What is Wabi-Sabi? The Interior Style Your Home Might Need

September 02, 2022 4 min read

What is Wabi-Sabi? Home Decor Tips

Beauty is imperfect, and imperfection is beautiful. This is the central philosophy in the traditional Japanese concept called wabi-sabi. The term itself has no direct English translation, but it refers to ways of life and aesthetics that are beautifully rustic, organically aged, or elegantly simple.

Let's explore what wabi-sabi means and how you can apply it to make your home a calm, livable abode.

What is Wabi-Sabi? Definition and Examples

In a nutshell, wabi-sabi is the graceful acceptance of natural imperfections and aging. It is an acknowledgment that beauty is impermanent, and thus, we don't need to struggle all the time to preserve our idea of perfection. This concept can be a peaceful mindset for daily life -- much like Zen philosophy -- and it can be a lovely basis for interior decor.

In terms of home decorating, wabi-sabi may be seen in such examples as:

  • Uneven pottery and ceramics
  • Slightly chipped cups, plates, and bowls
  • Simple, asymmetric flower arrangements
  • Rustic aged walls and floors
  • Exposed beams and reclaimed wood
  • Calm earthy colors and unpainted surfaces
  • Minimalist spaces with freedom to move.

With an emphasis on the natural, the free, and the simple, wabi-sabi interior decorating can transform your house into an elegant, uncomplicated space where there's less clutter to stress you out.

Read on for tips and ideas on how to decorate your home the wabi-sabi way.


Wabi-Sabi Home Decor Ideas

1. Handcrafted tableware

Handmade bowls and plates are a prime feature in wabi-sabi homes. Ceramics and stoneware with uneven glaze, unadorned coloring, and rugged textures are prized for their delicate, rustic look, but more so for their representation of ephemeral beauty.

In traditional Japanese culture, there's a practice called kintsugi or kintsukuroi, where broken pottery is put back together with melted gold (see below). It represents the special beauty of things that were destroyed but became whole again.


2. Exposed stone walls

Unpainted stone or concrete walls provide a cool, cozy ambiance to home interiors without much of a fuss. This makes a perfect foundation for wabi-sabi fans, especially when complemented with minimalist furniture.

If you love this look but don't have actual stone walls, you can create a faux version with wallpaper! To balance the cool palette, add a warm yellow element, like in our examples above and below.

Wall art pictured above: "Difficult Roads Lead To Beautiful Destinations" Premium Rustic Canvas


Wall art pictured above: Personalized "Family Is Everything" With Names On Background Premium Rustic Canvas


3. Curated tabletop ornaments

Just because wabi-sabi is minimalist doesn't mean it's devoid of decor. On your coffee table, console, or mantel, you can put together a simple grouping of objects for the perfect touch of natural elegance. Limit the number of objects to leave a lot of space around them, and choose things that have uncomplicated shapes and colors. 


4. Minimalistic layout

One thing that makes wabi-sabi homes so relaxing is their breathable floor plan. They don't cram their spaces with so much furnishing or clutter. And what few furniture pieces they do have, they smartly arrange so that there's room to move in between and the eyes don't get overloaded with visual stimuli.

In our own homes, it may not be totally practical to get rid of furniture, but we can think creatively in terms of the layout and storage. The goal is to minimize visual and material clutter as much as possible.

Wall art pictured above: Personalized Family "Home Sweet Home" Rustic Premium Canvas


5. Unarranged botanicals

Like much of Japanese tradition, wabi-sabi embraces the quiet state of nature. There are no showy bouquets or grandiose centerpieces here. Instead, this style prefers sparse, branchy flowers (ikebana) or graceful living plants with earthy colors.

You can easily get this look by putting together branches of blooms or berries on a simple vase. Or, if you prefer living plants, go for potted bamboo, indoor palm, or potted fruit trees. See our examples above and below.


Wall art pictured above: "These Are The Good Old Days" Premium Canvas


Wall art pictured above: Personalized "Having Somewhere To Go Is Home" Premium Canvas V2


6. Reclaimed wood furniture

Forget those shiny big-box furniture pieces. For wabi-sabi furnishings, distressed, sun-bleached wood works beautifully. Whether you're making them yourself or buying from a local furniture-maker, opt for pieces in simple cuts and silhouettes. A solid rectangular dining table (above) or a geometric wood block console (below) can look rustic yet sophisticated at the same time.

Wall art pictured above: Personalized "This Is Us - Grateful, Thankful, Blessed" Premium Canvas


Wall art pictured above: Personalized "The First Day Of Our Forever" Premium Canvas


7. Natural linens

In terms of linens and upholstery, wabi-sabi is clean yet carefree, dainty yet practical. A crisp tablecloth draped just so, some hand-dyed dish towels and dining napkins, maybe a wrinkled coverlet over the couch. And always, natural fabrics like cotton and bamboo are preferred.


8. Patinaed metal accents

Besides wood, stone, and ceramics, metal can provide decoration to a wabi-sabi home. Antique bronze figurines and iron wall accents -- especially those with visible patina -- fit into this style because of their sense of age and impermanent beauty. Pair your antique figurine with a simple vase and some cherry blossom twigs for a lovely tabletop vignette.

Wall art pictured above: "Papa - The Man, The Myth, The Legend" Premium Rustic Canvas


So what do you think of wabi-sabi interior design? Will you apply this to your own home? Share with us in the comments!

If you like the rustic wall art pieces featured here, you'll find more to love on GearDen.com. Browse now!

Related blog posts:

10 Decorating Tips for a Calm, Restful Home

Interior Decor Styles from Around the World

10+ Secrets to Cozy-Stylish Homes



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