The last two blogs have looked at the growing interest in vintage style which integrates older furnishings into modern life. In an earlier blog I wrote about David Shah’s prediction of the growth of DIY design and a new frugality with consumers.
Certainly we are seeing this reflected in the new books arriving in the Arts department. The pendulum has swung in the direction toward the hand-crafted and authentic, away from the shiny new and slick.
Japan has a design aesthetic called wabi sabi that reveres the natural beauty of imperfection that comes with age and weathering. “It is an expression of the beauty that lies in the brief transition between the coming and going of life, both the joy and melancholy that make up our lot as humans”. (Wabi sabi: the Japanese art of impermanence, p.1)
Robyn Griggs Lawrence updates an earlier work with Simply Imperfect: revisiting the wabi-sabi house. For her the philosophy is about embracing a simpler and more authentic lifestyle and the eliminating the baggage and clutter that is part and parcel of consumerism.
The book is a quick read on the philosophy applied to home design. It is illustrated with sepia-toned photos of home vignettes; both text and pictures are surrounded by plenty of white space and peppered with pithy quotes.
Occasionally, she gets wabi-sabi silly with her lists (the wabi-sabi cleaning cupboard – give me a break). Still, her summary “uncluttering made easy” offers simple and thorough advice on the topic.
“In modern terms, achieving the sabi style of living entails eliminating everything that is not essential,” says author Boyé Lafayette De Mente in Elements of Japanese Style. (p. 32) This book offers greater depth on the philosophy underlying Japanese design. De Mente provides insight into the way that certain ideas, like the poverty principle, were handy devices for social control.
Check out the Wabi House in Dwell’s September issue. Japan Style and “Japan’s highly considered aesthetic” (p17 editor’s note) are the themes of the issue. Dwell is available in 5 branches where back issues can be borrowed.