Wabi-sabi is sinewy, flecked browns and yellowed greens, the myriad stone and moss shades, a slate-gray cloud’s washed violet underside. Like nature, wabi-sabi paints in multidimensional swatches that are never what they appear to be.
In a wabi-sabi garden, plants are chosen because they belong in that garden and in that climate, and they’re allowed to strut their stuff if they’re considerate of the plants around them. Both plants and guests are encouraged to meander and explore.
While photographing homes from California to Maine, I’ve found much wabi-sabi brilliance. My favorite shots of all time capture the magic of simplicity, the beauty found in age and the good instincts that wabi-sabi encourages.
Salt glaze pottery, primitive colonial furnishings and pewter bring wabi-sabi into your home--while honoring our American traditions.
Wabi-sabi is wildflowers, not roses; weathered wood, not plastic laminate; native landscaping, not Kentucky bluegrass. Pictures tell a thousand words.
Planning a party? Let wabi-sabi’s influence lead to a casual, comfortable gathering.
A flea market basket that called to me, my grandmother's hand-embroidered linens and a quilt made by a circle of women in Minnesota are among the wabi-sabi items that I wouldn't want to be without.
My old wabi-sabi home stood witness to celebration, sorrow, our children’s first words and fumbling first steps, dinners shared at the end of each day. It provided all that a home could and should, and now it's my lesson in non-attachment.
Mother readers weigh in on the wabi-sabi objects that give them joy and solace--from old books to heirloom quilts (and a few surprises). This community of kindred spirits embodies the art of appreciation. Enjoy!
Wabi-sabi is underplayed and understated, a quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon obscured behind a ribbon of cloud.
Learn to let go of associations with price, value, age and prestige and just appreciate beauty without judgment. Nature is the best muse for cultivating wabi-sabi.
In the kitchen, we can cultivate our sense of aesthetics and function. Tools can be beautiful. Food can be art. Cooking can be meditation.
Find out how wabi-sabi, an ancient Japanese philosophy that promotes attention, reverence, generosity and respect, can build the foundation of a happy home.
A San Francisco architect brings wabi-sabi to his work through craftsmanship, employing natural materials to create a holistic environment that’s not cookie-cutter or slick, and eschewing ornamentation for what is needed and meaningful.
Frugality and lack of pretense or compromise are key ingredients in creating a wabi-sabi home.
A quiet life filled with appreciation for simple things is the richest life possible.
Every once in a while we need to rebel against the machines. Hand a towel to your significant other and ask him to dry while you rinse. Sweep the floor with a real broomcorn broom. Have a real conversation. Enjoy things happening slowly.
There can be no greater happiness, the Japanese say, than to live a life that follows the natural order of things.
Wabi-sabi has infused Western design for centuries—though its advocates rarely knew it. It’s in the plain, efficient homes built by the Shakers, the unsentimental Arts and Crafts style, Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses and midcentury furniture.
Natural beauty is priceless. We can take in and appreciate a great view because we don’t have any hope of owning it, and we can’t manipulate it. With our egos out of the way, we can learn to simply observe.
There's only one rule for wabi-style flowers: strive for a natural look, with seasonal blooms and branches arranged as they are in the field. Don't worry about perfection. Your "arrangement" is a humble admission that we can't improve on nature.
In a wabi-sabi house, space and light are the most desirable ornaments. Follow these steps to clear the clutter so they can shine through.
Wabi-sabi is never slobby, but we can allow ourselves to stop trying so hard and just appreciate our warm bed at the end of the day—whether it’s made or not.
If we use high-quality items in our everyday lives, our lives become a sort of training. By using each item with care and careful consideration, the way we live becomes a tradition.
We no longer have to make what we need to get by day by day, but for many the desire lingers—and even surges as a strong cultural movement from time to time. Making and growing things yourself is a gentle rebellion against a mass-produced world.
On Wabi-Sabi Wednesdays, I feature excerpts from my book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, which was released last month.
Wabi-sabi’s roots lie in Zen Buddhism, brought from China to Japan by 12th-century traveling monk Esai, who also picked up a few tea seeds while he was there. Zen, with its principles of “vast emptiness and nothing holy,” stresses austerity, communion with nature, and reverence for everyday life and everyday mind as the path to enlightenment. Zen monks lived ascetic, often isolated, lives and sat for long periods of concentrated meditation. To help his fellow monks stay awake during these sessions, Eisai taught them how to process tea leaves into a hot drink. Tea had arrived in Japan.
Once it left the monk's hands, tea took on a life of its own. Around the 14th century, the ruling classes developed elaborate rituals that took place in large tea rooms built in a gaudy style known as shoin, with imported hanging scrolls and formally arranged tables for vases and incense burners. Tea practitioners proved their wealth and status through their collections of elegant tea utensils and lacquered serving ware during three-day weekends where up to 100 cups of tea--as well as food and sake--were served. All of the day's revered Tea masters pushed the opulent style, to the delight of Chinese merchants and importers.
Zen Buddhism's Seven Ruling Principles are wabi-sabi's foundation. They're also excellent guiding lights for a good home and life.
