We’re starting off 2018 with our annual interiors trend guide, showing you how you can bring the year’s biggest trends into your home. In this article, read all about Wabi-sabi, the ancient Japanese philosophy that finds the beauty in imperfection.
From likes and super likes to friend counts and followers; we live in an era where our everyday actions are shaped by an endless sea of ratings and expectations. We covet the best phones, the best cars, the best coffee. We use websites and apps to score where we eat, where we stay, and the things we buy. We ourselves are also ranked; do we pay promptly when we purchase online? Are we a considerate taxi passenger? Are we the kind of person that someone should rent their apartment to?
In a culture that places a premium on perfection, it can be refreshing to embrace life’s little mishaps. Wabi-sabi is the age-old Japanese philosophy that implores us to take a step back from the sleek and glossy and explore the possibility that the troughs in life are every bit as valuable as the peaks. More than a trend, it’s a shift in perception.
With roots in Zen Buddhism, Wabi-sabi encourages a peaceful appreciation of life in the most holistic sense, with its ups and downs. In her book “Wabi-Sabi – the Art of Everyday Life” author Diane Durston explains that the word “Wabi” connotes “tranquil simplicity [and] a serene, transcendental state of mind”, while “Sabi” is “beauty that treasures the passage of time [and] the patina that age bestows”. Put the two together and the principle is clear – though life may not always be perfect, we should try to appreciate it.
So how does this translate to everyday life? Writer Jenny Brownlees explains the movement as such: “Wabi-sabi can be anything from simplicity to modesty, with an appreciation of natural objects and processes. It can be focusing on buying less and embracing the things you already own or bringing something from nature into your home. Bringing some Wabi-sabi into your life can [include] being humble, warm and welcoming. There’s no big to-do list around this culture (which adds to its appeal)”. She adds that accepting imperfection, though difficult, is an important part of the mindset. “If you don’t dare light your favourite candle for fear it would look better on Instagram in its perfect condition, this may be the mindset for you.”
The above photo of Falmouth-based boutique, Folklore Falmouth by Rosie Drake-Knight perfectly captures the wabi-sabi aesthetic.
Over the past year, we’ve noticed a gradual shift towards the Wabi-sabi way of thinking. Be it the mounting pressures of life on social media, or the expectations of excellence we place on everything from our relationships to our careers, society seems to be warming to the idea that there may be more to life than the shiny and aspirational. Notable figures such as Jessica Alba, will.i.am, and Jack Dorsey are proponents of the Japanese philosophy, citing it as their chosen route to happiness.
Trouva boutique Tiosk is also firmly on-board with the Wabi-sabi movement. Based in London’s Broadway Market, the tea shop’s co-founder Natasha is a firm believer in the mindset’s restorative powers. “With the recent advancements in technology, there could not be a better time to pull it back by keeping your home simple, natural and grounded. What better way to balance the speed of modern-day life with the often slow and mindful ways of Wabi-sabi.”
When choosing items for her store, Natasha often finds herself drawn to pieces that embody the Wabi-sabi aesthetic. “Wabi-Sabi for us is finding beauty in the unfinished, sometimes raw, often old. An appreciation of simplicity and the natural layers and effects that the passage of time has on a space or an object. For the most part I select items with a similar aesthetic and feel. I love to work with local makers – Kana London for example. Her hand-formed work embodies the mindset perfectly. Takashi Endo, the Japanese ceramicist, is also a master of Wabi-Sabi. Much of our visual aesthetic contains elements of the philosophy.”
Tiosk’s focus on tea is also inherently Wabi-sabi. Many cite ancient Japanese tea ceremonies as an important example of the philosophy; as companions joined together to enjoy an intimate pot of tea, the Hagi pottery that they used would change over time as it was used and reused. As small chips and cracks appeared, the cups would not lose their usefulness, nor their appeal – their appearance was transient, but still beautiful in its irregularity. Natasha’s advice? “Embrace the imperfect. Look for beauty in the ravages that time has left. Less is often more.”
So this year, ride the Wabi-sabi wave and enjoy the tranquility that comes with it. We’ve pulled together a selection of the best Tiosk products to help you on your way – view the gallery below. Looking for more inspiration? Explore our 2018 trend guide on Pinterest, or shop our Wabi-sabi edit of perfectly imperfect homewares.