WTF is Wabi-Sabi?

Have you ever thrown away a cup with a chip in it, or a plate that has broken into pieces? Can’t use it anymore. Well, maybe that does not have to be the case –are you familiar with the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi?

The idea is that imperfection is something to be admired rather than being hidden away. The philosophy originates from the Zen Buddhist teachings of the three marks of existence: impermanence; suffering; and absence of self-nature. Translations of Wabi and Sabi have evolved over the years: with Wabi meaning, remote from society to rustic simplicity. While Sabi originally meant chilled or withered, to then mean beauty that comes with age. Now, Wabi-Sabi simply means “flawed beauty”.

Not commonly known, but people can adhere to the principles of Wabi-Sabi in their day-to-day life:

  •  Uketamo: the art of acceptance. It can be hard to let things go, but Uketamo teaches that regardless of what has happened, you must accept it – stressing will not help.
  •  Continuing the focus on acceptance, we should stop trying to achieve perfection. This can lead to stress and negativity; instead focus your efforts on achieving excellence. Knowing that you have done your best can be more rewarding.
  • There is nothing wrong with flaws – they make us unique, and that uniqueness is beautiful.
  • Slow down! Always rushing means that we a more likely to miss something. Slowing the pace means that we can observe more and appreciate more in our time.
  • Ware tada taru wo shiru”: these words can be found inscribed on a 17th century tsukubai (water basin), in a temple in Kyoto – translating as “I only know contentment”. To be content, is to be grateful – you are grateful for you are, where you are and what you have.


Wabi-Sabi is more commonly associated with pottery. Kintsugi, is the art of golden joinery, repairing broken pottery and creating a different look to what existed before. Although there is no exact date to when Kintsugi originated – it can be traced as far back as the 15th century. It is believed that a Shogun sent a unique bowl to China to be repaired, however, the finished result was clumsy, and the shogun was displeased. In their effort to make things right, local craftsmen worked on the repaired bowl to create a look that is familiar with the kintsugi that we recognise today. Traditionally, the lacquer used for the repair is gold in colour, but silver or platinum colours can be used too. Rather than discarding the object, the repairs create one-of-a-kind looks. It gives the object a story. Kintsugi ties into the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi with focus being on the beauty of imperfection. Now kintsugi kits can be bought anywhere, for those who want to try this at home. Or, if you are not keen on attempting a repair yourself, you can buy objects that have already been subject to Kintsugi.


Now that you have adopted a Wabi-Sabi mindset, you can now incorporate this into your home. This is not Kintsugi pottery everywhere, but using adapting the principles of Wabi-Sabi  into Interior design:

  • Look for HOMEMADE or ARTISAN items – embrace authenticity.
  • CELEBRATE IMPERFECTIONS – With homemade items especially, objects may be crooked, or paintwork flawed. These give pieces a one-of-a kind look – appreciate the imperfection.
  • USE NATURAL MATERIALS – wood and stone are particularly good for Wabi-Sabi décor. The natural roughness and patterns in the materials, accentuate uniqueness, while tying in with imperfection theme.
  • PLANTS! – Bring the outdoors in. Wabi-Sabi celebrates nature, so this is good news if you’ re green-fingered. However, if you have not been successful with plants, then look at succulents: unique and hardy!
  • MISMATCH – do not worry about the décor in your home not matching. If you love it – show it off!
  • DE-CLUTTER – Wabi-Sabi is about simplicity. This is not minimalism, but by ensuring that your space is not crammed full of stuff, you can keep your living area and your mind tranquil.