Wabi Sabi

The term wabi sabi has caught my attention lately. I'm not sure why. I must have seen a book someplace, or maybe noticed the shop in town by the same name -- a beautiful shop, that's so wabi sabi, it doesn't seem to have a website.  I couldn't sleep last night, so used the extra waking hours to do some research. I want to know more about this wabi sabi way of life. It seems I've been heading into it for some time now without even knowing it, paring down our belongings, always ready to leave another cold or useless object behind, and trying to focus on the things that are truly important in life.

As I understand it, wabi sabi is a Japanese expression, referring to the beauty of imperfection, of things well worn and loved and respected, of function and rustic elegance, of simplicity and authenticity, of importance and impermanence. A wabi sabi home is uncluttered, clean, cared for, and all things in it are beautiful or functional, preferably both. Think of a favorite teapot with a tiny chip in it, or a well worn table with scratches and dents, holding a bowl of lemons from the tree outside. Think of the Velveteen Rabbit. Think of things loved into their realness.

We used to grow a fence of sunflowers along the edge of our driveway. We weren't here in time to do that this summer, but somehow, one small sunflower was here to greet us, way over on the patio, near the front door. It's a small, perfect version of the giants we've planted in the past, and it's just come into full bloom in the last day or so. I'm not sure, but I think that one little flower, standing so confidently and alone in the middle of the patio, is in its own way, a bit of wabi sabi.

So is the red screen door on the front of the house. It's been there since we bought the place over 9 years ago, and has gone through many transformations and repairs. It's had new paint, new colors of paint, new screen, then heavier screen, reinforcements, and continual assaults from animals, boot heels, and weather. Over and over again, I reject the idea of replacing it with a perfect, new screen door. I love this door. This door is most definitely wabi sabi.

I think I'm catching on. As I go through the house, making it ready for the Realtors' Tour next Tuesday, I'm trying to add some wabi sabi touches.  Like the boot that holds the front door open. It was a pair of boots, held together with a bolt, and filled with cement, specifically to be used as a door stop. Rick made several of these, and they work really well. In our absence, the boots became a chew toy for a dog, were separated, and one was destroyed beyond usefulness. But this one remains, a bit scuffed, but still beautiful and functional.

The dining table is made from old recycled teak railroad ties. It's heavy and well-used. We don't baby it, but we oil it to keep it from drying out. It was not oiled for over a year while we were away, and the first thing I did when we started cleaning was give it a good rubdown, letting layer after layer of oil soak into the thirsty wood. Now it's happy again, sitting here with its simple runner and hand woven red willow basket.

And perhaps a bit more contrived, because we are staging the house, not living in it, this small table in the kitchen, with the vintage red tablecloth from Rick's step-mom's collection, the pink teapot we bought on our honeymoon in Victoria, BC, and the colorful southwest cookbook.

We've even left the curtains off the windows on the whole front of the house, which is all glass, and faces south. The sunlight is a thing of beauty in itself, and this time of year also serves to light and warm the house in a most wonderful way.

This house is not perfect. It's been lived in, and we think it's worn places give it character. I suppose it may not appeal to someone who's looking for a perfect little bland box to live in. That's OK. This house will find its new owner by being just who it is. And that, I believe, is very wabi sabi.


For more explanation of what wabi sabi is, click to this article.


  1. Oh Kim, these wabi sabi touches appear to be true gifts. Somehow I hadn't looked at it that way before. Thank you - again. Norine

  2. Kim, your house is beautiful. Just the type of place we wanted when we moved here. Your post has encouraged me to add some Wabi Sabi to my home. I love our place, but it was (gasp) new. What it's missing is that good old Wabi Sabi. Thanks.

  3. I have a wabi sabi life: a bit scuffed and rough around the edges, but full of beauty :).

  4. you and I--thinking of wabi sabi at the same time. amazing.

    really well written, Kim! and Yay re BlogHer! xox jean


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