Wabi Sabi is known as the art of imperfection. It is the traditional Japanese philosophy and aesthetic sensibility that appreciates and even celebrates the beauty and harmony of imperfection, impermanence, and the incomplete. Sound a bit too quixotic for you? Really, it’s not overly idealistic. It’s an appreciation of the aesthetics of simplicity, age, and inherent natural impurities. Impurities tell a story. A story of time, of the nature of materials, and most importantly a story of their use and life.
When you come into our office for a design consult, the table that we will meet at is marked by years of use. There are rings from countless drinks and splatters of ink, old and new. This table tells the story of all the work and collaboration done here, all the conversations and late nights, and is made more beautiful by these impurities than it would ever have been without them.
You may think it odd that a modern home design business is talking up an aesthetic that celebrates age and imperfection. After all, isn’t modern design all about crisp clean lines and controlled results? Sure. But only as it creates a backdrop for the natural and imperfect beauty of Wabi Sabi to feature.
In a modern home, Wabi Sabi is the cedar siding that ages to a beautiful gray over the years. It is the unplanned and variegated whorls of color in the finished concrete floors. It is the corten steel panel allowed to rust before it is used as an adornment and it is the burnished copper accents that patina to blue-green brightness.
Wabi Sabi may seem, at first, too abstract an ideal to apply to everyday life. But, it is by its very nature a celebration of the everyday. Take a moment to look around you right now. Is there something made beautiful by time and use that you might normally overlook? It could be faded artfully, or perfectly worn in. It could have an interesting and appealing pattern. Maybe the sunlight shines through it delicately at a certain time of day or maybe it feels perfect when it is held or touched. Whatever the object is, it is made more treasured because of its age and use. Any object can be new. But not all become wabi sabi.