Interior Design

Embrace Wabi-Sabi to Become a More Relaxed Host

August 24, 2017

Are you familiar with wabi-sabi? You might have heard the term being tossed around―and we’ve written about it before on our site. Loosely translated, the Japanese concept refers to celebrating the “perfectly imperfect” aesthetic, especially the moments that are often unusual, overlooked, or even under-appreciated. Wabi-sabi can be expressed in a weathered barn, chipped handmade pottery, or wrinkled linen napkins, for example.

In Wabi-Sabi Welcome, Julie Pointer Adams explores this ethos more fully through the lens of entertaining around the globe, specifically in Japan, Denmark (home of hygge, another slow living philosophy espousing contentment in little things), California, France, and Italy. “Embracing wabi-wabi as we entertain gives us license to reorder our priorities, letting go of what we think is required of us and replacing it with our own version of what special and meaningful look like on our own terms,” she explains in her book.

Photo by Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams (Artisan Books)

Easier said than done in this hyper-technological age of oversharing and over-documenting, something we're all guilty of. (If you didn’t ‘gram it, did it even happen?) Living the wabi-sabi way forces us to slow down and relinquish ourselves from the burdens of perfection that often accompany over-curated lives. Shedding that intimidating aspect of preparing a Pinterest-perfect soirée gives us the freedom to experience and enjoy the simple, unhurried company of others.

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“People who embrace wabi-sabi live large, open lives, with welcoming homes in which to entertain at a moment’s notice,” the Kinfolk alumna shares. “Entertaining comes easily to them because their idea of hosting is about simply showing up, not showing off.” Showing up, not showing off―it's a beautiful, humble sentiment that bears repeating.

Photo by Julie Pointer Adams and Ryan J. Adams

Here's a handful of ways to entertain the wabi-sabi way:

Wabi-Sabi Starts at Home

“For me,” Pointer Adams starts, “the more personal, meaningful, and perfectly imperfect I allow my home to be, the less consumed I am with trying to ‘keep up’ with trendy designs or anyone’s else’s version of what should be.”

Make Time to Be Together

“Like many people… I’m not immune to chronic busyness, when life is full but not always extraordinarily deep.” For some, that could mean reserving Sundays for those important people in your life, instead of filling up the weekend with endless coffee dates.

Make Do With What You Have

Pointer Adams recognizes we live in a material world and doesn’t shun all of the gorgeous things, but it’s about recognizing beauty in unexpected places. “Wabi-sabi inspires us to be resourceful and creative with whatever we’ve been given and to express gratitude by joyfully sharing it with others.”

Focus Fully on Your Guests

You know what that means, folks. Putting away your devices and being fully attentive is a constant challenge, and “the wabi-sabi way can be a helpful antidote to this scatterbrained approach to living.”

Photo by Julie Pointer Adams and Ryan J. Adams

Let Guests Participate

“Though it’s perhaps an unconventional approach to entertaining etiquette, I think giving your friends or family the sense of being needed is more important than placing dinner on the table the moment they arrive,” shares Pointer Adams. I fully embrace this tenet by giving guests small tasks to fulfill. Whether it’s helping to open the next bottle of wine or bringing along their favorite cheese, friends and family are more than willing to get involved and contribute to the party.

Excerpted from Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Julie Pointer Adams and Ryan J. Adams.

In what ways do you live or entertain in a wabi-sabi way? Share them with us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Olivia Bloom
    Olivia Bloom
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


Olivia B. August 24, 2017
Is a chronically messy home considered Wabi-Sabi? Haha. I want to work on "Let Guests Participate." I can be a total control freak in the kitchen, but I know I always love being given a task when I'm at someone else's house. Even if it's as simple as popping a cork and pouring wine!
Hana A. August 24, 2017
Ha! I think a little bit of "mess" can be inviting and warm. ;)