“Wabi-sabi” is a Japanese term that essentially means finding beauty in imperfection. Wabi refers to living with humility and simplicity while being at one with nature, while sabi is defined as the ability to accept the lifecycle of anything as it is—flaws and all.
There’s no hard-and-fast way to emulate or translate the wabi-sabi philosophy into home decor but we spoke to a handful of experts who have mastered the art of wabi-sabi to get their best insights on how to adopt a more peaceful and authentic sense of being at home.
From being more intentional about your home decor to romanticizing your everyday items and routine, here’s how to bring the art of wabi-sabi into your home.
Meet the Expert
- Marie Kondo is the tidying expert behind The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and founder of KonMari Media, Inc.
- Karin Sun is the founder of wabi-sabi-inspired Crane & Canopy linen company.
- Rowena Lei is the founder of August Sage, a homeware brand born out of the wabi-sabi philosophy.
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Be Intentional About Your Decor
“Wabi-sabi is grounded by a deep reverence for nature and its uncomplicated beauty,” Marie Kondo, tidying expert and founder of KonMari Media, Inc. tells The Spruce. “This should readily translate when embracing the philosophy in your home’s design! Be very mindful and introspective when selecting items for your home, because what you choose defines how you want to live your life.”
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Weave In Personal Touches
It might be tempting to pick up glossy new home items when overhauling your space—but it might not make the most sense if you’re going for a wabi-sabi philosophy. “Whether a striking art piece or a vase hand-spun by your child, intentionally living among mindfully-selected treasures that spark joy for you will inspire you to celebrate authenticity and find beauty in simplicity—both of which are key in wabi-sabi design,” shares Kondo.
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Opt for Natural Touches
“The wabi-sabi philosophy centers around asymmetry, simplicity, and intimacy,” says Karin Sun, Founder of Crane & Canopy. “In other words, wabi-sabi rejects the idea of perfection, and instead, focuses on what’s natural and real.” You can emulate this idea by opting for natural touches—like plants and other natural touches.
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Make Your Bed
“The wabi-sabi Japanese lifestyle philosophy that can be incorporated into our lives very easily, especially in our bedrooms and on our beds,” says Sun. “Making the bed is an important daily task, and it’s in style to embrace imperfections while doing this task rather than building a tidy, spotless bed.”Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Make Your Space a Cozy Place
Your home should also be a place you actually want to curl up in and get cozy without feeling like you’re messing up your space. “Throw pillows and blankets add to the lived-in look,” says Sun. “This is the perfect addition to show a space where you can settle in and get cozy, which wabi-sabi is all about.”
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Consider Washed Linen
The best part of embracing wabi-sabi design? Finding comfort in the little things without worrying about everything being exactly perfect. “Washed linen is a great addition to the home—whether as bedding or for kitchenware, as linen creates a soft, lived-in style that falls in line with wabi-sabi,” says Sun. “Its relaxed and naturally wrinkled look proves that beauty lies in imperfections.”
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Look For Items That Age Gracefully
“Choose quality pieces that withstand time and add depth and personality to your space the longer you have them,” suggests Rowena Lei, Founder of August Sage. “Examples include elements that naturally age and patina, like a beautifully hand-carved piece of solid wood for your cutting board or serving bowl.”
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Appreciate the Imperfections in Your Home
Don’t worry about rushing out to pick up the latest trends in homeware—instead, try to find appreciation in the imperfections that you already have in your home. “There is no need to strive for perfection constantly; embrace the wrinkle in your linen sheets or a causal stack of slightly leaning books,” says Lei.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Romanticize Your Everyday Items and Routine
Lei also suggests taking the wabi-sabi philosophy one step further by finding beauty in your everyday objects and routine through intentional movement to have daily tasks become memorable. “You can start simply with morning coffee/tea and make it a ritual, for example, grind beans or create a unique tea blend,” she says.
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Don’t Forget To Stimulate Your Senses
The home is the best place to engage and stimulate your senses. Lei suggests incorporating burning incense, water features or sounds, and textural textiles like wool and sheepskin. She also suggests leaning into more creative at-home activities, like creating art and reading vintage poetry books.
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Look to Broken or Naturally Imperfect Items
Don’t worry about chips, breaks, or stains—according to Lei, these small imperfections breed a sense of calm and appreciation for life. “Some of my favorite pieces include unglazed raw pottery, stone bowls and planters, olive jars with broken handles, polished brass or copper pieces that will acquire a patina over time, and large branches foraged from anywhere outside,” says Lei.