Wabi Sabi Interior Design: 9 Steps To A Calming Home [Guide]

Updated: Nov 23


Living room at evening adoring Wabi sabi interior design
By Dima Shalak

Rousing jolted is a recurrent practice for most of us in the world of insecurities and fast-forwardness. Gone are the days when the first thing in our morning was to adore the sunlight and thanksgiving to God for a beautiful day. I still remember how my dad used to surprise my mom by waking her up with beautiful lilies, and those flowers were always part of my room for the rest of the day. The next day when I used to woke up, the first thing my mind assured was whether my lilies withered. I always tried my best to keep them fresh forever, but it never happened. And as I used to bring my faded lilies to my mom with my sad chubby face, she used to replace those with new ones with the same lesson every day. It was pretty simple. Let me spill it to you too. She used to say that just like these lilies, your life has precious minutes and hours. Over time, you must do your best without getting caught up in the past and worrying about the future. The new lilies are a symbol of opportunities that your life will provide you, so cherish them. Today, I find it very useful as it is contoured in my mind tightly, so whenever a hardship follows my way, I extract energy from these soulful words. You might conjecture why we are talking about life lessons. It is because that's what the Wabi Sabi style teaches us. Based on Zen philosophy, it provides you with the solution to every problem. Lilies, in my case, were the source of attention. We are blending elements here so that you enjoy life while diving in the ocean of Wabi sabi interior design. Before we do a makeover of our home in the style, let me tell you a few basics so that you choose things wisely.


What Is Wabi Sabi Interior Design?


When someone asks about the meaning of Wabi-Sabi, I can't deny that both the words Wabi and Sabi evolved in all these times, putting together different senses every time.


Essentially, you can take Wabi as a word applied to a life, which is simple, non-materialistic, humble and appreciative. If I am referring to you as a Wabi person, it means I saw the qualities of happiness in you due to your self-definition instead of material wealth. Similarly, the decor of Wabi will transcend the need for maximalism and go with a representation of your self-identity.


Wabi sabi interior element with an antique wooden bench and rustic flower pot with a branch
By Marie Masureel

Now, can you guess what Sabi integrates? It is a simple yet complex imagery of the passage of a hard time and the appearance of something which shows age, imparting something through life.


When infused together, wabi sabi interior design simply means a state of living where the passage of time leads. You can also think of it as a departure towards materialism from which time passes through a simple living.

In earlier times, its only purpose was to create an ideal space for meditation. You might have heard about Zen philosophy. Wabi Sabi was for these Zen practitioners so that when they walk around the garden or enter a tea ceremony, they don't leave behind introspecting themselves. The fusion of gardens-homes and household objects to carry a calmer ambience is the Wabi Sabi style. You are giving your surroundings a perfect gift if you sail the boat of modern living with stress and frustration.



A Brief History Of Wabi-Sabi.


Before we learn and experiment with the wabi sabi interior design, a quick read of its history is crucial. Every time with my articles, I intend to tell you about the past, and the reason is the same. I do it purposely because of the in-depth information you will need so that you can make out the best of it. I will not take much time in this section so let me quickly start.

Wabi Sabi evolved slowly with the principles of Buddhism, which began in 563 BC in India. After Gautam Buddha enlightened himself to differentiate between reality and delusions of the humans of the endless sufferings, Buddhism dominated. However, Wabi Sabi was not even a thought then. It was only after the Japanese tea ceremony this process had some aftermaths. You need to understand that Wabi Sabi was never about an interior decor style as it had no clear beginning and was just a part of the process of developing an environment for meditation. Maybe this is the reason, why it has no stricter rules.


Why Switch To Wabi Sabi Design?


A wabi sabi style dining area with a woman standing near glass sliding door
By Alena Valyavko

Learning through the section will teach you how you use less materialisation to form the best wabi sabi interiors. But, hey, don't you think we are still missing something? We left a crucial questionnaire to help you know whether you have to change your home decor. Instead of boring conventional impositions of my thoughts on you, let's find the purpose through quick questions and answers.

  1. Do you often get blown by gossip and trends or fashion, which makes you unsatisfied later on for not having all of them?

  2. Do you often deteriorate your mood from what is going on around you, and despite limitless efforts, you end up with unsatisfied happiness?

  3. Do you have a cluttered mind full of thoughts? Despite your best efforts, do you end up burdening yourself with harsh thoughts even after deciding to not think?

  4. Do you often bulldoze yourself with your ongoing situations? For example, in achieving a result, you forgot to be gentle with yourselves.

  5. Are your relationships badly affected by the stress and frustration you carry?

If you have more than 1 Yes to the response to the above question, you are at the right place.

As I told you earlier, wabi sabi interior design brings calmness and peace in your surroundings and teach you a step forward to introspect yourself better, so hold yourself till I am here. And by the way, these questions are the answer to the section title.



