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10 Ways To Get The Wabi-Sabi Look At Home

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 30 October 2017
This “imperfect” home décor trend is all about showing your authentic self and is sure to dominate in 2018.

Wabi-sabi is all about embracing imperfection and impermanence. This ancient Japanese, Buddhist-inspired philosophy is now a home design trend and allows for a little carefree mess and relaxation, all while exploring the subtle beauty found in everyday objects. Here’s how to get the wabi-sabi look at home.

Don’t buy it unless it will truly add to the emotional beauty of the home.

Is that new accent wall paint really going to bring you pleasure or is it simply “trendy”? Will that $3,500 sofa you’ve been admiring in a catalogue add to your comfort or simply serve as an aesthetic prop? Don’t consider adding more items to your home unless it adds personal, emotional value to your life. “In fast paced, modern life, where so many of us are constantly attached to technology, our bodies and hearts yearn for warmth, contemplative time, filled with touch, coziness and connection to loved ones,” says principal artist at Callidus Guild, Yolande Milan Batteau.

©Refat/Shutterstock

Add muted greys and earth tones.

Okay, so stark-whites and greiges have been out for a while, but that doesn’t mean all muted tones are out the window, too. Consider adding earthy, muted elements in your space through wallpaper, throws, and textured curtains.

Off-white floral wallpaper and grey furniture gives this room a feeling of warmth
Off-white floral wallpaper and grey furniture gives this room a feeling of warmth | © Farrow & Ball

Embrace handmade objects and not-so-perfect pottery.

Nothing beats a beautiful piece of pottery. Even if it has a few nicks and chips in it, consider the object’s beauty in its own right. Hand-made is sometimes synonymous with “imperfection,” but it also means you have a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that’s just for you.

Fritz Hansen Earthenware Jar Vase
Fritz Hansen Earthenware Jar Vase | © einrichten-design.de

Crumpled linens and worn throws are perfect just as they are.

Don’t worry about obsessively ironing out the wrinkles from your linen curtains and making sure the sheets are perfectly tucked in. It’s okay to let your fabrics look a little worn and lived-in. It’s the wabi-sabi way.

© MissoniHome

Some objects get better with age.

Rust-colored, aging objects (particularly oxidized copper objects) work especially well with this trend. Don’t bother polishing the silver to a shine, a little tarnish is just fine.

©Besjunior/Shutterstock

Swap bouquets for twigs found on a nature hike or a single wildflower.

A single flower can go a long way. You don’t need 12 white roses in a crystal vase to boost the floral action in your home—a single, hand-picked daisy will do just the trick. For fall and winter months, try adorning your space with interesting found twigs or fallen branches (birch trees are especially lovely).

Aged pottery with large branch as an off-center piece
Aged pottery with large branch as an off-center piece | © Farrow & Ball

Put away the Keurig machine and try using your hand-me-down coffee percolator or weathered tea set.

Modern technology saves a lot of time, sure. But there is something desperately impersonal about a fancy coffee or espresso machine. Try breaking out the old percolator instead and focus on the calming sounds and aromas it produces.

“Materials worn from wear, careful attention to light and dark, a strong sense of nature” are key elements to the wabi-sabi aesthetic, says Yolande.

© Mikhail Olykainen/Shutterstock

Pare down, but not entirely.

Not the full-on minimalism movement kind of “pare down,” but just enough to fully appreciate the objects that do bring you joy. Why keep that cheap 560-piece dinnerware set from 2005 lingering around? In any given month, how much of that dishware do you actually use? Give it away, sell it, and only keep the objects that bring you quiet pleasure.

Uncover your Grandma’s kitchen tools instead.

Have you ever really looked at and appreciated the subtle beauty of an old wooden ladle? Or noticed the tarnish on a silver spoon that probably should be polished? It’s okay if all your items don’t glisten and shine—they don’t have to impress the world, they just have to impress you.

© Thomas Bethge/Shutterstock

Remember to relax.

How can you enjoy the little, beautiful things around you when you’re worried about making everything perfect all the time? Give yourself a break and let things be. Who cares if your bed isn’t made or if there are a few crumbs on the table? Make yourself a good pot of green tea, kick back with your favorite rumpled blanket, and enjoy the little flawed treasures around you. Love yourself, in spite of all the imperfections.

© Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

To read more about wabi-sabi and learn how to master the art of chill, click here.