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Whether you’re a design aficionado or have a more casual interest, you’ve probably heard of wabi-sabi and its popularity as a design trend. All about finding beauty in imperfection and simplicity, this Japanese aesthetic celebrates the natural traces of time, offering a more authentic and soulful approach to creating interiors.

Wabi-sabi originated in about the 15th century. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, it emerged as a reaction against the opulence and extravagance of the traditional tea ceremony, as prominent tea masters and artists sought a return to simplicity, humility and a more austere aesthetic. Over the centuries, the concept evolved and seeped into various aspects of Japanese culture, influencing art, design and architecture.

As Japanese culture was exported abroad in the latter half of the 20th century, wabi-sabi began to inspire various creative disciplines and to resonate with people seeking a deeper connection to nature and a more mindful way of living.

In design, the philosophy translates into celebrating the passage of time and the traces it leaves on the surfaces and objects with which we surround ourselves. It’s about embracing the natural beauty of materials, highlighting their inherent qualities and flaws rather than masking them with artificial finishes. This means prioritising raw, unprocessed materials and textures that showcase unique imperfections, knots and grains, like rough-hewn wood, unfinished stone and handcrafted, hand-painted ceramics.

A great way to create this lived-in aspect is to incorporate furniture and decor pieces that display visible signs of age. When you’re investing in new pieces, that means picking simple, high-quality items crafted in natural materials, which will age gracefully and often acquire a natural patina or wear over time.

To reinforce this sense of authenticity, think of completing your space with a few handcrafted or artisanal pieces with fluid, organic forms and visible traces of their making process, like The Oasis Ceramic Vase from André Fu Living or The Conran Shop’s New Tradition Stripe Vase.

Image courtesy of Stellar Works

When it comes to the general curation of your space, keep in mind that less is more. The idea is to focus on essential, quality pieces that each have a purpose and bring you a sense of joy. Applying wabi-sabi to your space is about allowing it to naturally evolve with time as it’s used and lived in, so avoid any sort of unnecessary ornamentation or clutter, and don’t be afraid of mismatching — remember, the essence of the philosophy is to treasure imperfection and to let go of control and order.

In terms of colour palette, opt for muted, earthy hues, such as soft neutrals, warm greys and greens that will evoke a sense of tranquillity and harmony. To add some dimension and texture to your space, layer in natural fabrics in soothing, natural tones, such as the Once Milano Linen Blanket or the Artisan Brush Pillow from André Fu Living. And most importantly, take the time to enjoy your calming space.