THE COLUMN - THE WABI WAY
For all the all the impenetrable essays on this ancient Japanese philosophy (even devotee Axel Vervoordt counsels to ‘feel with your eyes’), Wabi-Sabi has a simple precept: the appreciation of beauty in imperfection and everydayness and the authenticity that time and use leave behind.
A considered, mindful, humble approach to life
Derived from the ancient art of the Japanese tea ceremony, where people from all walks of life sat together for the spiritual practice of drinking tea in humble surroundings, Wabi-Sabi is a considered, mindful, humble approach to life.
In design, Wabi-Sabi is similar to Lagom as we have featured on The Column, in that it requires the elimination of everything that is inessential, ‘cluttery’ and meaninglessly decorative. “Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry”, says Leonard Korens in his book Wabi-Sabi For Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.
Affectation, overpowering features, rich furnishings and bright colours have no place in a Wabi-Sabi interior. Instead, there’s a refined simplicity, where shadows are allowed to linger, and materials are understated, noble, organic and evoke a sense of purity. There is a great sense of ‘as-it-is-ness’ in the way a Wabi-Sabi space evolves.
SUBTLE BALANCE creating tension and atmosphere
Form, colour and pattern exist in a subtle balance, with a few pieces of considered, and at first glance, disparate, art and furniture bringing visual interest and adding textual quality, as well as tension and atmosphere. For example, an Axel Vervoordt room may well have a seventeenth century screen, next to a european abstract expressionist canvas, next to an asian vase.
To Vervoordt, art is key in a Wabi-Sabi interior as it is inter-reactionary, it provokes a visceral response, as do the ceramics and pots he also includes. His skill - a Wabi-Sabi one - is to take an object out of context and view it in a new light. Sparse interiors allow for this focus on the composition of objects.
ROOMS CONTAIN BOTH LIGHT AND DARK
Colour comes from natural pigment, with surfaces and textures in their primal state, enhanced over the years by the expressive patina of time. If a colour is contrived it is seen as decorative and soulless, lacking the warmth, character and humility of the timeworn.
Light is played with to create contrasts which bring an energy and vibrancy to a space. Rooms contain both light and dark, ones filled with light have dark corners, flickering candlelight adds rhythm.
As Vervoordt explains, no home should be a museum: “We need to live with objects, touch them, use them everyday. Nothing should be valued so highly that you are unable to touch it.”