TRENDS REPORT: Welcome news. Mass production and perfection is officially OUT, flawed beauty is IN.
At the 2018 Decor + Design show, prescient UK Trend Forecaster Victoria Redshaw predicted that over the next few years, the Japanese concept of ‘Wabi-sabi’ will have a massive impact on the interior design world.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that is grounded in the acceptance of what is, and of transience and imperfection. It developed in the 15th Century as a reaction to the overly ornamental decorations of the time.
Rooted in Buddhist teachings, characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, modesty and an appreciation of nature.
It is reflected in the art of kintsugi, which is a beautiful artistic practice which repairs breakages with precious materials. Instead of being discarded, it takes a broken piece and shapes it into something more beautiful and valuable.
Why is it so important right now?
Breakage is part of life, something that happens to all of us. Instead of it meaning the end of something, wabi-sabi teaches us that everything can be repaired and appreciated.
It is a philosophy which connects us to nature and recognises our innate wildness. We’re not factory-made or filtered like an Instagram feed. The aesthetic also draws on mindfulness and resilience. It dwells on simplicity but lacks the highly-curated feel of minimalism.
While it can be luxurious, the luxury of wabi-sabi design is centred around a celebration of the cracks that appear in life’s journey.
At its heart, this concept is about handcrafted, conscious consumption. Our society has begun to wake up and recognise the damage we have done to this planet with the greedy mass production and thoughtless consumption of the 20th Century.
More and more consumers are moving away from materials which are difficult to recycle or are disposable. It’s an awareness which is reflected in Collins Dictionary choosing “single-use” as the word of the year, highlighting the increasing global concern with environmental issues.
Change is not just in the wind. Change is now.
No More Empty Vessels
Wabi-sabi celebrates the creation of products that are meant to be cherished forever and passed to the next generation. A kintsugi bowl is not an empty vessel. It’s functional art, carrying with it the stories, hopes and dreams of its owners.
It incorporates clever craftwork, with exquisite mending techniques that are taught by masters of the art. The philosophy has a purity to it, a mindfulness that is echoed in the process.
The colour palette of these pieces is quite often delicate, with mercurial silver, warm naturals, pale and honeyed gold, subtle metallic, clay and ash grey.
However, it can also be rough-hewn and organic. Wabi-Sabi is the driving force behind the Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban – or surface charred wood. This carefully burnt wood has an unpolished, wild quality to it which gives the home a rough, organic feel.
Once again, it connects our insides to the outside world.
Expect the wabi-sabi aesthetic to continue to filter into interiors in interesting ways. Think leather that has been purposefully cracked, or luxurious carpets which have been made from offcuts stitched together. It is soft terracotta colours, organic designs and shapes, and natural textures like linen.
Simply put, all you need to do to apply this philosophy is to look for the beauty in the imperfect and the impermanent, not just in design but in your relationships and daily life. For what are the objects that we use except a reflection of our inner states?
As Japanese scholar Andrew Juniper notes: “If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.”
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