Minimalism and WabiSabi in Interior Design

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Author: Interior Design Durham

Going against the mainstream idea that having more things is equal to living better, a new idea of living with the minimal appeared inspired by the minimalist movement. According to this idea people should live only with the things that has a deep meaning to them. There isn’t a maximum number of things that someone should have to be considered a minimalist, but the main idea is that “less is more” and a fulfilling life is a life where you a surrounded by things and people that has meaning to you

One way of thinking about the minimalist in interior design is going to Japanese design and understanding the aesthetics of WabiSabi. WabiSabi is an aesthetic movement develop under the idea of the beauty of the impermanent and imperfect. This movement were expressed in a lot of different arts, like paint, calligraphy and ceramics, but to our ideas of minimalist interior design, the most important expressions were the works of Sen no Rikyu (1522 – 1591) in the Japanese Tea Ceremony or Chanoyu.


  1. The Japanese Tea Room

We usually think about the Japanese tea room as something that always were simple and full of deep meaning. However, it wasn’t always like this. The Japanese Tea Ceremony was a luxurious practice that was performed to show how someone has expensive possessions and a great culture of the nearby world.

Sen no Rikyu, with his aesthetic balance and preference towards the simple, changed the focus of the tea ceremony to communion between peoples in a place that is beautiful because of its simplicity and imperfection. He focused on imperfect and asymmetrical utensils that would be considered defective by others. For him, these things made in modest materials for the time (bamboo, clay and wood) could receive the marks of time and usage, making them bear more meaning than just their form and material alone. According to Sen no Rikyu, these utensils can make us perceive the imperfect nature of our life and the beauty of a world that is always in motion.

  1. The Properties of a WabiSabi Design

To help us think about how we can transport the ideas of Sen no Rikyu to our modern home, Andrew Juniper, in his book “WabiSabi: The Japanese Art of Imperfection”[1], tell us about some of the design principles of a minimalist WabiSabi approach.

According to his ideas, a WabiSabi interior design should start focusing on simplicity, no embellishment or ostentation, and on free space, were nothing should surplus the required for a single room. Because “it is often necessary to get rid of all excess in order to give sufficient space to just one expression”[2]. Having simple and spacious rooms, one should work in keep these rooms sober and concentrate in fill part of the free space with objects and furniture that are made of organic materials, that can show the passage of time and get more meaning according to its age, has some irregularities and has a natural uneven texture.

Using these design principles, you should be able to design an interior that is minimal in quantity of things but has a deeper meaning for the ones that live in these spaces. The Japanese WabiSabi aesthetics toward the natural and imperfect may not resonate with you. However, their simplicity and sobriety can help anyone how wish to live a simpler life to design places that focus on what is important for them.

[1] JUNIPER, Andrew. 2003.WabiSabi: The Japanese Art of Imperfection. USA; Japan: Tuttle Publishing.

[2]Ibid, p. 116.




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