9 Steps To Getting A Wabi Sabi Style House.


1. Choose The Right Colours For Ambiguity.


Creating the best suitable atmosphere for all purposes starts with the colour palette. The last time I redecorated my space, the first thing I did was choose colours carefully. Using colours doesn't only include painting walls but much more than usual. To decide, you have to ask yourself a question. What kind of emotions do you want your home to display and target? For example, bold colours are more stimulating than muted ones. And the neutral colour shades are for smaller and darker spaces.


You have to keep in your mind that Wabi Sabi interiors do not follow specific colour combinations, which means you can choose your own identity through it. But there is a quick tip, whether you choose pink or tranquil blue, use Matt finishes instead of high gloss ones. The reason behind the choice is Matt surfaces create a natural emphasis on austereness.



Also, try to use natural dyes and organic paints, which can help the environment and your lungs to breathe suitably.


One more quick tip is to use brick walls barely and reduce dust by sealing the plaster with it. Alternatively, you can also use bare wood, which has a light and soft feeling, creating a relaxed atmosphere around you. Now that you decided on painting walls, introduce colour into your home through a few inexpensive items.


Try to bring naturalness to your room through fresh flowers, plain shaded cushions, translucent colours and warm shaded tablecloths. They will add colours and vibrancy to your soon to be wabi sabi style house.


2. Wabi Sabi Textures Are Down-To-Earth Representations.


Wabi Sabi interior design accentuate simplicity by celebrating nature without reforming it. You might have hundreds of questions here but don't worry, I will answer each one. The Wabi Sabi concept focuses on giving your home and garden a makeover in a way that acknowledges nature's purest forms. An underdone surface looks better than a finished, shiny, polished surface in the elementary Wabi-sabi language.


There are several ways which can help you to include texture into your decors. Do it yourself instead of spending hundreds of dollars on expensive woodworking items and shiny appearances.



Let me give you a brief on how to do it. Instead of Walmart furniture, use bare wood or try to strip back the old furniture into its natural form. Try to do it as a minimum to make it a functional beauty. How? For example, if you have an old cupboard, try to bring it in raw form and then keep it exposed outdoors. The natural rotting of the wood will create a better surface and an acceptable form of nature within your interiors. In the case of dining tables and doors, you can use natural wax or oil so that you can clean them easily. The concept is simple, do as a minimum to accept the pronounced gift!


You can use natural handmade paper, be it in form of artwork, screens or blocks of colours pinned to a wall. Alternatively, you can use natural stone tiles to create a rough appearance. Try getting the porous and matt with surface blemishes of the weathered and aged stones to get the best out of it. Furthermore, you can choose a mosaic, creating a varied texture on a floor or wall. When plumping for these, opt for muted colours to draw attention to these mosaics. Other options to create a finish are using bare wood frames for your pictures, wicker baskets, iron pots and bamboo placemats.


3. Play With The Shapes From Your Previous Geometry Books.


It is the most creative section of the whole wabi sabi interior design, as you have to take inspiration from nature for beautiful shapes. The circular sun, needle-shaped ferns, and even the anatomical structure of the human body contain them! Try to recognise the best form from nature and recreate them in your home. For example, I love the tiny beautiful butterfly wings!



Everyone has a protruding corner in their home, so you have to cover them artistically. Soften these corners with a hanging plant, beads necklace or fabric-textured sheets. You can use various modes to shield them through shapes. It will relax you, trust me!


Go for round or oval windows, mirrors and coffee tables. See, the usual rectangular-shaped ones are ordinary and don't create a lasting impact! Try to go for unusual shapes in even customary corners of your room.


4. Winning Fabrics Is Not Child's Play.


To create a peaceful atmosphere around you, you should use fabrics with powerful and wise colours depending on the mood you want for your room. For your home to feel comfortable, fabrics are an essential component of soft furnishings. In addition to using them functionally in form of carpets, curtains, mattings, and beddings, they can create a powerful impact through artistic use like wall hangings, screens and tapestries.


For example, in the bedroom, you can use regular weave neutral colour hangings, screens and even near your candle holders. Similarly, you can use shiny silks and satins in your living room for a sparkling and happening atmosphere.


In order to figure out the best fabric, you have to experiment and sense different moods of them. In case you are still confused about how to use them, I will tell you a few tips.



You can try using a natural dye and soft-fibered flooring through them. Place them on a solid wood or stone floor and see the magic.


You can also use window hangings and divergent drapery styles on curtains or natural blinds. Furthermore, you can use woven fabrics for your upholsteries and chairs.


Do not burden yourself. All you have to do is find the naked places where your eyes hardly go and cover them with fabrics through your creative mind.



5. Remodel Your Furniture Into Wabi Sabi Style.


Furniture is the trickiest part though it looks simple to pick for interiors. Now, the Wabi Sabi interior design has the most elementary furniture, which provokes necessity over materialism. Think of it, you own a circular coffee aged table with scratches and easy looking. But, listen, don't let people fool you. It doesn't mean that you spend tonnes of dollars in buying vintage or pennies in buying something damaged. Wabi Sabi implements you to live simply without reforming nature, which means the aged wood tells you the maturity. You have to make things in a coarse-grainy surface finish. Try to find the original pieces from woodworkers or antique shops.



