The 5 Stages of Wabi-Sabi Interior Design

September 23, 2022
Emily Wordsworth

Wabi-sabi interiors come in many forms; while some adopt it as an all-encompassing lifestyle, others simply appreciate the aesthetics and use it as a small reminder to appreciate the little things in life. Often, you'll find wabi-sabi blended with existing home interior design. For those interested in embracing this aesthetic, there are many different ways you can bring wabi-sabi elements into your home. Here are all the 5 different levels of wabi-sabi interior design.

The Novice

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A novice wabi-sabi interior belongs to those who are beginning to dip their toes into the water. You'll see corners adorned with nature throughout the seasons, particularly using foliage or twigs to bring a rustic aura into the home. Handcrafted pottery is also often a feature in such dwellings, using clay to emphasise a grounding, more wholesome environment.

Those who are interested in the philosophies of wabi-sabi will begin to look at their possessions with kinder eyes, particularly if an object breaks; they may opt for kintsugi to repair it, rather than tossing it aside. A novice wabi-sabi interior may not feel classically wabi-sabi at all, but it’s the first and important step to creating a more peaceful space that better serves your mindset.

The Contemporary

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A contemporary wabi-sabi home utilises typical modern comforts and a range of colours to create a zen-like space that also feels true to life. These spaces often feel well travelled and have a personality of their own. There is a deliberate earthiness to the interior while maintaining the flexibility to weave in trends and accent pieces. You'll find abundant natural materials, perhaps some lime wash paint, soft fabrics, a sense of indoor-outdoor living and an abundance of playful accents to keep things interesting.

The Minimalist

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Pairing wabi-sabi with minimalism is effortless. Both design styles feed off of the idea that the bare necessities are what will help us to thrive. Minimalist wabi-sabi interiors adopt a clean, curated look; however instead of the straight lines you might often find in minimal spaces, here you are greeted with more gentle, natural curves and different grains of wood.

While some minimalist homes veer toward being cold, unfeeling, and industrial, the introduction of wabi-sabi elements creates a balance of warmth and affluence. Interiors such as these are also favoured for their low-maintenance characteristics.

The Mixologist

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The mixing and matching of interior design styles have long been an approachable way to showcase different facets of your lifestyle; just look at the rise of mid-Japandi homes as of late. Fusion wabi-sabi interiors are often paired with mid-century modern designs, Scandinavian homeware or Japandi accents.

The trick is to achieve a balance in this hybrid aesthetic, creating a gentle flow that best suits your lifestyle's needs. This could mean pairing a live-edge dining table with colourful mid-century modern tableware for a playful contrast or opting for two types of wood to curate a space that celebrates both Scandinavian interiors' love for sleek ash wood, and wabi-sabi's love for darker, aged wood.

The Purist

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Purist wabi-sabi interiors are often the strongest reflection of the wabi-sabi lifestyle, embracing the less is more approach and celebrating the natural life cycle of architecture and homeware. These interiors often feature thrifted and reclaimed furniture, highlighting the beauty of wear and tear that has occurred over the years.

A dedication to wabi-sabi interiors manifests in rustic simplicity. These spaces hammer home the idea that there is perfection within imperfection. Those who live in such a space adopt a slower lifestyle to such a degree because they find that the mental health advantages are significant. They find joy in less and don't fall prey to the calls of mainstream purchase habits.

“Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.” - Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers