Wabi Sabi : 12 Ways To Incorporate It In Your Home

In a world that often celebrates perfection and flawlessness, there lies a design philosophy that cherishes the imperfect, the impermanent, and the incomplete: Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi, with its roots in ancient Japanese traditions, invites us to embrace the beauty found in simplicity, nature, and the passage of time.

As interior designers, we have the power to create spaces that not only reflect our client's unique style but also nurture a sense of tranquility and appreciation for life's fleeting moments.

Join us on a journey to discover 12 inspiring ways to incorporate Wabi Sabi design principles into your home, and let the transformative power of this aesthetic guide your creative vision.

Image credit: House of Forme

History behind Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi has deep roots in ancient Japanese philosophy and aesthetics, and its history can be traced back to traditional Japanese cultural practices.

The term itself is a combination of two concepts:

Wabi (侘)

Originally, "wabi" referred to the loneliness of living in nature, far from society. Over time, it evolved to convey a sense of simplicity, rusticity, and living in tune with nature.

Sabi (寂):

"Sabi" is associated with the beauty that comes with age and the patina that objects acquire over time. It embodies the idea of appreciating the impermanence and transience of life.

Wabi sabi
Image credit: Good Form

The origins of Wabi Sabi can be found in various cultural and artistic movements:

Tea Ceremony (茶道, Sadō, or Chanoyu)

Wabi Sabi became closely associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Tea masters, such as Sen no Rikyū, emphasized the beauty of imperfection, simplicity, and the use of humble and natural materials in the tea ceremony setting.

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Zen Buddhism

Wabi Sabi shares philosophical roots with Zen Buddhism, which values simplicity, mindfulness, and an appreciation for the present moment.

Zen monks often embraced the concept of Wabi Sabi in their daily lives and artistic expressions.

Haiku Poetry

Wabi Sabi is also reflected in the aesthetics of haiku poetry, where brevity, simplicity, and a focus on nature are key elements.

Haiku poets sought to capture the essence of a fleeting moment in a few simple words, embodying the spirit of impermanence.

Traditional Crafts

Japanese pottery, such as Raku ware, exemplifies Wabi-Sabi aesthetics.

The irregular shapes, asymmetry, and rough textures of these ceramics reflect the appreciation for imperfection and the handmade.

Wabi Sabi gained renewed attention in the 20th century as a reaction to the industrialization and mass production that characterized the era.

Artists and designers began to revisit the traditional Japanese aesthetic, finding inspiration in its emphasis on authenticity, simplicity, and the beauty of the imperfect.

Today, Wabi Sabi continues to influence various aspects of Japanese culture, art, and design, and its principles have spread globally, impacting contemporary design and lifestyle choices.

How to Apply Wabi Sabi in Your Interior Design

1. Embrace Natural Materials for Authenticity

Wabi Sabi design encourages a profound connection with nature by embracing the inherent beauty of raw and organic materials.

Infusing your interior spaces with natural elements such as wood, stone, and bamboo not only brings a touch of the outdoors inside but also establishes a genuine sense of authenticity.

Consider introducing reclaimed wood furniture that showcases the character of its past life.

Weathered stone countertops that tell a story through their patina, or bamboo flooring that adds a sustainable and earthy touch.

These materials not only capture the essence of Wabi-Sabi but also contribute to a timeless aesthetic that ages gracefully, evolving in harmony with the natural world.

Image credit: Yatzer

2. Celebrate Patina and Aging for Depth and Character

There's a profound appreciation for the journey an object takes over time.

Instead of concealing or resisting the natural aging process, the philosophy encourages you to celebrate the patina that gracefully develops on various surfaces.

Metals, such as brass and copper, are particularly emblematic of this idea.

Over time, these materials undergo a natural oxidation process, evolving into unique, weathered finishes that exude warmth and character.

Consider incorporating antique brass light fixtures that have developed a rich, mellow patina, telling a visual tale of years gone by.

In the dining area, an aged copper tabletop can become a focal point, showcasing the marks of countless shared meals and conversations.

Image credit: Style by Emily Henderson

Deliberate choices to honor materials

These deliberate choices not only honor the materials but also bring a sense of history into your living spaces, turning each piece into a living testament to the passage of time.

Moreover, in the realm of furniture, welcome the signs of wear and tear as badges of honor.

A reclaimed wooden dining table, for instance, may carry the scars of a previous life, each dent and scratch telling a story of its own.

The worn edges of a leather armchair, softened by years of use, add a layer of comfort and history to your seating arrangements.

By allowing these imperfections to shine, you infuse your interior design with a sense of authenticity that resonates with the Wabi-Sabi ethos.

These patina-rich elements not only add depth and character to your design but also establish a connection between the past and the present.

Each mark becomes a chapter in the narrative of your living space, embodying the Wabi-Sabi principle of finding beauty in the evolving and imperfect nature of all things.

Image credit: House to Decor

3. Follow the Rule of Simplicity for a Calm Wabi Sabi Sanctuary

Wabi Sabi's influence in interior design places a premium on simplicity, urging you to strip away excess and embrace the beauty of understated elegance.

Begin by decluttering your space, removing unnecessary adornments, and allowing the inherent beauty of each element to shine.

Opt for a minimalist approach that emphasizes quality over quantity, focusing on the essence of each piece. In the living room, consider a simple, well-crafted sofa in a neutral tone as the centerpiece.

This allows the quality of the fabric and the craftsmanship to take center stage, embodying the Wabi-Sabi principle of finding beauty in the essential.

Embrace Minimalism

Accentuate the space with a carefully chosen coffee table, perhaps a solid wood piece with clean lines, contributing to the overall sense of simplicity and functionality.

When curating furnishings, think in terms of purpose and longevity. Choose pieces that stand the test of time, both in terms of design and durability.

A dining table crafted from sturdy materials and a timeless design becomes a functional yet elegant focal point in the dining area.

The bedroom, too, can embrace simplicity with a minimalist bed frame and unadorned linens, creating a serene environment conducive to rest and contemplation.

By simplifying your space, you create a calming sanctuary where each element can be appreciated for its intrinsic beauty.

The absence of clutter allows the eye to focus on the subtle details—the grain of the wood, the texture of fabrics, and the play of natural light—enhancing the overall sense of tranquility.

Consider incorporating elements like a single piece of wall art with profound significance or a statement plant that brings a touch of nature indoors - reinforcing the simplicity and connection to the natural world that Wabi-Sabi espouses.

In embracing the rule of simplicity, you not only cultivate a space that is visually pleasing but also one that invites contemplation and mindfulness—a true reflection of the Wabi-Sabi spirit.

Image credit: designboom.com

4. Create Harmonious Asymmetry for Organic Balance

Wabi Sabi design invites you to embrace the allure of asymmetry, recognizing the inherent beauty found in the imperfect and the unconventional.

Instead of rigidly adhering to traditional symmetrical arrangements, allow your furniture and accessories to find their own organic balance within the space.

In the living room, consider arranging seating in a way that feels natural and unforced.

A sofa paired with a couple of distinct chairs, perhaps in different styles but harmonizing in color or texture, creates a dynamic and inviting seating arrangement.

Place a coffee table off-center, allowing for a more open and relaxed atmosphere. This asymmetrical approach fosters a sense of ease and approachability, steering away from the formality often associated with perfectly matched furniture sets.

By incorporating harmonious asymmetry, you infuse your interior design with a sense of visual intrigue and an atmosphere of easygoing elegance.

The deliberate departure from perfect symmetry fosters a feeling of authenticity and natural beauty, reinforcing the Wabi Sabi philosophy that true elegance is found in the imperfections and irregularities of life.

Image credit: artfasad.com

5. Find Beauty in Imperfection

Wabi Sabi design invites you to view imperfections not as flaws but as distinctive marks that contribute to the character and charm of your living space.

Celebrate the uniqueness of imperfect details, turning them into focal points that tell a story and add a touch of authenticity to your home.

In the kitchen, consider showcasing a cracked ceramic bowl as a centerpiece on the dining table. The imperfection becomes a visual narrative, highlighting the vessel's journey and the experiences it has endured.

This simple act of celebration turns what might be considered a flaw into a cherished element, embodying the Wabi Sabi principle that beauty can be found in the imperfect and the transient.

For flooring, embrace the subtle irregularities of a slightly uneven wooden floor.

These variations tell the tale of the wood's natural growth and transformation, creating a floor that is not only functional but also a visual representation of the passage of time.

Allow the imperfections to become a source of character, reminding inhabitants of the dynamic nature of their living environment.

Image credit: Pinterest

Embrace the Charm of Uniqueness

Handmade pottery is another avenue through which to showcase the beauty in imperfection. Instead of mass-produced, flawless pieces, opt for handcrafted ceramics that bear the marks of the artisan's touch.

The irregularities in shape and glaze become a testament to the human hand, infusing your space with a sense of warmth and individuality.

Furthermore, consider incorporating vintage or distressed furniture into your design. A weathered wooden cabinet or a chipped-paint dresser carries with it a history of use and wear, each mark contributing to the piece's unique story.

By featuring such items prominently, you not only celebrate the imperfections but also introduce a layer of depth and character to your home.

In essence, finding beauty in imperfection transforms your living space into a canvas of stories, where each mark and irregularity adds to the overall richness of the environment.

This intentional embrace of the imperfect aligns with the Wabi-Sabi philosophy, encouraging a mindful appreciation for the inherent beauty found in the transient and evolving nature of all things.

Image credit: livingindesign.com

6. Engage the Senses

Design isn't just about visual appeal; it's about creating an experience.

Engage all the senses by incorporating elements like soft textiles, natural scents, soothing sounds, and warm lighting. Awaken a sense of peace and tranquility within your space.

7. Earthy Tones for Tranquility

Wabi Sabi is characterized by a muted and earthy color palette that reflects the simplicity found in nature.

