Interior Design

Before You Fix Up Every Single Part of Your Home, Read This

March 22, 2017

Japanese cultural experiences—such as ikebana, tea ceremonies, Zen gardens, and Japanese pottery—always remind me that a non-decorative space can also have a meaningful design. I love a rustic look myself, and also take time to think about something called "wabi-sabi" aesthetics. Here's what I mean:

Photo by Mika Horie

The image to the left is a completely broken, old sliding door in my photo and paper-making studio. I have worked here for four years, and I never thought to repair it or get a new one. In the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi, in fact, it isn't just an old door—it represents the passage of time. By replacing it, I could never re-create the all-natural, elemental sculpture of its shape.

Some of my friends ask me, "When are you going to fix it?" and I just answer, "I am not going to do it." As long as I work as an artist, I will be capturing and representing Japanese aesthetics in my artworks. Before this space, I worked in modern buildings with no vintage aspects to their design. But now, I get to enjoy seeing this door everyday; it's about finding the beauty in imperfection and experiencing an awareness of the transience of things.

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In Japanese, "wabi" connotes rustic simplicity, freshness, quietness, and natural and human-made objects; "sabi" stands for the beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear. I believe that wabi-sabi is one of the most unique ways to experience aesthetic pleasure in our daily lives, and probably the most characteristic principle of Japanese art.

Mika Horie is a photographer and visual artist based in Kyoto and Ishikawa. She specializes in photo printing on washi paper that she makes herself, using traditional methods.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Shane Hendrix
    Shane Hendrix
  • Nancy Duggan
    Nancy Duggan
  • Maurina Rachuba
    Maurina Rachuba
  • Rhonda35
Photographer, create all-natural handmade Japanese paper.


Shane H. May 18, 2017
To give a perfect new look to our home interior we need to take beneficial steps and follow different instructions to develop our home current condition. Apart from these, we should also take the help of an interior designer to get the best output. Wabi-Sabi is a traditional Japanese aesthetics and getting popular day by day.
Nancy D. March 25, 2017
My understanding of wabi-sabi is that my crappy stuff is beautiful, yours is just crap.
Rhonda35 March 3, 2018
LOL, Nancy!
Maurina R. March 22, 2017
My understanding is that wabi-sabi implies that the rustic, not perfect object has value. For instance, the slightly chipped tea cup from my grandmother is wabi sabi, because it has value. My neighbor's broken and beaten up garage door is not.