The perfect imperfection of wabi-sabi
If this year is about anything, it’s about mixing anything and everything to a beautiful effect. It’s about fluidity. The perfectly imperfect. That’s why I’m still crushing so hard on wabi-sabi.
With its raw edges, organic shapes, subdued hues, and ability to pair well with blonde and dark timbers alike, wabi-sabi is the perfect anecdote to the unsavoury and unsustainable “fast furnishings” trend.
The fact that wabi-sabi is so deeply steeped in Japanese tradition, it make sense that patience, attention to detail and quality are all parts of its attributes. The nature of wabi-sabi’s handcrafted products makes them inherently more special, and it satisfies our cravings to surround ourselves with items that tell a unique story and show provenance.
Not only does wabi-sabi embrace imperfections, it celebrates them. Like an unexpected culinary surprise, wabi-sabi advocates that the imperfections created by nature aren’t flaws at all, instead they’re actually the best part.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
One thing that can be said about a bad economy is that it forces people to get creative and learn how to do more with less. For better or for worse, the culmination of the GFC beginning in 2008 helped to spur a collective shift in focus. By prioritising the essentials over excesses, quality craftsmanship had space to take root again and allowed an artisan renaissance to sprout up in communities across the globe as a result.
This shifting focus is most evident with design and food, in particular. Because of the explosion of Scandinavian trends (or maybe despite it) the evolution and appreciation of wabi-sabi came into its own. It's no surprise that this raw aesthetic appears to be on a parallel path with a similar culinary movement we’ve witnessed over the past decade or so.
Guiding principles unite both design and culinary disciplines: Start with quality, respect everything and waste nothing.
The rise in organic farm-to-table cooking has evolved into an art that prizes all cuts of meat and utilises all or most aspects of the vegetable. Integrity underpins this new era of cooking.
Sometimes artisan chefs are exploring new and inventive ways to reimagine their ingredients, other times they simply focus on getting back to their roots. Often it's a union of both, but like wabi-sabi design, it is always a celebration of the magnificence that nature so willingly provides.
Wabi-sabi too, is a sensory feast, it’s spacial soul food. It is so naturally interesting, the difference in textures all occur organically which means there’s no need to add in artificial surprises. It is the single design philosophy that could be unilaterally employed without the dreaded consequences of being too matchy-matchy or boring. Like thoughtful soul food, wabi-sabi is spirited. It offers intimacy without pretension. It’s pared back and deliberate.
Needless to say, I’m so glad that this gorgeous, stripped down aesthetic is sticking around. I can’t wait to see all the beautiful interpretations it invokes as wabi-sabi continues to evolve. Are you inspired to use wabi-sabi in your home? Tell us why or better yet, how you're using it in the comments!