Mother Earth Living

Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House





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8/17/2011
Wabi-sabi is never slobby, but we can allow ourselves to stop trying so hard and just appreciate our warm bed at the end of the day—whether it’s made or not.
7/7/2011
A wabi-sabi home just feels right, without pretense or compromise—like our grandmothers’ Depression era homes, where things were patched and mended but scrubbed and clean, handmade or chosen and paid for with care.
1/12/2011
Find out how wabi-sabi, an ancient Japanese philosophy that promotes attention, reverence, generosity and respect, can build the foundation of a happy home.
5/25/2011
Learn to let go of associations with price, value, age and prestige and just appreciate beauty without judgment. Nature is the best muse for cultivating wabi-sabi.
5/25/2011
A flea market basket that called to me, my grandmother's hand-embroidered linens and a quilt made by a circle of women in Minnesota are among the wabi-sabi items that I wouldn't want to be without.
5/18/2011
If we use high-quality items in our everyday lives, our lives become a sort of training. By using each item with care and careful consideration, the way we live becomes a tradition.
7/13/2011
Wabi-sabi is wildflowers, not roses; weathered wood, not plastic laminate; native landscaping, not Kentucky bluegrass. Pictures tell a thousand words.
6/15/2011
Wabi-sabi is underplayed and understated, quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon obscured behind a ribbon of cloud.
5/4/2011
Mother readers weigh in on the wabi-sabi objects that give them joy and solace--from old books to heirloom quilts (and a few surprises). This community of kindred spirits embodies the art of appreciation. Enjoy!
4/13/2011
Frugality and lack of pretense or compromise are key ingredients in creating a wabi-sabi home.
3/9/2011
In Japan, wabi-sabi can be found in the small moments of beauty and acts of hospitality that pervade the culture.
6/1/2011
Sen no Rikyu's simple, unpretentious ceremony using rustic, local tools usurped the elaborate, ostentatious Tea ceremonies that were the norm in 16th-century Japan. His 'aesthetic of the people' made Tea accessible to all--and endures to this day.
4/27/2011
Zen Buddhism's Seven Ruling Principles are wabi-sabi's foundation. They're also excellent guiding lights for a good home and life.
3/30/2011
Strongly influenced by wabi-sabi's principles, the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement railed against 'the swinish luxury of the rich,' ornamental excess and the poverty of people who lacked creativity.
7/13/2011
In the kitchen, we can cultivate our sense of aesthetics and function. Tools can be beautiful. Food can be art. Cooking can be meditation.
5/11/2011
Every once in a while we need to rebel against the machines. Hand a towel to your significant other and ask him to dry while you rinse. Sweep the floor with a real broomcorn broom. Have a real conversation. Enjoy things happening slowly.
3/23/2011
Wabi-sabi teaches us appreciation for the good energy and soul that handmade items bring to our homes. Etsy, the premiere source for handcrafted home goods, offers an extensive list of items whose sale will benefit Japanese relief efforts.
6/22/2011
In ancient Japan, preparing and serving bitter green tea became a means for ordinary people to escape for a moment and share a ritual. Tea ceremony became a venue for Japan’s finest poets and artists that endures to this day.
4/6/2011
A quiet life filled with appreciation for simple things is the richest life possible.
6/29/2011
Salt glaze pottery, primitive colonial furnishings and pewter bring wabi-sabi into your home—while honoring our American traditions.
5/11/2011
A San Francisco architect brings wabi-sabi to his work through craftsmanship, employing natural materials to create a holistic environment that’s not cookie-cutter or slick, and eschewing ornamentation for what is needed and meaningful.
5/18/2011
Inspired by back-to-the-landers Scott and Helen Nearing, Kate NaDeau grows her own food and enjoys the simple pleasures of seasonal living in her handbuilt stone cottage in Maine. She is the epitome of good wabi-sabi living.
4/20/2011
Charles and Ray Eames are modern wabi-sabi heroes who brought fresh, spare furniture, without pretense or stodginess, to the masses. Their home was a wabi-sabi masterpiece.
7/6/2011
Wabi-sabi is sinewy, flecked browns and yellowed greens, the myriad stone and moss shades, a slate-gray cloud’s washed violet underside. Like nature, wabi-sabi paints in multidimensional swatches that are never what they appear to be.
6/29/2011
Wabi-sabi has infused Western design for centuries—though its advocates rarely knew it. It’s in the plain, efficient homes built by the Shakers, the unsentimental Arts and Crafts style, Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses and midcentury furniture.
6/29/2011
Wabi-sabi has infused Western design for centuries—though its advocates rarely knew it. It’s in the plain, efficient homes built by the Shakers, the unsentimental Arts and Crafts style, Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses and midcentury furniture.