Opt for hues inspired by the natural world—soft greens reminiscent of moss-covered stones, warm browns echoing the earth, and muted blues evoking the sky during twilight.

Select a terrazzo mix that includes natural materials, such as crushed stones, shells, or even recycled aggregates. Opt for earthy tones inspired by nature, like muted greens, browns, and soft grays.

The inclusion of these natural elements aligns with the Wabi-Sabi emphasis on simplicity and connection to the environment.

These earthy tones create a tranquil atmosphere within your living spaces, promoting a sense of calm and serenity.

The subtle variations in color mirror the impermanence celebrated by Wabi Sabi, allowing your interior design to embody the beauty found in the ever-changing cycles of life.

By deliberately incorporating these natural materials, rich textures, and earthy tones, you not only infuse your interior design with Wabi Sabi principles but also cultivate a living space that is deeply connected to the authenticity and beauty of the natural world.

Wabi-Sabi Terrazzo
Image credit: Pinterest

8. Rich Textures for Tactile Wabi Sabi Appeal

In the realm of Wabi Sabi, the tactile experience is paramount. Integrate rich textures into your interior design to create a sensory journey through the space.

Imagine plush, handwoven rugs underfoot, linen or cotton throws casually draped over sofas, and textured wall coverings that invite touch.

These elements not only add visual interest but also evoke a sense of warmth and comfort.

The imperfections and irregularities in textures align with the Wabi Sabi principle of finding beauty in the imperfect, offering a tactile appeal that resonates with the essence of the natural world.

Image credit: Pinterest

9. Cultivate Indoor Greenery

Invite the outdoors by incorporating indoor plants. Not only do they add a touch of life and vitality to your space, but they also symbolize growth, impermanence, and the ever-changing beauty of nature.

10. Embrace Natural Light and Shadow

Harness the power of natural light and shadow to create poetic moments within your space.

Allow dappled sunlight to filter through sheer curtains, or position a statement piece to cast intriguing shadows. These elements add depth and evoke a sense of calm contemplation.

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11. Handcrafted Items

Include handcrafted items and artisanal pieces in your decor. These unique creations often carry the essence of the maker and contribute to the Wabi-Sabi philosophy.

12. Personal Treasures

Display personal items with sentimental value. These objects tell a story and contribute to the lived-in, authentic feel that is central to Wabi-Sabi aesthetics.

What is the difference between Wabi Sabi and Japandi Style?

While Wabi Sabi and Japandi share some similarities, they are distinct design philosophies with unique characteristics.

Wabi Sabi:

  • Philosophical Roots: Wabi Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic and philosophical concept that embraces imperfection, impermanence, and the beauty of the imperfect and transient nature of life.

  • Imperfection and Simplicity: Wabi Sabi design appreciates imperfections, asymmetry, and simplicity. It values natural materials, earthy colors, and items that show signs of wear and age.

  • Nature-Inspired: Wabi Sabi is closely tied to nature, emphasizing a connection to the natural world. It encourages the use of organic materials and a color palette inspired by nature.
Image credit: Pinterest


  • Clean Lines and Functionality: Japandi design typically features clean lines, a neutral color palette, and a focus on functionality. It seeks to create a harmonious balance between simplicity and comfort.

  • Neutral Palette: Japandi often incorporates a neutral color palette with a mix of light and dark tones. It values uncluttered spaces and emphasizes the importance of creating a cozy, inviting atmosphere.

While both Wabi-Sabi and Japandi embrace simplicity and a connection to nature, Wabi-Sabi is more rooted in the philosophical concept of finding beauty in imperfection and impermanence.

Japandi, on the other hand, is a design style that blends specific elements from Japanese and Scandinavian design without necessarily encompassing the broader philosophical ideals of Wabi-Sabi.

Wabi Sabi influence on interior design today and going forward

Wabi Sabi's influence on interior design today is significant, and it continues to shape the way people approach creating living spaces.

As we look to the future, Wabi Sabi is likely to continue influencing interior design by encouraging a mindful and intentional approach to creating living spaces.

Its emphasis on simplicity, imperfection, and a connection to nature aligns with a growing desire for authenticity and well-being in our homes.

As sustainability and a sense of mindfulness gain importance, the principles of Wabi Sabi are poised to play a key role in shaping the aesthetics of interior design.

Image credit: livingindesign.com


As interior designers, we have the privilege of transforming living spaces into havens that evoke emotions and reflect our clients' personalities.

Embracing Wabi-Sabi design principles offers a unique opportunity to create more than just aesthetically pleasing environments.

It allows us to embrace the imperfect, find beauty in impermanence, and foster a sense of peace and tranquility within our homes.

By incorporating the 11 ways we've explored together, you can infuse your designs with the transformative power of Wabi-Sabi and create spaces that breathe, evolve, and inspire.

Embrace the beauty of imperfection. Embrace Wabi-Sabi.

Remember, Wabi-Sabi is about finding beauty in simplicity, imperfection, and the passage of time.

It's a personal and evolving aesthetic, so feel free to adapt these principles to suit your own tastes and preferences.

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