To give your bedroom a boost, consider new paint suited to your personality. AFM Safecoat's Ayurveda Essence line allows you to choose colors based on your dosha, or personality type, within Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal system.
We are inundated with green messages that can sometimes be confusing or misleading. This phenomenon is especially true when it comes to the paint industry. There is much talk about No-VOC and Low-VOC paints, but what is the truth behind it?
Charles and Ray Eames are modern wabi-sabi heroes who brought fresh, spare furniture, without pretense or stodginess, to the masses. Their home was a wabi-sabi masterpiece.
Not quite ready to get rid of family heirlooms and art that you don’t have space to display? The Japanese practice of rotating precious items through a special alcove, or tokonoma, on a seasonal basis is less painful than giving away or selling them.
Let the ancient Japanese art of wabi-sabi help you purge unwanted items and get organized for the new year.
Flea market shopping takes dedication and agility--and it's a ton of fun if you're well prepared.
The four principles of Tea ceremony—harmony, respect, purity and tranquility—are the means to a good life.
Together, wabi (humility) and sabi (beauty in rust) become more than the sum of their parts--a philosophy that promotes peace, serenity and respite in our homes.
Giving yourself a quiet space for retreat and reflection helps nurture quiet, calm and peace.
In Japan, wabi-sabi can be found in the small moments of beauty and acts of hospitality that pervade the culture.
As we watch the devastation's aftermath in Japan, the world will learn valuable lessons from a culture that reveres service to others, deep acceptance and community.
Strongly influenced by wabi-sabi's principles, the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement railed against "the swinish luxury of the rich," ornamental excess and the poverty of people who lacked creativity.
Today is not a day for selling books. It's a day for prayer and solidarity with the Japanese people.
Your simply imperfect arsenal for getting the whole house clean--naturally.
Wabi-sabi teaches us appreciation for the good energy and soul that handmade items bring to our homes. Etsy, the premiere source for handcrafted home goods, offers an extensive list of items whose sale will benefit Japanese relief efforts.
Meditating has never come naturally to me, probably because of my goal-oriented approach. Wabi-sabi helped me see find peace in simple solitude (and long dog walks) instead.
Alabama Chanin makes sumptuous fabrics from scraps, Mona Hoffman imagines the people she's crafting each lamp for as she makes it, and potter Shiho Kanzaki believes that attitude is everything. These are a few of my favorite wabi-sabi artists.
Over the past 15 years the noise level in cities has increased sixfold; urban noise doubles every eight to ten years. Even in the country, we can't escape the sound of airplanes and engines. What can you do?
Some of Natural Home’s favorite paint and wallcovering companies get pretty in pink.
There seems to be limited testing done by the EPA on the toxicity of some chemicals.
Sen no Rikyu's simple, unpretentious ceremony using rustic, local tools usurped the elaborate, ostentatious Tea ceremonies that were the norm in 16th-century Japan. His "aesthetic of the people" made Tea accessible to all--and endures to this day.
Inspired by back-to-the-landers Scott and Helen Nearing, Kate NaDeau grows her own food and enjoys the simple pleasures of seasonal living in her handbuilt stone cottage in Maine. She is the epitome of good wabi-sabi living.
Colorado residents can now legally catch and store rainwater for landscape irrigation.
Are GMOs good or bad for civilization?
When defining the term homesteading, consider the various options available.
We love our lifestyle and all the hard work that is associated with this lifestyle is just a small part of it.
Viewing elk herds from the comfort of our home.
Peppermint is a wonderful and versatile herb that can be utilized for many everyday ailments.
Building garden boxes that keep critters out.
Putting a safety fence around a woodstove keeps small children and pets safer.
Making New Year's resolutions for a remote homestead.
We use the winter to mitigate our wildfire exposure as opposed to the summer when we are involved with other needed tasks.
We have found that there are down sides to legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Are GMOs good or bad for civilization?
Learn to make Queso Blanco, by far the easiest cheese in my opinion, as the only ingredients are whole milk and white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if you like).
Cabin Fever: noun, ‘Boredom, restlessness, or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation, as from a prolonged stay in a remote, sparsely populated region or a confined indoor area‘.
Living remotely with wild animal encounters and how to come out safely.
The benefits of Kombucha are many. Find out why you should add this healthful probiotic to your life.
Make a delicious homemade bread with this easy tutorial.
A fun, but informative tutorial on making your own unique lap quilt, from the first-hand experience of a novice quilter. A perfect single day project and a great gift idea!
Transforming a tree to lumber and then to a piece of furniture.
Learn the basic skills useful for mountain homesteading.
Is a pressure washer something that would be beneficial on your homestead?
How we prevented birds from flying into our windows.
How we convert standing dead trees to usable lumber.
Should you do it yourself or hire a chimney sweep to clean your chimney?
Make a winter checklist to follow in preparation for winter in the mountains.
We have a large population of hummingbirds in the summer and observing them and their flying antics is amazing.
Whether you're planning a last minute day trip or a multi-week expedition, these five hiking tips are a must for seasoned hikers and newcomers alike.
Using manual control of weeds as opposed to chemical control.
How we repurposed an old leaky wood stove to use outside to cook meals on.
