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Ceramics in Interior Design: The Secret of Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi as a part of the interior design niche has been gaining popularity in recent years. It’s often connected and combined with minimalism and Nordic ceramics. But the style has been out there for centuries. Its meaning and influence are much deeper than you may think.

Lifestyles and interior design styles are often intertwined. This is also the case in the concept of Wabi Sabi. First of all, it represents a way of living and world perception. Secondly, ceramics, as well as other kinds of art used in interior design and made in this style depict this philosophy greatly,

The main topic of this article is to explain and appreciate the meaning or the secret of this style. You’ll find much more in a cup or vase with imperfect forms and corners the next time you see one.

What Is Wabi Sabi Style?

The question is easy to ask, but the answers are plenty. A mere type of interior design? No. Only a Buddhist philosophy? No. Only represented in Japanese culture? No. Only plain ceramics? No.

Wabi Sabi is a philosophy of “wisdom in a natural simplicity”. It’s about finding aesthetic pleasure from looking at imperfect things. It’s about meditating on objects that have been used for a long time and have chips, cracks, and other details that other cultures may underestimate or deem faults.

A simple, natural, imperfect ceramic vase is a nice representation of the style, worldview, and philosophy of wabi sabi. You can also get a better idea of the style by contemplating the following:

  1. Imperfections as factors that add quality;

  2. Aging signs as a quality;

  3. Seeing marks from the creation process as the natural art itself.

When you see a small crack that time or creating process has given to a wabi sabi element, it’s not a drawback. It’s a precious sign of the wear and use the object has sustained. An imperfection of shape on a teacup, which makes it not round but a bent oval of sorts is an advantage.

The deeper you get, the more this philosophy represents the true meaning of all things – uniqueness in their differences.

If you think about it this way, humankind has a lot to learn from this style, that is if we’re striving towards a more ethical, inclusive world. Our differences due to life experience or background shouldn’t be considered flaws, but unique features.


Wabi Sabi cup

The Origin of Wabi Sabi

Most people think that the style originated in Japan. The name agrees with this opinion, but history does not. In fact, the philosophy takes roots in the Chinese Buddhist tradition. It represents the three marks of existence:

  1. Impermanence;

  2. Suffering;

  3. Emptiness.

Don’t perceive these as dark marks. Wabi Sabi is all about modesty, intimacy, simplicity, and natural looks.

The Meaning of the Name

The name consists of two words:

  1. Wabi. The natural, simple state of an object. This doesn’t mean perfectly polished with even coloring. Instead, it’s rough, with signs of being made by hand. In ceramics that means it’s mis- or discoloration, cracks, texture, simple shape that doesn’t have to be ideal. Absolutely natural, just like our bare skin with pores, wrinkles, and pigmentation.

  2. Sabi. The life of the object, the signs of its history, wear, and use. This attribute is represented in worn sides and edges, chips, cracks, etc. Sabi means the thing is not permanent. Durable but not to last forever. Appreciating transitory time, realizing and accepting it are some of the philosophical sides of sabi.

As you can see, it’s much more than minimalism. It has a historical and philosophical twist to it. It may seem quite dark at first, when you realize that the life of every object and person will eventually end. But as you accept life as it is, lots of fears will dissipate.

Use Wabi Sabi ceramics in interior design if you want a therapeutic effect in addition to the aesthetic one.

The Love Between Wabi Sabi and Nordic Style Ceramics: Japandi

Being 7,000 km away from each other, the two countries have styles that have fallen in love with each other to form Japandi – a combination of ‘Japanese’ and ‘Scandinavian’.

It takes its origin in Nordic ceramics and wabi sabi. At first, it’s difficult to imagine how these two nations with their own established business-card style ceramics and interior design patterns have merged to create Nordic wabi sabi.

Here are some of the highlights of this style in ceramics:

  1. The idea of space decluttering. With a hint of Zen design, such objects are simple and to the point, usually done in easy, familiar shapes.

