As a ten year old boy in front of an abstract painting by Piet Mondrian, I was drawn to the fine cracks in the surface of the white ground. Were these fissures signs of aging, or were these put there intentionally? Were they adding to the power of the painting, or were they distracting? I decided that they were beautiful delicate reminders that the painting was hand-made and had existed for many years already. I didn’t know the name for this point of view, but now I do – wabi-sabi.


Wabi-Sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional….

architecture 42Collectors of fine sterling do not want it perfect. They want to see the patina of use and of age. Here in San Francisco, one of the most beloved architectural treasures is The Palace of Fine Arts, Bernard Maybeck’s 1915 monument. It was conceived to resemble a decaying, overgrown masterpiece. It has never disappointed the thousands of  people who have visited.

Interior Design by Michael Merrill



I love the mixture of old and new, and I for one love contrasting the perfect with the imperfect.

Recommended reading:
Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers ISBN-1-880656-12-4


4 Replies to “Wabi-Sabi”

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