Wabi-Sabi Decorating in 2019

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What is Wabi-Sabi?

wabi sabi quote

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese decorating trend that’s hugely popular, right now. It celebrates imperfection, authenticity, and a lived-in feeling.

It’s not to be confused with the Danish design philosophy of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah) which is all about coziness…warm blankets, comfort food, things like that.

And it’s not to be confused with the Swedish philosophy of Lagom (pronounced Lar-gom) which is all about minimalism.

Those are decorating trends for a future post!

I think the best definition of Wabi-Sabi is this quote from Wabi-Sabi Your Life – Six Strategies Embracing Imperfection. It appears online in Whole Living – a Martha Stewart magazine.

The author, Gretchen Roberts writes:

To illustrate: Wabi-sabi is asymmetrical heirloom vegetables and handmade pottery, crow’s feet and the frayed sleeves of a favorite wool sweater, exposed brick and the first draft of a difficult letter. 

You won’t find wabi-sabi in Botox, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, smartphones, or the drive for relentless self-improvement.

It’s a beauty hidden right in front of our eyes, an aesthetic of simplicity that reveals itself only when animated through the daily work of living.

That’s exactly the definition I’m looking for.  It’s exactly what wabi-sabi is and what it isn’t.

The Wabi-Sabi Decorating Trend

Old books on bookcase

There’s a bit of wabi-sabi in my own home. These books on a shelf in my living room are worn and faded. I love the feeling they give to the room.

Gretchen Roberts goes on to explain that “stained plastic dishes and a garden full of weeds” doesn’t meet the criteria. It’s not about being careless or sloppy. It’s about embracing what’s natural. Like the worn books in that photo.

NOTE: Clutter is NOT wabi-sabi so clear out clutter.

Family Style and Wabi-Sabi

Tiny boots on shelf

Family heirlooms probably won’t mean a thing if you’re not in the family. But they add character to your home. Friends and visitors will feel the love.

These old, tiny, once-silvery shoes that belonged to my mother.

That boot on the far right almost looks like pewter but it’s not. The silverplate has just worn off.

Personally, I’ve always loved decorating with pieces that have character. I love shopping at consignment stores, Craigslist and garage sales! A good thrift shop is golden in my book!

I’m big into reuse, repurpose and recycle.

Contemporary Wabi-Sabi Works, too!

Contemporary photo with an organic touchOn the other hand, there isn’t a decorating trend or style that I don’t love.  Contemporary and ultra-modern homes speak to my love of sleek, clean lines.

I see no reason that you can’t add a little wabi-sabi to ultra contemporary style. In fact, just because something doesn’t “match” your decor doesn’t mean you should get rid of it.

If it speaks to you and it makes you happy, by all means, keep it. Especially true if it’s handmade. A little bit of mismatched decor is a good thing!

I do prefer modern design if there’s an element of warmth thrown in…a combination of wood and metal, for example.

Add an organic touch either through texture or with natural materials.

Check out this post from the design blog Decor8, Wabi-Sabi Style in Ten Steps. Every single photo in that post is contemporary and yet there’s an element of wabi-sabi, as well.  Really lovely photos!

Pinterest and Etsy Resources

Modern wabi-sabi roomPinterest is another source for finding examples of wabi-sabi. I’ve started a Pinterest board to save wabi-sabi pictures but I don’t have many there, yet.

Here’s a link to Pinterest wabi-sabi pictures like this one on the left. You can see that it doesn’t really matter what your decor style is. You can incorporate a little wabi-sabi. That’s a good thing.

For really unique examples of wabi-sabi that you can buy for your home, you’ll want to visit Etsy!

I found several wind chimes on Etsy that are just gorgeous that will add a touch of wabi-sabi nobody else will have because each one is unique and hand-made.

There are lots of books on this design style. Check out your public library or visit a bookstore or shop on Amazon.com.

My Wabi-Sabi Lessons

I learned how to decorate this way mostly from my mother who had a creative eye and not much money. To borrow an old axiom, she could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.  She could cover an old worn-out piece of furniture and make it look new.

The artwork in our home was typically family photos or handmade items.

I’ve tried to give you an overview of this terrific way to personalize your home. Wabi-sabi has been around for generations…we just didn’t know it!

I would just love to share your wabi-sabi stories so leave a link and a picture if you’d like.

If you’re interested in Feng Shui, you’ll enjoy reading Feng Shui for Small Spaces.  Let me know what you think about that, too!

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned!

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4 thoughts on “Wabi-Sabi Decorating in 2019

  1. AnxietyPanda says:

    Yet another interesting article! I’ve never heard of Wabi-Sabi and the decorating style sure seems interesting. Thanks for sharing this you have definitely peaked my interest in this topic. Love the idea of decorating with older books, like you have! Thanks for the inspiration. I’m definitely bookmarking your site for future reference 🙂

    • CherylK says:

      Well, here you are, again! I do appreciate your visits and your comments. It keeps me on my toes. As I said in that post, I think we all have a little Wabi-Sabi in our homes…we just didn’t know it had a name!

      You might want to check out the post I wrote on Feng-Shui for Small Spaces. It’s kind of the same sort of philosophy.  Thanks, again, for the visit. 

    • Cheryl Kohan says:

      So glad you enjoyed the post! I’m pretty sure we’ve all got a little wabi-sabi in our homes…we just didn’t know what it was called! Thank you for visiting and for the great comment!

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