"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wabi Sabi

In yet another case of I'm still thinking while someone else is actually doing, I had been pondering a post about the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi which means to find perfection in imperfection which has been my mantra ever since a friend who lived in Japan for four years gave me a book about it. Of course just as I was mulling over whether to take my own photos to illustrate the post or just go on line and find someone else's I came across this Design Sponge post which explains and has the perfect (no pun intended) photos of what Wabi Sabi means. I found another post explaining Wabi Sabi more as a philosophy of living rather than just one of decorating. I love the idea that, "Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It's a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It's a richly mellow beauty that's striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time - Katherine Hepburn versus Marilyn Monroe." I always wanted to be Katherine Hepburn, elegant in trousers and a simple white man's shirt while my next door neighbour styled herself after Marilyn Monroe.

In my life I have evolved from a teenage girl who wanted nothing more than a room that "matched" to become someone who embraces the bits and pieces my Other Half and I have collected over the 22 years we have been creating home together. But I certainly didn't appreciate this growing up in a 150 year old farmhouse decorated with antique pine furniture and my mother's own unique style. In short - nothing matched. When I was 13 I went to school in the city and met a girl who became a life long friend and spent most of my time at her house which, of course, matched. Her mother had a wonderful style, formal yet comfortable. She used bright colours and had fabrics on the couches which had names like chintz and toile. Their kitchen was white and in my eyes, modern. Ours was dark and country. While my parents collected unknown (at the time) Inuit sculpture and native art, my friend's mother adorned her walls with up-and-coming and even famous artists.

In hindsight, of course, I can now appreciate what my parents created at our farm - a warm and inviting place with wonderful pieces of furniture scarred and battered with use by my brother, sister and I as well as many families before us. I have many of those pieces in my house now and they all have a story to tell. My own decorating philosophy, such as it is, begins with, " Is something useful and does it belong?" Meaning, not that it matches but because it looks at home. Of course all of this lofty discussion takes place in my head and isn't always easily translated to my home because of either time or money and I certainly have made some mistakes since I "decorated" our first apartment 22 years ago. We have gone from city to country, apartment to semi-detached house to bungalow to building a timber frame house in the country back to city and now Cape Cod-style in a small town. The first couch we bought was a high backed, over-stuffed, chintz-covered monster that hasn't fit anywhere after we sold the timber frame house. It will finally be liberated from our storage locker and moved to the office of our new workshop which has knotty pine walls and appropriately enough used to be the home of a timber frame builder.

We are currently in the process of transforming the basement playroom into a "Boy Cave" for our sons, namely the eldest who when asked why he wasn't inviting his friends over much replied, "because downstairs is a dump." At first I wanted to scream, "Well then why don't you guys clean up more often?" but then I saw his point. When we moved from the city the boys were 5, 7 and 9 and it was full of toys that now lie forgotten for the most part and the room centres around the TV and video games. So we bit the bullet and bought a giant sectional couch, fake leather that is easily wiped off and the cushions which are permanently attached so that mac & cheese can't be hidden under them. Now all five of us can sit comfortably and watch a movie together and the boys can have friends over and not be embarrassed. We have also moved their rooms around and I have given them free rein in their decor. So has any of my own personal aesthetic rubbed off on them? I'll let you decide.

Number One Son's Room (still under renovation)

Number Three Son's Room

Number Two Son's Room

P.S. I have no idea why the typeface decided to change, I guess maybe that's just another example of Wabi Sabi.

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