So many paint colors to choose from for Simran Sethi’s home, but one standard must be met: no VOCs or harmful chemicals.
From log to the mill to the project in no time at all.
Homesteading with dogs in remote mountain living. Considerations in providing a good safe homestead environment for your cherished pets.
Selecting a power option for your homestead.
Coping with SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration) in dogs and practical ways to help a blind dog.
A sudden onset of a canine eye disease called SARDS leaves dogs totally blind very suddenly. Bruce McElmurray explains this disrder from a personal perspective.
There is hard work homesteading in the mountains and the weather dictates much of those challenges.
Snow in the mountains is different than snow found at lower elevations.
It takes commitment and determination to live remotely in the mountains.
How having a rhythm and routine assists in accomplishing difficult tasks.
How to flush a small engine and repair a clogged carburetor.
How a single purchase of a magazine in newsprint in 1970 changed my life.
Taking time to reflect on the past brings renewed appreciation to the present.
Other than the four regular seasons there is a fifth season in the mountains called mud season.
How to cope mentally with living in a remote location.
How to report application violations of herbicide abuse.
The spirits industry is changing dramatically. However, owning and knowing how to use a still could be of great benefit to you. Knowing how to make a strong alcohol puts you in an immediate position of power.
In this episode we will cover the 3 major steps in the alcohol distillation process
Learn how to clean your own woodstove and chimney.
The benefits of owning a home wood mill and the economic advantages if you have available timber.
Tarps are lightweight and inexpensive alternatives to conventional backpacking shelters. Consider switching to a tarp for shelter in order to minimize pack weight and maximize your enjoyment in the great outdoors.
Building a closet from lumber milled from standing dead trees.
Selecting a tree, reducing it to logs, milling out the logs into lumber and using that lumber for specific projects.
Grow food year round with no operating costs and no waste by using integrated closed loop production in a heat retaining enclosure.
No homestead is complete without our canine companions.
When we produce locally what we consume locally creates cells of sustainability. The shorter our supply lines the more resilient we become. More importantly, sustainable cells produce a healthier and more beautiful way of life.
Dovetail joints that are hand made are a strong woodworking joint.
The forests in Colorado are dying at a fast rate. Find out what's to blame.
Gardening at a high elevation presents challenges such as harsh sun and a shorter growing season.
Our area is abundant with history. We have a limber pine tree nearby that I estimate is over 2,100 years old and still very much alive. History - we have an abundance of it.
Don’t let this tricky pipe slow down your projects — these CPVC basics will help you ease into those plumbing repairs.
The discovery of an uncommon remedy for blood poisoning in my pantry.
Ed and Bruce compare the weather and its impact on their mountain homesteads at different elevations and mountain ranges.
Two homesteaders from Washington and Colorado comment on their greatest weather fear in the mountains.
Bruce McElmurray and Ed Essex collaborate on how the weather dictates to their mountain homesteading.
Fly season is upon us. Here are some helpful and easy hints to control those buzzing beasts at your homestead this year.
Ed Essex and Bruce McElmurray compare their weather experiences living at 4,200 feet and 9750 feet elevation respectively.
Mountain homesteading in a remote area.
Tips that we have learned gardening at a high elevation.
Though wolves are commonly misunderstood animals, not all of what you hear is true.
Using these techniques you can spend an afternoon building a deep mulch garden and stop tilling and composting for up to 30 years.
Living in the mountains or remotely requires physical endurance as well as being fit.
Typical suburban landscaping is a maintenance expense with no return to the owner and often diminishes the habitat for the living things around us. One alternative is to create a forest island that provides flowers for pollinators and food for people with little to no maintenance cost.
Colorado's once-thriving solar industry has ground to a halt following Xcel Energy's move to slash incentive rebates for homeowners.
Two homesteaders discuss their experience with the weather applicable to their mountain homesteads in Washington and Colorado.
A heart warming story about a feral cat that traveled many miles across harsh terrain to be back to familiar ground.
In a move that could devastate Colorado's thriving solar industry, Xcel Energy slashes incentive program.
This is a fun story about planting seeds for future generations and not recognizing a gift when it is blooming right in your face.
Our declining industrial system has created a series of environmental and social problems and can no longer produce the wealth required to solve them. That means that ordinary citizens must shoulder the burden of changing the way things are done by creating biodiverse systems. Here is a place to start.
Climate change is a sign of the end of the industrial age. If humans are going to survive the end of the industrial age it will be because individuals and groups of neighbors take these matters into their own hands. It cannot happen any other way.
There are multiple philosophies that describe what characterizes a green home, but all have low energy loads in common.
The final in a 6 part series on Ft. Garland, Colorado
How the small town atmosphere can enhance your homesteading and living.
This is a true account of an end of life journey. A beautiful backyard Burial and all the steps that were taken in order to do it. This story is written in two parts, part two will be posted next week.
This is a fun story about planting seeds for future generations and not recognizing a gift when it is blooming right in your face.
After a wildfire destroyed their off-the-grid compound in Colorado, Betty and Rolland rebuilt—better than before—following Rolland’s creed: no plywood, no plastic and nothing that smells bad when it burns. The wildlife around their home approve.