In 1960, House Beautiful magazine ran two special issues devoted to shibui, the spare, restrained style referred to variously as “the cultivation of the little” or “the cult of the subdued.” Very similar to wabi-sabi, shibui is the ancient Japanese art of not too much, of quiet grace through economy of means. “Discover Shibui: The Word for the Highest Level in Beauty” (August 1960) and “How to Be Shibui with American Things” (September 1960)—two special issues that deciphered this Japanese concept of “severe good taste” and “superb understatement”—sold out immediately.
To help Americans understand shibui, House Beautiful developed this list of shibui things. They could also be considered wabi-sabi.
18th-century captain’s chests
Early American cupboards, blanket chests, and trestle tables/Photo courtesy of Sylehive
Oaxacan black clay jars
Shaker furniture/photo by Matt Jiggins/flickr
Salt-glaze pottery/photo by Mike Pugh/Flickr