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There is beauty in imperfection, as Japanese concept wabi-sabi reveals

The wabi-sabi lifestyle is about appreciating the things you already have at home, flaws and all, rather than going for shiny new things.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

A new minimalist concept called wabi-sabi is trending in the interior design world.

While it might sound like something you would find on a sushi menu, it is actually a Japanese lifestyle philosophy which embraces simplicity, imperfection and craftsmanship.

Last year, the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced 'hue-guh'), which means cosiness, was all the rage.

It embodies a sense of comfortable conviviality and well-being. The trend saw interiors filled with plush soft cushions, warm candlelight and layers of tactile textures.

For wabi-sabi, things are stripped back and a little less put-together.

Interior stylist Priscilla Tan, 32, says taking on the trend in the home is all about embracing the idea that less is more.

"Wabi-sabi is about seeing beauty in the imperfect. It's taking on a simple lifestyle that is generally quite minimalistic."

There is no direct English translation for wabi-sabi. Roughly translated, wabi means understated elegance and simple natural design, and sabi refers to the beauty that comes with age and wear.

The lifestyle ideology has been in Japan for ages, but has seen a recent rise in popularity on social media and in magazines, with publications such as British home decorating magazine Ideal Home and American magazine Elle Decor saying that wabi-sabi is this year's interior design trend.

Inspired by Zen Buddhism and Japanese tea ceremonies - where traditional utensils are typically handmade and irregular - wabi-sabi eschews the mass-produced.

The lifestyle is about appreciating what one already has, rather than going for things that are shiny and new.

In the home, this means keeping that worn and slightly tattered armchair, showcasing your children's handmade crafts, and not fretting over scratches on the coffee table. But that does not mean you should be hoarding everything with a chip on it.

Ms Tan, who runs her own company, Styledbypt, admits that getting the wabi-sabi look in Singapore is not as easy as it sounds and that she has not seen many adopting it.

"People in Singapore have a lot of things. My customers are always asking me to include more storage space in their homes. And wabi-sabi is about living with less."

But for those who are keen, she says there are some easy ways to get the look.

"One way is to play with neutral shades. Using different tones can still give your space colour, yet evoke a sense of calm and of being still."

This could mean sticking to a colour palette with three to four different nude or earth tones and using similar shades on the walls, furniture and flooring.

Another tip is to embrace natural materials. "Think untreated and slightly imperfect. This could be wood furniture that is without varnish, or wall textures that are not so neat and symmetrical, but more organic looking," Ms Tan says.

Other materials to consider include linen, ceramic and cotton.

Wabi-sabi is also about including some plants in your environment. But, Ms Tan says, just a touch of green will do - rather than a full bouquet or a lush green plant, a single green stalk in a vase will suffice.

"The architectural line of the plant creates a simple beauty."

Asked if the trend is likely to take off in Singapore, she says she hopes more people will embrace it.

"It can be beautiful and having that lifestyle of not needing so many things can be detoxifying and really quite charming."

Communications executive Justina Leong, 33, says the wabi-sabi concept is intriguing and something she would consider.

A fan of popular book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing by Japanese author Marie Kondo, Ms Leong says adopting a minimalist concept in the home can be refreshing.

"I've tried to declutter as much as possible and I find it gives my home more of a sense of space. I think keeping used items in the home and making that a part of your style can be endearing."

Imperfect things to love

Though the wabi-sabi trend is not about acquiring new items, here are six pieces to help you achieve that imperfectly beautiful look.

Leather pouf, $199.90, from Deer Industries

This rugged ottoman can be used as a textured element in a room.

Excelsior writing desk, $1,399, from Commune

This asymmetrical desk in a warm walnut shade features the natural lines and curves of the wood.

Hand-woven wall hanging, $74.36, from Cord x Clay

This handmade craft features different textures and fabrics and is hung on scavenged driftwood.

Braided rattan basket, $39.90, from Ikea

The simple and rustic basket can be used to hold magazines, books or clothing.

Bulbo side table, $250, from Etch & Bolts

A leather tabletop is attached to carved solid wood legs. The organic form of the table fits right in with the wabi-sabi trend.

Ceramic vase, $169, from Adrienne Ceramics

The crafted vase fits the wabi-sabi concept of avoiding items that are perfectly shaped.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times. Click here to read the original story.