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Book Review: Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence

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If you appreciate well-worn objects for their simplicity, you’ve got the idea of wabi-sabi. Wabi comes from harmony, simplicity, and being in tune with nature. Sabi means “the bloom of time.” We’ve become a generation of stuff, and the principles of wabi-sabi are the antidote; a chance to return to a calmer life.

In Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor of Natural Home magazine, speaks of a photo shoot planned for a beautiful home. Upon arrival, though, the crew couldn’t maneuver through the office and studio in the home. In the course of staging the rooms for photos, they removed most of the furniture and clutter, allowing the owner to see how beautiful the room really was. The book also cites statistics noting that most of us live with 25 percent more furniture than we need, and that we use only about 20 percent of our possessions. The rest is simply clutter.

In a wabi-sabi home, space and light are the most desirable ornaments. The serenity of a wabi-sabi environment is calming, leaving us to appreciate imperfections in an beautiful old table or a cracked vase.

Examples of the subtle charm of wabi-sabi include natural light instead of fluorescent, weathered wood instead of plastic laminate, wildflowers instead of roses, and recycled glass instead of crystal.

The author shares first-person experiences, practical strategies, and clearly understands the pressures and constraints in our lives. She celebrates home with scars, bearing no resemblance to interior design magazine photos, which she says make her neurotic.

Her relaxed approach to the wabi-sabi philosophy celebrates imperfection and becomes a way of seeing and appreciating the “sabi” in life; that is, the impermanence of time.

The foundation of wabi-sabi comes from the seven ruling principles of Zen: asymmetry, simplicity, austerity, naturalness, subtle profundity, freedom from worldly attachments, and silence. It is rooted in Buddhism and its influences are visible in western designs in Frank Lloyd Wright homes, and furnishing styles by Stickley and William Morris

Simply Imperfect can teach you how to be a non-consumer, and to follow your wabi heart, appreciating the simplicity and calmness of a life swept free of our old wabi-slobby ways, and into the spirit of wabi-sabi.

 

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About Helen Gallagher

  • Robyn Lawrence

    Helen, thank you for this wonderful review and for sharing the word about wabi-sabi! You’ve done such a great job of capturing the wabi-sabi spirit. Many blessings!