Thought this was an…

Thought this was an interesting post on wabi sabi (with some gorgeous photos), the Japanese aesthetic principle that celebrates the beauty in transience.

I've been sort of bewildered by how difficult it's been to persuade contractors that we really do want our things to weather, to patinate. Just tung oil on the wood floors, please -- no sealers. Yes, we're really planning on zinc counters, and we understand that spots will show; we're looking forward to it, in fact. Natural slate for our mudroom floor, that will chip and flake over time. All of those will just get more beautiful with every passing day.

I guess what surprises me about their resistance is that surely, they've encountered this before? This isn't a new idea. The beauty of antiques, the reason people buy pre-scraped floors for twice the cost (not me, since it feels a bit like cheating), the city lofts with their exposed brick walls. If you buy a copper weathervane, you can get it pre-patinated. So if this aesthetic is so obviously prevalent, why do the contractors spend so much energy fighting me on this?

All I can think is that it's more of a high-end or specialty preference in America? Maybe most people want their things to look new, for as long as possible. I thought it was really interesting, in the article, where they contrasted the modern aesthetic with the wabi-sabi one:

Modernism: public; logical, rational; absolute; prototypical; modular; progressive; control of nature; technology; adaptation to machines; symmetrical; rectangular; man-made; slick, polished, smooth; maintenance; reduction/subjugation of the senses; clarity; functionality, utility; materiality; all-weather; light, bright; cool

Wabi-sabi: private; intuitive; relative; idiosyncratic; variable; cyclical; harmony with nature; nature; adaptation to nature; organic; curved; natural; crude, rough, tactile; degradability; expansion of senses; ambiguity; naturalness; non-materiality; seasonal; dark, dim; warm

I do like light, but even there, I have a certain fondness for dark and dim. My contractors keep telling me I don't have enough light in various rooms, and I keep telling that that old Victorians were supposed to be a bit dim. Let it be light-filled in the day time, when the sun is pouring in -- I'll take my big windows then. But in the evenings, let me curl up in a cozy nook by the fire and read my book by the light of a table lamp. I don't need the house a-blazing after the sun goes down. It's probably even healthier for me to let my body rest and relax with the dimming of the light.

And for the rest of the list, I'm happy to mix in a bit of mechanical, smooth, and polished, but I'd prefer if the natural and tactile prevailed. I can appreciate the clean prettiness of a modern home, but I wouldn't want to live in one. Where would I put down my mug of tea? (I don't even like coasters -- I prefer a table that can handle a little condensation.)

What do you prefer? Modern? Wabi-sabi? Something else?

3 thoughts on “Thought this was an…”

  1. I think they’re just used to a certain set of preferences. I dislike sealed wood floors. If you’re going to seal the floor, why not just get a plastic, laminate product like Pergo? I like a living wood floor. The floors in my 1924 house were finished with varnish, and that is what I intend to use on the woodwork when we get done stripping it.

  2. I definitely like light, no question (every place I’ve lived has had WINDOWS), but I definitely like a house that feels lived in, has patina and character.

    I can’t seem to find a plumber who understands that I want faucets that fit with the feel of the bathroom, not some ugly modern fixtures….

    I’m definitely a mix of styles, though, I call it Eclectic Chic, as its Shabby Chic with an edge and actual color. I have a bunch of different things I like, but everything goes together. I’ve found that if I like it, it fits…but I definitely like an ‘older’ lived-in look.

  3. I’m not sure of my preferences — we just live in hand-me-down world with discount-store bookcases — but I couldn’t resist posting a comment to ask if you’re familiar with the children’s picture book “Wabi Sabi”. I bet you’d enjoy it. (I’m not affiliated with author or publisher in any way — I just love picture books, in spite of not having children of my own. I have great fun picking out books for all the nieces and nephews!)

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