A new design movement: Wabi-Sabi

When recently hunting through a book store sale bin, (I buy books based on authors I love, cool jacket covers and if they are over an inch thick) I discovered and interesting looking mystery novel. I picked up the first book and then for some unknown reason also picked up the second, same book. When I opened the cover of the second book I saw that it had been personally signed by the author and suddenly this book became like a treasure find for me, instantly more valuable. It was unique and special within a pile of repetitive sameness and I immediately snapped it up before anyone else discovered my find.

There is a design movement afloat called Wabi-Sabi that I have recently discovered. It is an interesting departure from the desired perfection my clients are often seeking. Wabi-Sabi enthusiasts or Wabibitos search for humble imperfection in the products and design chackas they lovingly buy for their homes. Their goal is to find beauty in the imperfect, to seek out natural products that bear the age stripes and imperfections that tell the story of its life on earth.

It is when you find these items that something inside you says ‘go for it’, you quickly snap up your new treasure as you instinctively know that you will not find another like it. Perfect and smoothly manufactured is repeatable and predictable and probably in every fourth home in your neighbourhood. Imperfect is perfect in its own way, never to be repeated and truly yours.

Do you have a granite countertop with a fossil in the stone? Fantastic! A vase or set of coffee cups that bears the artists signature etched deep into the clay then you have a story. I have a decorative clay tile that an artisan in Medicine Hat made me as a gift after I had displayed her work in a show home. This little 4×6 tile is a beautiful coppery hue with leaves etched on it under a beautiful polished glaze. The back bears her signature but more importantly it bears her fingerprints, the place where she obviously held the underside of the tile while applying finishing touches to the top. She must have had stain on her fingers because there are perfectly formed stained fingerprints on the clay. This product is a valued addition to my home décor but it also bears a story, I have seen her studio and I can envision her working in beautiful morning sunlight while she creates her vision. Not just a tile bought in a store, but a part of a story that is treasured.

The easiest finds for these perfectly imperfect items are usually natural products such as wood, glass and clay. You can incorporate a treasured piece of reclaimed wood on a fireplace or a rock you found on a hike in the mountains as a corner stone on your exterior amongst the perfectly coordinated stack stone. Your home is your legacy and your story; does it tell it for you with its unique or its whimsy? Have you sought out the unusual and the imperfect and given it a place of honour in your home? Remember, perfection is repeatable but imperfect and unique cannot be found again.

Kim Lewis is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre. Contact her at 403-343-7711 ext 227 or email her at klewis@carpetcolourcentre.com.