Much more than a contemporary design buzzword, Wabi Sabi is an lifestyle philosophy centred around the imperfect beauty of craftsmanship and the incomplete nature of spaces. First appearing in Japan in the 12th century, Wabi Sabi has been popularised globally through designers like Tatsuro Miki and Axel Vervoodt, whose works eclipse time, place or trend with their unfettered, textural aesthetic.
We at est have long been drawn to this concept in interior design – not only because it seems to be the driving design approach in many of our recent favourite spaces worldwide but because it draws from both a respect for the craftsman with an appreciation for the beauty of simple, natural elements in interiors. For curating our own Wabi Sabi style, we’ve drawn on handcrafted features and modest materials, honest pieces made to last.
A fixture of traditional Japanese architecture, handmade lacquer ‘urushi’, made from the sap of the urushi tree, is used as a natural living lacquer for screens, cabinets and as wallpaper, like this contemporary coated wallpaper from Specified Store. Being water resistant it’s perfect for kitchens and bathrooms.
Textured Pendant Lamps
Pendant lamps in natural textiles add to the warm, earthy materiality of this style. Made from a copper plated frame with banana fibre/linen shade, the Soren pendant lamps by Pinch are a fine example, lending a delicate texture to the lighting design.
A Timber Stool
Natural elements and imperfect form go hand in hand in the traditional Japanese stools, like this vintage timber stool from Provider Store (note these are currently sold out). Aesthetically and functionally useful, these are perfect for displaying a few small objects, books or textiles.
A contrast of raw and glazed ceramics is a hallmark of the Wabi Sabi style, found in all manner of tablewares and decorative ornaments. We love the playful shape and natural dipped glaze of this petite ceramic vase for a subtle inclusion.
Raw, deep timbers are the dominant flooring in this style, particularly with an organic form or grainy quality. We recommend Porter’s French Oak floorboards for an elegant soft black stain and smoked base.
While linen may be commonly referenced with rustic European spaces, the emphasis of natural materials and textural harmony in Wabi Sabi makes linen the perfect fabric match. Add touches with napkins, tea towels, and bedlinen, like these 100% linen napkins by Libeco.
Perhaps the first brand to fully celebrate the unique materiality of brass, Futagami is a brass livingware brand founded in Takoaka in 1897. Futagami is now synonymous with delicate brass pieces that are both beautifully decorative and highly functional, like this Butter Knife. Over time, the oxidisation of the brass will age gracefully, making each Futagami creation an enduring piece.
Stoneware With Soul
Ceramics are a standout export from Japan, prized for their detail and craftsmanship. This indigo bowl marries both dynamic material with a rich colour and natural pattern, sure to pair beautifully as part of a mixed collection in true Wabi Sabi style or as a standalone piece.
If you’re going to craft your perfect Japanese retreat then proper green tea must be part of the equation. We love this organic tea blend in a simple canister so much that it became part of the Est Essentials shop (and our daily morning routine). Simply serve in a perfectly imperfect ceramic mug and you’re good to go.