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A Decorating Trend for a Peaceful Life: Wabi-Sabi

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Photo caption: Soft, serene tones are common elements in wabi-sabi style. Image courtesy Sherwin-Williams.

Have you heard of wabi-sabi? No, not wasabi, the Japanese condiment that turns your mouth on fire: Wabi-sabi is the exact opposite of wasabi. Instead of fiery and hot, it’s all about being tranquil and serene. The ancient philosophy promotes living life in moderation for a person’s betterment, accepting imperfections, and being true to you. Its tenets can be applied to many areas of life, including home decorating. Take a deep, calming breath and learn how to incorporate wabi-sabi in your décor.

1. Connect every room to nature.

It’s pretty simple: You could do it in a big way, like using an aged wood table with visible knots in the dining room, or go with something more subtle, such as cotton throws in the living room, herbs in pots on a kitchen windowsill or linens stored in baskets made of natural fiber like wicker or bamboo.

2. Avoid clutter.

For Kala Ramesh, a writer and teacher in India, decluttering is a way of life. “I believe in 'creating' space more than 'utilizing' space,” she says, “which hopefully should help us to declutter our minds.” Ramesh’s furniture is stripped down to just what’s necessary. “I believe in [using] my rooms as breathing and dreaming spaces,” she says. “There is absolutely nothing which is not used in my daily living. My home is not a museum for me to collect curios from the countries I visit and have them in showcases!”

3. Use peaceful, muted colors.

Forget violet or lime green walls – wabi-sabi encourages tranquil tones that soothe. “Light earthy colors are essential to the serene concept of wabi-sabi,” says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing for paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams. “It’s all about embracing your intuition and finding joy in simplicity and imperfection.” To achieve wabi-sabi on your walls, Wadden suggests using a combination of complimentary natural tones such as white beach sand, soft stone, and moss.

4. Keep things simple.

When it’s mealtime, Ramesh uses stainless steel plates. “They last for generations,” she says. “I don’t even have any fancy tableware!” Another example in a streamlined home: Instead of a half dozen throw pillows on your bed, display one or two.

5. Love that chipped dish.

Wabi-sabi is also about finding beauty in imperfect things. Rather than run to the store to buy a replacement for something like a chipped dinner plate, accept the dish’s flaw and keep using it. A chip doesn’t render it useless. A handmade item, such as a pottery vase or a wood bookcase, also represents wabi-sabi because, since they’re not mass-produced, they may have small flaws but that’s what makes them special.

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