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Embrace wabi sabi at home

From the Resene decorating blog

Relax, let it go, what will be will be. It sounds like a nice philosophy to live by. It’s one the Japanese have embraced for centuries and it’s known as wabi sabi.

You can still embrace colour while adopting wabi sabi principles

You can adopt some of the principles of wabi sabi and still embrace colour. This headboard of hand-painted stripes, wood grains and naturally-finished furniture keeps this bedroom relaxed and casual.

The stripes are painted in Resene Big Bang against a background of Resene Calico. The wall is Resene Half Gull Grey with the floor in Resene Colorwood Natural. The desk is Resene Colonial White, the lampshade is Resene Guggenheim and the rattan chair is Resene Gold Dust metallic. Lamp, burgundy pillows and diamond cushion from Freedom, gold cushion from Citta, lamp from IKEA, chair from Cintesi, euros from Father Rabbit, duvet and bedspread from Adairs, polka dot pillowcase from Castle & Co, striped throw cushion from Shut the Front Door, yellow throw from Farmers, artwork by Innulux. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

It’s a philosophy that’s all about appreciating the beauty in imperfections and accepting that we live in a world full of them.

When we talk about wabi sabi in terms of our interiors we’re talking about taking a relaxed, easy-going approach that keeps things simple and uncluttered without veering into austere minimalism.

Celebrate and enhance the patina on aged surfaces, try colours or patterns that don’t quite match and lean into unfinished edges, raw materials and handmade products.

Hero textures

Wabi sabi nicely reflects our increasing desire to step away from digitisation and rigid organisation. One way that is increasingly being reflected in our interiors is with imperfect or weathered finishes in our interiors.

Brushstroke finishes are particularly popular right now and can be easily achieved with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium, to give an appealing Impressionist finish to your walls.

Try a subtle neutral base colour like ivory Resene Quarter Titania then add brushstrokes in Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with flax-toned Resene Organic. Add another darker, brushstroke layer in Resene Paddock. The result is a textured and tonal layered effect that emphasises the hand-painted nature of the wall.

Using Resene FX Paint Effects Medium will make your brushstrokes more visible and more textured.

For a casual lime washed concrete look reminiscent of handmade mudbrick buildings, try walls in Resene Tea, with a patchy topcoat in Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Half Tea.

Other Resene products will give you different types of imperfect, tactile finishes that work well with wabi sabi. Resene FX Faux Rust, Resene FX Crackle and Resene Sandtex Mediterranean effect all add textured, aged finishes to painted surfaces.

Top tip:  Try Resene testpots on a large piece of card to experiment with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium colour combinations before committing to the whole wall. You can then use that card as a reference guide when you recreate your design on the wall.

Washed finishes

Wood grains and finishes that show off the texture and imperfections of wood surfaces are a natural fit for a wabi sabi approach to design, inspired by a relaxed coastal lifestyle. Try Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy or Resene Colorwood Whitewash for a bleached, worn finish or emphasise the natural golden tones of timber with Resene Colorwood Bask or Resene Colorwood Oregon.

Our tendency is to keep these wood finishes to floors, skirting or the arms and legs or furniture pieces but you can really embrace the relaxed vibe they add to a room by cladding walls in sheets of washed ply. Go for a darker stain such as Resene Colorwood Jarrah on ply wall panels, with battens in the same shade to cover the joins. Finish wooden floorboards in Resene Colorwood Rock Salt and you have a beautiful relaxed canvas on which to build your wabi sabi-inspired space, with upcycled furniture or a weathered leather chair and a woven wool throw.

A sitting room with a weathered concrete effect

Creating a sense of worn style and character with the weathered concrete effect of Resene Wallpaper Collection 429640.

Team it with wooden floorboards finished in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash and furnishings in dark Resene Invincible for a relaxed, lived-in finish.

A calming whimsical bedroom

A wall of ethereal brushstrokes lends calming whimsy to a bedroom.

The wall is painted in Resene Wax Flower with brushstroke effect in Resene Cab Sav and Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Scotch Mist. The floor is painted in Resene Cab Sav and the vases are Resene Wax Flower and Resene Scotch Mist. Table from Good Form, bedding from Foxtrot Home, cushions from Mulberi. Project by Amber Armitage, image by Flash Studios.

The colour palette

The untouched or unfussy nature of wabi sabi lends itself to colours that connect with nature and biophilic design. Think earthy greens like Resene Paddock, stormy greys such as Resene Half Gull Grey, spiced browns like Resene Cumin and yellow-toned beiges such as Resene Triple Spanish White often paired with wood finishes. Elevate the look with painted touches of copper or brass, like Resene Bullion from the Resene FX Metallic paint range.

Layers of different earthy colours work well in a wabi sabi-inspired space, but look for shades that aren’t necessarily obvious matches, so the finished room doesn’t end up too matchy-matchy.

Find a hero colour you like, say Resene Gondwana. Instead of pairing it with Resene Envy or Resene Edgewater which appear on the same Resene palette card. Look further along the spectrum to slightly greyer greens like Resene Thor or to bluer toned greens like Resene Bingo.

When it comes to neutrals, these earthy shades work very well with warm cream or bone neutrals like Resene Villa White or Resene Blanc. Alternatively, try a dark charcoal neutral like Resene Woodsmoke with the natural olive tones of Resene Go Ben and ivory Resene Ying Yang.

A soothing sitting area with hand painted murals

Organic shapes, textured walls and hand drawn murals combine for a fresh, soothing sitting area. The rear wall is painted in Resene Half Caraway with a topcoat in Resene Half Nomad mixed with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium. The trees are painted in Resene Craigieburn, the floor is Resene French Grey and the larger round table is Resene Pearl Bush with vases in, from left, Resene Half Breathless, Resene Pearl Bush and Resene Barely There. The small table is Resene Half Caraway with vase in Resene Pearl Bush. The arch on the right wall and the large urn are Resene Half Caraway against a background of Resene Half Breathless. Rug from The Ivy House. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Wabi sabi – but make it colourful

Though the philosophy of wabi sabi is deeply rooted in biophilic design principles, you can still work with it while using a more vibrant palette.

Try hand-painted features like stripes, organic shapes or murals in bold shades like violet Resene Smitten or turquoise Resene Optimist for that artisanal style that still offers plenty of jewel-coloured impact.

You could also keep to the spirit of a biophilic palette with greens, browns, muted yellows and creams, but go for bolder colour-saturated options like Resene Seaweed, Resene Allspice, Resene Salted Caramel, and Resene Athena. Balance them with washed or stained wood finishes.

Express your wabi sabi influence in other ways with throws and cushions in linens and wool with frayed or unfinished edges and look for textured or aged finishes in furnishings and fittings as well as painted surfaces. Add plants to enhance the connection with nature within your colourful relaxed spaces.

The wabi sabi philosophy can free you up to play with a range of different textures and express your personality in your interiors without worrying about perfection.

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Athena

Resene Bask

Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash

Resene Allspice

Resene Salted Caramel

Resene Invincible

October 21, 2022

For help choosing colours and products to suit your projects, visit your local Resene ColorShop, ask a Resene Colour Expert online or book a Resene Colour Consultation.

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