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Goodbye Muji-Style, Hello Wabi-Sabi: How to Do Up this Trending Interior Style

The Muji style, with its minimalism and fuss-free aesthetic, has been a huge staple in Singapore’s interior design scene for a couple of years now. But we are seeing a gradual resurgence of another Japanese aesthetic, wabi-sabi. While this interior style isn’t exactly new—it popped up a couple of years back—wabi-sabi has become more popular in recent months and it looks set to stay in 2021.

What does wabi-sabi (侘寂) mean exactly?

Design: Lemonfridge Studio

Before it became a popular interior design style, wabi-sabi was rooted in Japanese history and culture and is a worldview that centres on the idea of finding beauty in imperfection. It accepts things and nature as it is, rather than seek out perfection.

Design: UNO Interior

In the 15th century, wabi-sabi was a reaction to the lavishness and excessiveness of the aristocrats—and particularly the tea ceremony—in Japanese society at that time. As such, it seeks out simplicity and contends in it.

How does wabi-sabi translate into interior design?

If you are thinking of incorporating this Japanese philosophy into your home, here are a few ways to do so:

Keep things simple

Design: In-Expat

When thinking about your colour palette for instance, choose neutrals or a palette found in nature. Reduce loud colours to accents or use them in muted shades.

Design: Parenthesis

Avoid too many embellishments or unnecessary ornamentation. Go with modest, durable materials and furniture that can stand the test of time and aren’t precious, so you won’t feel the need to tiptoe around or be too careful in your home.

Opt for natural materials that age well

Design: Produce

Wabi-sabi shows an appreciation for the natural process of ageing. Some natural materials age particularly well. Copper acquires a beautiful green patina, the leather shows off creases that tell a story, and woods lighten or darken over the years.

Rather than cover them with protection, consider letting them age gracefully and naturally. Accept the wear and tear because it shows just how much you’ve used and loved the piece. Over time, you get a piece or a part of your home that is completely unique to you.

Embrace imperfection

Design: Fifth Avenue Interior

Our homes aren’t showrooms, so they shouldn’t look like one. You don’t need a symmetrical living room, or a dining table decked out with matching wares and cutlery. Your bedroom also doesn’t need a whole bunch of pillows—where do they all go when you actually need to sleep?

Design: Lux Design

Embrace asymmetry and balance things out with different furnishings for a casual, cosy look. Seek out the rustic, pared-back look and shop for handmade wares that show up tiny flaws. Comfort is similarly important if you are after the wabi-sabi aesthetic. Go with what feels best and works for your lifestyle and the everyday. But avoid clutter—that is never a good look!

Use what you have first

Design: The Local Inn.terior

Wabi-sabi also finds satisfaction in the here and now. Before you head out to the shops to get your hands on the next shiny new thing, look at what you have first. Is there a way to repurpose any piece that you have? Can you turn your grandmother’s old sewing machine into a bathroom vanity? Could you reupholster your old sofa?

Blafink offers services to reupholster your pieces, while Like Lights take your serving wares and old pottery and turn them into personalised, custom-made lights. Consider shopping at secondhand shops like Hock Siong, The Godown and Junkie’s Corner to minimise waste in the world, while scoring a piece of history.

Accumulate things slowly

Design: Free Space Intent

When you get a new home, don’t buy everything at one go. Often, you don’t get to appreciate the space yet so you won’t know what you need and don’t need. It is so easy to fall into excess and then clutter begins.

Accumulate things over time and go with pieces that mean something to you and one that you can use on the everyday. Make a conscious effort to think before buying. Show a genuine appreciation for the things that you do get.

Time to ditch the excess and embrace simplicity this coming year.


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