Wabi-Sabi Design: What Is Wabi-Sabi? | NONAGON.style
Design 101: What Is the Japanese Art of Wabi-Sabi?

Design 101: What Is the Japanese Art of Wabi-Sabi?

Perfectly imperfect

Written by –
NONAGON.style Team
on March 16th 2019
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If the relentless pursuit of perfection is wearing you down, listen up because we have just the design trend for you. Embodying authenticity and natural imperfection, wabi-sabi is Japan’s answer to Scandi hygge – and it’s currently trending. Keep reading to find out exactly what wabi-sabi design is, alongside our top tips for recreating the look at home.

Wabi-Sabi Design: Rustic open-plan loft design by Chan and Eayrs | NONAGON.style
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What Is Wabi-Sabi Design?

Though wabi-sabi has only recently emerged as an interior design trend, the philosophy itself has roots in ancient Japanese culture. Broken down, ‘wabi’ refers to a sense of understated rustic elegance, or natural simplicity. Meanwhile ‘sabi’ is an ode to imperfection, or seeing beauty in the flaws that come with age. Together, wabi-sabi is about seeking out authenticity, and finding joy in the way things are instead of the way they should be.

Get the Wabi-Sabi Look at Home

Embrace Imperfection

One of the best manifestations of wabi-sabi is the art of kintsugi. Here, cracked pottery and vessels are mended with gold or silver resin in an effort to beautify their damage. Rather than trying to hide or replace these pieces, kintsugi celebrates their age, fragility and history.

Wabi-Sabi Design: Rustic kinfolk dining room with raw plaster walls and vintage fireplace | NONAGON.style
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In design terms, this translates to embracing imperfection! Consider artisinal furnishings and craftwork accessories over their mass produced counterparts. Handmade pieces may have tiny flaws and blemishes, but this all adds to their charm and character.

Look To Nature

What is more perfectly imperfect than all things nature? A key facet of wabi-sabi involves natural simplicity. Nature serves as a reminder to find beauty in imperfection. Overall, its raw textures and forms reflect a passage of age and time, in keeping with the core of the wabi-sabi philosophy.

Wabi-Sabi Design: Natural wabi-sabi bedroom with rock wall and natural textures designed by Sergey Makhno | NONAGON.style
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Earthy hues and organic materials are key to getting this look on lock. Color-wise, look to soft greens, blues, taupes and grays to create a sense of calm and serenity. Meanwhile, bamboo, rattan and other wood textures help to align a space with nature, bringing a taste of the outside in.

Mix and Match

When it comes to wabi-sabi, everything you bring into your home should be a reflection of something you love. Don’t settle for a piece just because it matches your prevailing style. Decor choices should come from the heart, with the purpose of bringing you joy.

Wabi-Sabi Design: Rustic kinfolk kitchen with raw gray plaster walls and open shelves with mismatched ceramics | NONAGON.style
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In this sense, the wabi-sabi philosophy promotes freedom in design. It’s okay to select decor based on what you’re personally drawn to as opposed to whether it ascribes to a certain style. Wabi-sabi is all about the quirks, so don’t be afraid to mix and match. Conversely, wabi-sabi discourages adding items into your home just for the sake of having them. In other words, clear out the clutter!


In keeping with the idea of ’embracing imperfection’, wabi-sabi preaches a sustainable approach to home decor. In the first place, choose items which are built to last, even if this means spending that little bit extra. When a piece naturally reaches the end of its life cycle, flex your creativity in an effort to ensure they remain useful in the home.

Wabi-Sabi Design: Kinfolk corner with rustic bench and plant detail | NONAGON.style
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Be it an aged leather sofa or distressed floor boards, work them into your aesthetic instead of finding newer replacements. A cracked bowl, for instance, is the perfect opportunity for a little DIY. Or how about re-purposing that wobbly stool into a makeshift book stand?

Do you prefer wabi-sabi design or Scandi hygge?


For more on wabi-sabi, check out Chan + Eayrs’ New Cross Lofts, designed with wabi-sabi in mind.


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