Let me help you on selecting furniture quickly. It is not necessarily true that you buy something old for Wabi Sabi interior design. You can purchase new ones and personalise them. To create a compelling surface, paint it with a diluted natural dye and let it bare to attract stains and watermarks. The crucial thing is that you have to buy intuitively instead of recklessly shopping. You can invest in large floor cushions, bean bags, low sofas, hassocks and wooden chairs for a modern Wabi Sabi style house.


One quick tip is sealing bare wood with linseed oil making it look adorable and perfect with a natural feel.


6. Photographs Are The Aboriginal Memories Of Happy Days.


Photographs are the boxes of happiness with those beautiful moments. Looking at them makes us alive again and creates a snuggly comfort. The way you view things tells your evolution journey and shapes your character as circumstances change. Those pictures in your DSLR, memory cards and mobile phones do not have to live there. Taking them out will enable you to see the brightest aspect, even in the harshest situations.


One quick tip is to create a timeline of yourself and your family, remembering the best part. Reinforce the hefty photos that you wish to display and see repeatedly. You can pin them to a large piece of wood or frame them. It is just a matter of finding a quiet moment, picking out the pictures, and pinning them on a rough wooden board.



7. Living Happily With Your Accessories And Plants.


Accessories are those items which reflect your life and personal thoughts. You don't have to bring those things which are utter nonsense and attracted towards materialism. Here in wabi sabi design, your accessories must have a purpose, or you can keep those items which can retain your emotional state well.


You can keep old books, and magazines, you are interested in and displays your personality. Earthern pots are also a good point of attention. You can also choose among paintings.



Furthermore, you can create a beautiful look through plants. But there is a tip in the Wabi Sabi style for picking plants. You have to look for unusual flowers, plants and trees which will hold your attention. You may even choose among those who are easiest to maintain. Keeping this fact alive, I think even roses bring my attention for lasting periods! Try to farm a few herbs and even teas for creating homemade items.


8. Build Your Own Creative Corner.


In the creative process, expression cannot happen overnight, but persistence and consistency will bring it to fruition. Supporting yourself requires bringing the language of expression into your home. And so there must be a place where you can find it easy to paint, sculpt, make things, arrange flowers, record sounds, and carve. With a focussed mind and soulful atmosphere, you can easily find your creative passion.



Don't be afraid of criticism for your persistent efforts. Ask yourself, what do you need for doing your hobby?


Include all those things and arrange them systematically, and your creative corner is ready!



9. Illuminate Your Home With Positive-Interior Lights.


The best lighting you can provide your home is natural light, as it is a mood uplifter and health manager. Make sure you let as much of it into windows. You can remove the window coverings or dark curtains for adding illumination in your dark corridors. A lot of people choose lights opposite to the functionality of the room. For example, if you need calm and tranquil surroundings, use warm lights or traditional incandescent bulbs to create a cosy atmosphere. If you need energetic and flexible light sources, go for the freestanding lamps. Pay attention to the mood of each space. If you are using candles, the orange hues of light will bring the energy of living flames into a snuggly environment.



Now, when you are going for ceiling lights, use a single light bulb with a metal shade to promote simplicity and clarity. Choose table lamps, which have simple shapes, are made of recycled materials and have natural fibre shade. You can also go for a real fireplace or candles. A quick tip for wabi sabi interior design is to use light on the floor, perhaps in the corner to create a cave-like effect, giving you a sense of security.


Final Words.


Reaching this far to make you understand Wabi-Sabi was not possible without your persistent concentration and efforts. I really appreciate your valuable time in reading this article till now. All I have to say in concluding this is if you are going for Wabi Sabi interior design, remember that choose things that say aloud, less is more!


Frequently Asked Questions.


What is wabi-sabi interior design?

Based on the zen philosophy, wabi-sabi interior design uses minimalism and earthy elements for simple living. The objective is to depart from maximalism and live without stress and frustration.


Who invented wabi-sabi?

Originally, wabi-sabi appeared in Taoism during China’s Song dynasty (960-1279), following which it passed to Zen Buddhism. However, wabi-sabi interiors evolved from Wabi-cha, a tea ceremony style established by tea masters Murata Juko and Sen no Rikyu from the late 15th to 16th century.


Is wabi-sabi different from Japanese interior design?

Although there are many similarities between wabi-sabi and Japanese interior design, the former uses emptiness and unfinished textures to influence curiosity.

What is the wabi-sabi colour palette?

There is no specific colour palette for wabi-sabi; instead, its goal is to complement your identity. A quick tip that may go well is to use a matt finish independent of the chosen colour.


What type of furniture is used in wabi-sabi interiors?

Furniture that is not materialistic but useful serves the Wabi-sabi interest best. In a nutshell, you can use raw textures with empty characteristics for the purpose. Further, you can develop the look on new furniture instead of buying expensive antiques.

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