appreciating the present moment. It encourages individuals to cultivate an awareness of their surroundings and to find beauty in the ordinary and mundane aspects of life.

This Japanese philosophy also cherishes the transient and impermanent nature of existence. In a world that often prioritizes permanence and the pursuit of perfection, wabi-sabi design offers an alternative perspective. It recognizes that everything is in a state of constant change and that nothing lasts forever.

this design promotes mindful living and cherishing the present moment
This design promotes mindful living and cherishing the present moment

This concept is reflected in the materials and design elements chosen, which often embrace the process of aging, weathering, and decay. By showcasing these qualities, this philosophy invites a sense of impermanence, reminding individuals to cherish each moment and find beauty in the ephemerality of life.

Empty Space

In wabi-sabi design, there is a deep appreciation for the concept of empty spaces. They are not seen as mere voids but as integral components of the overall composition. These spaces provide breathing room and allow elements within the design to have their own presence and significance.

The inclusion of empty space in this design serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it creates a sense of visual balance. The juxtaposition of objects or materials against empty areas helps to create a harmonious relationship and a sense of order.

Empty spaces also contribute to the overall sense of tranquility in wabi-sabi design. This concept decor gives the viewer a little period of peace and meditation in the middle of the visual aspects is beneficial. It provides room for the mind to find peace and allows for a deeper connection with the surrounding space.

empty spaces in wabi- sabi design enhance the feeling of tranquility
Empty spaces in wabi- sabi design enhance the feeling of tranquility

In this post, Rowabi offers 10 suggestions for applying wabi-sabi design to your house. You may make your living area more structured and minimalistic by making use of the aforementioned solutions. Please feel free to contact us directly if you have any more questions, and we would be happy to help you as soon as possible!

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