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  • Writer's pictureSusan Van Meter

Wabi-Sabi: Perfectly Imperfect, Philosophy & Design Application

Finding beauty in the imperfection of nature and accepting

the natural cycle of growth and decay.

Wabi-sabi developed from Buddhist philosophy, dating back to the 13th century.

"Wabi” is from the root “wa” which denotes harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance - implying imperfection and simplicity. In comparison, “sabi” by itself denotes the “bloom of time”. The effect of time on an object.

It's a wisdom in natural simplicity - appreciating the beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" in nature. The fleeting nature of time and decay. Think of the fading of autumn leaves. Students of the philosophy are taught to seek beauty in the most fundamental and natural.

We can apply the Wabi-sabi philosophy and ethos to our own lives. Which naturally flows into our interiors - the way we live and what we surround ourselves with.

I especially wanted to share this with you because it beautifully fuses many of our fundamental design and lifestyle philosophies:

  • Connection & Kindness To Nature: Biophilic & Sustainable Design

  • Intentional Interiors: Creating Meaningful & Authentic Spaces

  • Healthy Homes: Interiors That Work To Improve Our Health & Lifestyle

Wabi-Sabi can create a more peaceful and authentic sense of home.


In our modern world, one that is heavily fuelled by the constant need for more and better, we find ourselves often wanting the best of everything. A perpetual pursuit of perfection.

Wabi-sabi in contrast encourages us to embrace the transience and imperfection of life. A reality that dictates an essential truth - "nothing lasts forever, nothing is fully complete and nothing is perfect". Learning to accept life as it is, rather than what we think it should be.

Above all, to value simplicity and authenticity. Not just celebrating the flawed, but seeing beauty in it. Implementing these philosophies can offer an escape from our hectic modern lives. It could be the perfect remedy - allowing us to find balance and de-stress.

So, how exactly can we translate Wabi-sabi philosophy into our interiors?


“In nature nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.

Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.”

- Alice Walker

Wabi-sabi values asymmetry, irregularity, and evanescence. Ergo, its love for natural materials and organic shapes. Elements that share a jagged simplicity. Raw wood, a pebble shaped by the tides of the ocean, or a handmade ceramic. Each is distinct in its own way, making them beautiful, despite their imperfect shape and texture.

When it comes to translating that principle into our interiors - think of furniture built from bare knotted timber, floors of rustic stone, pitted concrete walls and surfaces, woven rugs, and intriguing hand-made textiles. Elements that have been weathered by age and acquired the kind of patina that adds warmth and character. Collectively they add depth, texture, character and intrigue to a space.

Cultivating a lived-in look rather than "show-home chic". However, this doesn't mean that wabi-sabi inspired interiors can't be luxurious. It's a blend of simplicity and sophistication that values authenticity, character and beauty - over gaudy, sterile spaces.

The Japanese practice that perhaps most exemplifies the spirit of wabi-sabi is kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art of golden joinery, in which broken objects – usually ceramics – are mended with gold-dusted lacquer


We believe our homes should tell a story of who we are. The best way to do that is to comprise your interiors of things and elements that you truly love.

Wabi-sabi believes your home should be a reflection of that feeling. Not what is dictated by current trends. Design choices that come from the heart. Above all, your interiors should bring you joy.

This gives you freedom when it comes to channelling wabi-sabi into your interiors. Choose what you're most allured by. Make intentional choices that work to honour how you want to live your life.

When we combine this notion with the rest of the Wabi-sabi concepts

we see how they all work in tandem to create a more peaceful, authentic and healthy home


The fundamental principle of wabi-sabi interior design is a connection to nature and organic materials. Bare, real, authentic - not pretending to be something it's not.

Channelling this, we want to choose original pieces, over something mass-produced. Quality over quantity. Think vintage, antique, or handmade furniture, decor and objects. These older pieces are not only more authentic but lend to the core philosophy of wabi-sabi - that beauty morphs with age but never fades. Proof in point, antique pieces that look even more stunning with time.

They add character. Tons of it. Not only that, but the benefits keep on. Buying second-hand is more eco-friendly, has a lower carbon footprint, better quality, and can be a good investment.


Wabi-sabi teaches us to embrace nature. For us to watch and learn from it. So, what could be a better pairing? Biophilic design and wabi-sabi principles. They go hand-in-hand.

Biophilic design works to shape grounding environments that bring us closer to nature, whilst working to improve our mood and health. Biophilic principles are similar to those of wabi-sabi: the use of natural materials, earthy tones, natural light, plants, clean air, and non-toxic materials.

Channel nature through natural materials such as woods, stone, woven, linen, cotton, and silk. Also with indirect references, such as a foliage printed wallpaper, and direct references, such as plants and flowers.

Wabi-sabi goes takes Biophilia to the next step - a more holistic approach to creating

tranquil and authentic spaces that centre us


Colour is perhaps the most powerful ingredient in developing the mood of a space, more so than any other factor. Different hues rouse certain emotions, so your choice is key to determining the atmosphere of a space. Colour psychology, the way our brain connects emotion and colour, is responsible for this.

For wabi-sabi interiors, we want a colour palette that works to create an atmosphere and feeling of harmony and serenity. Colour psychology proves that nature-inspired palettes can do just that. Earth tones are versatile - cosy or revitalising - working from one season to the next.

Think, sage, green, brown, muted blues, taupe, burnt orange, fired tones, and more. Muted or vibrant - they don't have to be dull. They can reflect and complement the natural materials in your scheme.


Design should be a treat for all the senses. Texture is one of my most treasured ingredients when creating an intriguing space - a crucial aspect of the sensory experience of a space.

Wabi-sabi focuses on raw textures. Materials like wood, stone, leather and metal are embraced for the way that they age and stain, rust and wear. How, even after the toll of time, they become more beautiful.

Embrace worn paint or wallpaper, crumbling plaster or weathered concrete. There can be something charming about a distressed glaze of an uneven paint finish.

Limewash paints are a gorgeous way to add some depth to your walls. Beauwerk does them beautifully. Their paints forge a connection to nature on a fundamental level. They are completely natural - made from clay, minerals and beautiful natural pigments. We’re using them in an upcoming project, see the renders below.

For this project, we channelled wabi-sabi themes, materials, textures, and elements.


The wabi-sabi concept encourages us to take a sustainable approach in all areas of our lives.

It's about being intentional in all of our choices. Whether it's using natural materials or opting for vintage pieces.

However, it's about more than eco-friendly practices. Wabi-sabi encourages us to improve our relationship with our planet. To see the beauty in it, all of it. Moreover, honouring it. Changing our outlook on life.

I hope there are some Wabi-sabi principles that have inspired you

That you can channel them into your interiors to de-stress and find balance & tranquillity

Copyright Disclaimer: Photos used here are not mine, all rights are reserved to the copyright owners. Sourced from Instagram & Pinterest.

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