Wabi Sabi your home: How embracing imperfection can benefit your health
Wabi sabi is a captivating concept from Japanese aesthetics, which helps us see the world in a whole new way. With roots in Zen and the tea ceremony, wabi sabi serves to remind us that everything in nature is impermanent, imperfect and incomplete, so imperfection is the natural state of all things, including ourselves. That takes the pressure off the need to pursue perfection, and allows us to relax into the experience of our lives just as they are.
Wabi sabi also encourages us to recognise the gifts of simple, natural living, and to treasure what we already have.
Wabi sabi also encourages us to recognise the gifts of simple, natural living, and to treasure what we already have. Embracing wabi sabi can bring a sense of calm, presence and beauty into your life and help you find happiness right where you are.
A wabi sabi-inspired home is a restful space that nourishes family life and welcomes guests in a relaxed way. It's a place for treasured things that carry love and evoke memories, not just new things bought on impulse. It's unpretentious styling, done in a perfectly imperfect way.
A wabi sabi approach advocates soulful simplicity. This means decluttering and beautifying, but without the perfectionist tendencies of strict minimalism.
Visually, wabi sabi has come to represent a modern rustic look, which I call "wabi sabi-esque" to differentiate it from the underlying philosophy. Think natural materials and textures, handcrafted ceramics, aged surfaces, and simple but thoughtful details. Wabi sabi-esque style can bring a sense of calm and help you reconnect with nature, while adding character and story to your space.
Ten principles for a wabi sabi-inspired home
1. Make the most of your entrance, which is called a genkan in Japan. Tidy jackets away. Put out some flowers. Invite visitors to leave their shoes at the door, Japanese-style, and try to encourage anyone who lives with you to make it a habit.
2. Decluttering saves you time and money, and makes space to appreciate the things you really love. Think clean, clear and welcoming.
3. Experiment with natural matt materials such as wood, clay and stone in your home, and natural fabrics for bedlinen, clothing and kitchenware. See how these bring a sense of character and calm. The eye and the imagination love imperfection, asymmetry and non-uniform surfaces.
4. Consider how you can bring actual nature into your space, with flowers, branches, seed pods, feathers, leaves, shells, pebbles and so on. Discover the joy of finding and styling these yourself, creating visual poetry with the gifts of land and sea.
5. Keep both light and shadow in mind, noting how the contrast changes your space at different times of the day. Embrace low light and darkness when it suits the season and your mood.
6. Consider the role of the five senses in your space.
7. Curate things you really treasure to decorate your space and nurture it with story and memory. Where possible, be creative with what you have, or repurpose items that have had a previous life.
8. Think about the importance of visual harmony. How do things look and feel in relation to other things in the room and the space itself? What is framed by your windows and internal doorways? What is on full view and what is partly hidden, hinting at something else beyond?
9. Create tiny corners of beauty in unexpected places: a small vase on a windowsill; a handwritten note in the bathroom; a framed photograph under the stairs.
10. Notice how you need to use the space differently depending on the season of the year, and the season of your life.
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton (Hachette) is out on Tuesday.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale August 26.
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