11 Homes That Embrace Wabi-Sabi Design

11 Homes That Embrace Wabi-Sabi Design

By Alia Akkam
These one-of-a-kind abodes value the well worn and the beautifully flawed above homogeneity.

Striving for perfection might be a natural impulse, but the ancient Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi encourages a more liberating perspective. Grounded in Buddhism and revered tea ceremonies incorporating irregularly shaped utensils, wabi-sabi is an appreciation of the imperfect and impermanent.

Translated to a home setting, that means shunning the shiny and the uniform for the weathered and the one-of-a-kind. Skipping another run to the furniture store, say, and placing a scuffed vintage mahogany desk front and center. All of the wabi-sabi-inspired homes below celebrate simplicity and comfort through a modest palette of natural materials poised to age gracefully.

An Architect Builds a Quiet, Wabi-Sabi Weekend Cabin in New York

Located on a wooded property some 80 miles north of Manhattan, the Pond House is a weekend retreat for the founder of Brooklyn-based architecture firm Sundial Studios and his family. Set atop a concrete plinth, it features weathered steel cladding and blackened cedar siding. Glass doors and a covered porch stepping down to the pond strengthen the indoor/outdoor connection, while the interiors are awash in natural materials like sugar maple and fallen ash.  

Found in Taipei’s Bitou Hot Spring area, this apartment, courtesy of Wei Yi International Design Associates, mixes rusted metal, gold foil, cypress, exposed concrete, and terrazzo. Throughout, there is a feeling of calm, conjured by elements like lightweight, mobile furniture in the living room, an organically shaped wooden table in the guest bathroom, and a watshitsu room for meditating and tea drinking that is covered in Japanese tatami mats. 

In defiance of its oversized neighbors, this sustainable 753-square-foot home in Perth, by architecture firm Whispering Smith, maximizes its small footprint through built-in furniture and textures of concrete, reclaimed brick, tile, and white metal. Devoid of walls and doors, the streamlined spaces flow into one another, and connect to the ample rear courtyard. 

A 1923 building in Szczecin, Poland, was not in good condition when Loft Kolasiński was tasked with revamping it. Now, it is defined by fluid spaces, natural oak furniture, and clay plaster walls and ceiling joists. Sliding doors with an openwork pattern, a curved staircase, and original tiles all add warmth. 

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Situated amid the forest in Rhinebeck, New York, the geometric, eco-friendly Ex of In House by architect Steven Holl stars a large window capable of heating the living space with sunlight during the winter months. In the summer, a shade ensures it keeps cool. In accordance with the home’s sustainable mission, the interiors are finished with natural oiled wood and plywood, and all light fixtures were 3D-printed in PLA cornstarch-based plastic.

Inspired by a love of camping, the Bush House, by Archterra, nods to California’s Case Study Houses, built from the 1940s to the 1960s. Set on a family cattle farm in a Western Australia coastal town on the Margaret River, Bush House marries a single-plane roof with a prefabricated steel frame support structure. A rammed-earth wall carries through the house into the outdoors, melding with oiled plywood, anodized aluminum, and salvaged furniture.

Originally built by Walter Thomas Brooks in 1962, this Napa abode received a breath of fresh air in the form of a new kitchen by Henrybuilt. Maintaining its connection to the living and dining areas, the room is anchored by an island with leather pulls. Its pared-down look, in harmony with the other spaces, is defined by minimal open shelving, built-in storage, and refined matte finishes.

On a trip to Naoshima, Japan, the Houston newlyweds behind Robertson Design fell in love with Tadao Ando’s concrete-composed museums. This led the couple to create a residence of their own comprised of a low concrete wall, concrete cube, and box clad in Siberian larch. The indoors are rounded out with white oak, marble, and leather-finished granite.

Japanese and Scandinavian design objects are for sale at the Toronto homewares shop Mjölk, and are also on display in the apartment above it. Here, the store’s owners reside in a two-story space brought to life by Studio Junction. A courtyard spills into the living room and open kitchen and dining area, and translucent shoji-style screens provide privacy. Oak shelves, soap-treated Douglas fir floors, a custom hinoki soaking tub, and a soapstone bowl in place of the kitchen sink are all thoughtful, subtle details.

A new addition to Sea Ranch’s enclave of utopian homes, this structure (and the separate guesthouse seen here) clad in rough concrete and Cor-ten steel seamlessly blends in with its half-a-century-old California neighbors. Designed by the dean of the Woodbury School of Architecture and the head of the University of Oregon’s architecture department, its spaces flow into one another underneath an angled plywood ceiling and illuminate built-in furniture crafted from vertical-grain Douglas fir.

Not far from Casablanca’s city center, architect Mehdi Berrada built this skylight-crowned, cube-shaped dwelling of concrete blocks for his family. Windows covered with strips of rusted steel keep the interiors, and their gray cement-covered walls, hidden from the street. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open onto a tucked-away garden and lap pool. Charred oak, a board-formed concrete stairwell painted black, and a burned spruce ceiling calling to mind shou sugi ban are all warm, minimalist contrasts to the bright tiles that make frequent appearances in Moroccan homes.


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