What is Wabi-Sabi? Pictures Tell the Story


Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail 

When attempting to define a concept as amorphous as wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in things that are imperfect, impermanent and rustic, it’s helpful to clarify what it is not—which is why my book includes a list of what wabi-sabi is and isn’t. Today I found some “is” photos to illustrate. Pictures can be so much more powerful than words.


 Wild flowers (not roses) 

wabi is wildflowers  

Wabi-sabi is in wildflowers, non-arranged, not in perfect bouquets from foreign lands. 

 Photo by Joe Coca 

Weathered wood (not plastic laminate) 

 wood door 

Natural materials such as wood weather beautifully. Plastic, not so much.  

Photo by Joe Coca 

Native landscaping (not Kentucky bluegrass) 

 native landscapnig 

This wabi-sabi garden works with nature. Photo by Michael Shopenn 

Adobe (not steel) 

woman with cracked wall 

Architect David Barrett shared this photo of a woman in front of a cracked adobe wall. 

Photo by David Barrett  

Natural light (not fluorescents) 


Sunlight through an ample kitchen window is the ultimate wabi-sabi luxury. 

 Photo by Paul Bardagjy