As the weather around us gets closer and closer to resembling a winter tundra, we have explored different avenues and aesthetics that branch from the Form Follows Fashion trends of this season. Raw style and minimalist spaces draw us to the application of wabi-sabi as a manner of seeing in design and interiors.
What Is Wabi-Sabi?
Simply put, it is the philosophy of accepting the transience and imperfection of all things. It is an aesthetic that is rooted in the appreciation of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, particularly that which is found in nature. Wabi-sabi aesthetics demonstrate the forces and energy of nature with characteristics like asymmetry, roughness, austerity, and simplicity. The approach not only accepts the imperfections, but celebrates them. Consequently, incorporating principles of harmonious contrast embraces a reflection of ourselves.
The Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer (known as kintsugi or kintsukuroi) exemplifies the aesthetic and philosophy of wabi-sabi. Translated, Kintsugi means “golden joinery” or “golden repair”, as it celebrates breakage and repair as part of the history of an object. Rather than disguising these imperfections, kintsugi artists lean into the cracks and tears. Moreover, they laud natural flaws and faults by creating something beautifully raw.
Japanese painter, Makoto Fujimura, is more than familiar with the theories and processes of kintsugi. He founded his career on the Nihonga painting style, or “beauty coming from destruction.” His paintings reflect the wabi-sabi philosophy of finding beauty in the imperfect and the impermanent as he uses hand-pulverized minerals in the application of many, many layers to create a vision of natural transience.
We asked Fujimura how the redemptive and reflective aesthetic of kintsugi is expressed in his living space. His passionate response exemplifies his most recent writings in his book Art+Faith:A Theology of Making. “My life is kintsugi!” he says. “Everything I try to capture in art, I seek to embody in my art and helping to create communities around these values. That is the essence of culture care movement, to give birth to kintsugi generation.”
As kintsugi celebrates the chips and bruises of an object, embracing imperfections can extend into faux wood or ceramic plates, as seen below. These pieces seem to be imitations of kintsugi right from the start. This is design made to look broken and mended. Cracked porcelain remains and rough edges are left as a sign of character, giving a uniqueness that won’t be found at another table.
The use of natural textures in decor and furnishings weave imperfections into the fabric of a space. Incorporating worn and flawed objects and materials instantly elevates the room. This is a way to bring value to a space, showing it is worthy to contain something full of history and legacy.
To The Bone
With this espousal of natural imperfection comes the acknowledgement of visible archives. Thus Wabi-sabi embraces the architectural history of a space. For example, this approach is unafraid to display the bones and materials that construct a space. As seen in the rooms below, the walls and ceilings reveal their backstory. Furthermore, these surfaces are coarsely apparent to celebrate the skeletal frame that makes up such a space.
The philosophy lends itself to a pared down approach to interior design, living by the viewpoint of impermanence. Accepting the transient nature of our material possessions produces this organic result. Similarly, a utilitarian attitude favors a minimal style with a visually sparse area that beautifully captures the eye and engages the mind with its stark spaces.
Nature is the true inspiration behind the wabi-sabi aesthetic and, as such, it is a reflection of the natural world. The cycle of life and death surrounds us, an unchanging demonstration of impermanence in this world. Thus, incorporating elements of nature welcomes the foundation of incomplete imperfection.
The wabi-sabi philosophy produces this spare aesthetic. To approach everything with an attitude of peace towards decay and loss allows one to embrace and appreciate the beauty of what is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Accordingly, It is natural that your furniture and decor won’t last forever. Hence, you can breathe new found energy into your space by accepting these natural rhythms. You live knowing that everything has a beginning and everything will have an end. Wabi-sabi is not only a reflection of nature, but a reflection of humankind. A reflection of ourselves. As flawed and incomplete beings, we find brilliant splendor and vast harmony in our temporary lives. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. And therein lies its beauty.