Wabi-sabi: the stress-free design style we need
In our tech-driven world, finding ways to build a little calm and serenity in our daily lives has become a top priority. This need for peace and space (even if it's just mental space) is making its way into interior design, where people are embracing the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi.
Today we explore wabi-sabi interiors, with colour palette suggestions, lovely upholstery fabric and textural recommendations, and a full '8 step plan' to apply this style to any interior.
But first: the most important question: what does the phrase actually mean?
What does 'wabi-sabi' mean?
Wabi-sabi values finding beauty in the everyday, and in the natural changes that occur over time. It's about finding joy in the imperfect, and in the signs of the passage of time.
The words wabi and sabi (much like the Danish hygge or even gezelligheid in Dutch) don’t directly translate into English.
- "Wabi" = a fresh, rustic simplicity, and peace, either in the natural world around us or in objects we make or own.
- "Sabi" = the gracefulness of age, when an object we own, for example, gains a patina, visible wear, or even noticeable repairs.
The writer Richard Powell described wabi-sabi as joyfully nurturing authenticity by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
How do these ideas translate into interior design?
Colour palettes of wabi-sabi room designs
In terms of colour, wabi-sabi design favours muted, earthy tones like sage green, rusty orange, and stone gray. The overall effect is a calming, neutral palette that helps to create an anchored atmosphere.
The use of a sparse, natural colour scheme like this can effortlessly evoke a sense of beauty because it's just so simple.
It’s interesting to see a reflection of wabi-sabi colourways in the work of Belgian designers such as Axel Vervoordt, Vincent Van Duysen, and Pieter Vanrenterghem. Their work sets desaturated colours front and centre, paired with earthy colour schemes and unfinished woods.
In fact, Axel Vervoordt published a book 2011 entitled Wabi Inspirations, showing readers how to create “calm, peaceful spaces in which beauty is distilled to its purest form.” Read more about this here: What you need to know about Belgian style interior design.
Using upholstery textures to achieve the lived-in feel of wabi-sabi interiors
It helps if you imagine these interiors as the suede and sheepskin slippers you bought from an older artisan twenty years ago and still wear today even though they’re worn and maybe you’ve needed to patch them up a little. Yes, they're much loved, but their inherent, reassuring quality as a hand-crafted product shines through.
How can you bring this feeling into an interior? The answer lies in the sense of touch.
One of the key principles of wabi-sabi design is the use of textural materials, such as wood, stone, and textiles. The idea is to create a connection to the natural world through textures that are unfinished and unrefined, such as raw wood and stone.
Not only that, but the more textures you add, the more interesting a room can become, as the different elements interact and contrast with one another.
"Wabi-sabi design is a celebration of natural and imperfect beauty. Fabrics and fibres that are perfect for wabi-sabi interiors are those that incorporate natural textures and elements such as bouclé, or those with linen, cotton, and wool characteristics." - The FibreGuard textile design team.
8 key ingredients for a perfectly imperfect wabi-sabi interior
Remember that wabi-sabi as an ethos is about creating a space that celebrates the beauty in the simple and the unrefined.
What does this look like in reality? Here are 8 ideas!
See them more like guidelines rather than rules. We hope they will open up a world of possibility for you, whatever your interior spaces look like.
- Floors and ceilings: let them be their true selves. Let rough woods stay un-sanded, leave those unfinished concrete ceilings alone
- Decorative accessories: look for matte effects, and objects that are lovely to hold. Opt for items that are handmade and rustic, and look for materials that are not overly polished or shiny. Choose pieces with interesting textures, like wood, jute, and stone
- Organic shapes and ceramics: yes please! Charmingly irregular organic shapes reign supreme in wabi-sabi design, so don't feel you need everything to be perfect
- A feeling of light and air. Create a sense of spaciousness in your space through the use of light materials or the use of negative space, such as open windows and empty walls
- Upholstery and decorative textiles. Combine textiles of natural compositions and blends with the look of linen, cotton, and wool. Layer weaves and textures in neutral earthy tones mixing boucle and chunky yarns with a handwoven structure for tactility and depth
- From woven fabrics to woven structures. Draw the eye to the subtle brilliance of woven structures through asymmetrical, organic pieces – or even woven furniture pieces such as rattan chairs and poufs
- Sofa slipcovers are suddenly ...nice? Surprisingly. Loose-cover upholstery reflects a nonchalant ease, while proving highly practical when it comes to washability and care
- The colours of wabi-sabi rooms are the colours of the earth. When it comes to colour, embrace the natural hues of nature. Revel in muted tones, such as earthy greens, greys, and browns.
You'll know FibreGuard fabrics when you feel them
Our performance fabrics embody the simplicity of design and nature of wabi-sabi, while also being durable and easy to maintain. This is because we've designed them to withstand the rigors of daily life while still looking great.
It doesn't matter what texture or colour, FibreGuard fabrics are easily cleaned with water - no chemicals required. Yes, even stone white bouclé or an earthy velvet!
Our dedication to a simpler way of living and consuming doesn't stop at the look and feel of our furnishing fabrics. It goes down into the very fibres of our fabrics, and our company.
As a fabric brand, we take our environmental impact to heart and are proactively working towards a lasting and meaningful positive impact on the planet with products certified under ISO 14001, GRS or OCS. Learn more.
Ready to transform your interior into a wabi-sabi haven? Contact us today to find your closest FibreGuard reseller.