  2. Getting rid of unnecessary colors. Mono-colored ceramics without vivid ornaments are both a part of the minimalistic and Wabi Sabi cultures. There are no decorations, only what nature has given to the object.

  3. Minimum decor. Everything is done for convenience. There are no perky decorations that distract you. This may sound boring to some people, but being in such a space sparks productivity and helps to enter a relaxed, meditative state.

Every element is filled with relaxation and acceptance.

Applying Wabi Sabi and/or Japandi Into Your Interior Design

Here are some things and features that will make a room a part of the Wabi Sabi and Nordic wabi sabi cultures:

  1. Natural light. Natural lighting warms the room and highlights all its elements in their normal state. Cold lighting may be a good decision for a classic minimalistic room, but not wabi sabi or Nordic styles. For the evening lights, you can choose hanging spotlights that will be the closest to the illumination of the day.

  2. Neutral colors. Use white, sand, olive, grey colors, choose ceramics within the same palette. If you want more vividness to the style, consider pastel hues that are the closest to what you can find in nature.

  3. Ceramic tableware, vases, etc. Even one piece of handmade ceramics will shift the atmosphere in the room.

  4. Natural materials. There’s close to zero plastic in a Wabi Sabi room. Wood is used a lot, as well as ceramic minimalistic decor. Even appliances can add to the atmosphere. Choose neutral colors and simple forms.

  5. Bare walls. This element will suit people who want to be immersed in the style completely. Wabi Sabi means no artificial additions. So, walls with a simple base, where the connections between the plates or bricks are visible, are a great choice. However, some people may find it unwelcoming in terms of living space.

  6. Texture. When choosing floor, wall, ceiling coverage, and design elements, go for a natural texture. Highlight imperfections of every cover, instead of hiding them or painting them over.

When needed, you can derive inspiration from modern Swedish hotels. They combine classic Scandinavian minimalism and Wabi Sabi amazingly. Vases, tableware, candlesticks, etc. should be ceramic or wooden. These two materials fit into the design the most.

Additional Wabi Sabi Representations within Art

Ceramics are not the only representation of the philosophy of Wabi Sabi. Here are some other examples. Some of them will look great beside your home interior ceramics to complete the minimalistic and natural atmosphere:

  1. Ikebana. The Japanese floral art highlights the importance of the natural look of every flower.

  2. Kintsugi. The art of emphasizing the wear and repairs of pottery is a perfect depiction of the Wabi Sabi style.

  3. Bonsai. The art of creating miniature versions of trees. The pieces used for every bonsai are natural: rough bark, hollows in trunks, etc. They are often exhibited after the leaves have fallen to appreciate the change and every imperfect, bent branch.

Of course, the style is popular worldwide, so the Western world has largely used Wabi Sabi as a foundation for their arts, including:

  1. Pottery;

  2. Interior design ceramics;

  3. Movies;

  4. Poems;

  5. Paintings;

  6. Agile programming.

The style has made its way from traditional pottery to programming. This makes Wabi Sabi a universal culture with an important meaning. You can include it in every section of your life, starting from the space you live in, finishing with your car, clothes, and the movies you watch.

The Final Words

Wabi Sabi in art is a philosophy highlighting the beauty and importance of imperfections. Signs of use, timely changes, shape ‘errors’, cracks are signs that the object was created by hand and opens a whole new world of diversity and the natural state of all beings.

Choosing this style for your interior design, especially in a combination with Nordic ceramics, will change not only the way your house looks, but how you feel when you are in the room as well. The state is more meditative, contemplating, and wholesome. There’s no want for something ideal, only the state which shows the life of the object before it entered your place..

It’s also about minimalism, which is not only one of the most long-lasting interior design trends, but also a very liberating one for the people who live in such spaces. So, the next time you see a ceramic object that isn’t perfect in shape or texture, look at it for a longer time, see its experience and realize its uniqueness and naturalness.

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