6/15/2011
In a wabi-sabi garden, plants are chosen because they belong in that climate, and they’re allowed to strut their stuff if they’re considerate of the plants around them. Both plants and guests are encouraged to meander and explore.
3/2/2011
Together, wabi (humility) and sabi (beauty in rust) become more than the sum of their parts--a philosophy that promotes peace, serenity and respite in our homes.
2/23/2011
Flea market shopping takes dedication and agility--and it's a ton of fun if you're well prepared.
2/16/2011
The four principles of Tea ceremony—harmony, respect, purity and tranquility—are the means to a good life.
6/1/2011
Elaborate, ostentatious Tea ceremony had become the norm in 16th century Japan when Sen no Rikyu proved that simplicity is ultimately more luxurious with his rustic, minimalist Tea ceremony--which endures to this day.
2/2/2011
As Offlining urges cyborgs to turn off their Blackberries, Neo-Luddites question technology's exponential encroachment on our lives.
6/8/2011
My old wabi-sabi home stood witness to celebration, sorrow, our children’s first words and fumbling first steps, dinners shared at the end of each day. It provided all that a home could and should, and now it's my lesson in non-attachment.
1/10/2011
Let the ancient Japanese art of wabi-sabi help you purge unwanted items and get organized for the new year.
7/27/2011
Natural beauty is priceless. We can take in and appreciate a great view because we don’t have any hope of owning it, and we can’t manipulate it. With our egos out of the way, we can simply observe.
3/11/2011
As we watch the devastation's aftermath in Japan, the world will learn valuable lessons from a culture that reveres service to others, deep acceptance and community.
6/1/2011
Alabama Chanin makes sumptuous fabrics from scraps, Mona Hoffman imagines the people she's crafting each lamp for as she makes it, and potter Shiho Kanzaki believes that attitude is everything. These are a few of my favorite wabi-sabi artists.
3/16/2011
Today is not a day for selling books. It's a day for prayer and solidarity with the Japanese people.
8/31/2011
Space and light are your home's most desirable ornaments. Here's how to clear the clutter so they can shine through.
8/24/2011
Meditating has never come naturally to me, probably because of my goal-oriented approach. Wabi-sabi helped me see find peace in simple solitude (and long dog walks) instead.
6/8/2011
The only one rule for wabi-style flowers? Strive for a natural look, with seasonal blooms and branches arranged as they are in the field. Let go of perfection. Your "arrangement" is a humble admission that we can't improve on nature.
2/23/2009
Natural Home intern Carly Halvorson shares her recent research on the Monolithic Dome Institute website about monolithic dome houses.
2/9/2011
Your simply imperfect arsenal for getting the whole house clean--naturally.
6/16/2011
These tips mined from the second issue of Mother Earth News, published in 1970, will make your housekeeping more enjoyable and efficient. Mother has always known best.
8/13/2014
Building a tiny home from an old camper trailer brought a sense of community when family and friends pitched in to help.
10/27/2009
Instead of buying store-bought and possibly toxic cleaning agents, give these nontoxic homemade cleaners a try.
7/16/2009
Many air fresheners can emit toxic chemicals; however, potted chrysanthemums are natural and safe deodorizers.
11/9/2011
Adding houseplants to your home’s décor is an easy, affordable way to enliven your home.
1/25/2010
A University of Georgia study finds that common houseplants can remove toxins and improve indoor air quality.
8/19/2009
Throughout human history people have used herbs to protect themselves against lightning strikes.
2/19/2013
Grow your own beautiful houseplants from citrus seeds. Growing citrus trees from seed is easy, fun and, best of all, free.
12/15/2010
Planning a party? Let wabi-sabi’s influence lead to a casual, comfortable gathering.
12/7/2011
These homemade orange ornaments will add bright colors and a citrusy aroma to your tree this year.
11/1/2012
In an effort to help consumers find safer products, the Environmental Working Group has created an online guide that rates more than 2,000 household cleaners for safety of ingredients and disclosure of contents.
1/12/2011
Instead of using synthetic scents, try this simple natural trick to make your home smell delicious. 
10/26/2012
Simply Organic Black Pepper is now available in a reusable tin that features a triple-use closure that allows users to sprinkle, spoon or pour the pepper.
1/22/2012
Guest blogger Eileen Troemel sets out to find easy-to-grow indoor plants that she can successfully keep alive with a black thumb.
6/10/2011
After working four jobs to make payments on their larger home, Debra and Gary downsized—to 320 square feet. The family lacks for nothing, and guests are always welcome. 'I've got everything I need,' Debra says. And their $20K house is paid off.
5/26/2011
After a tree crushed the back of their shotgun home (while 40 Hurricane Katrina refugees were camped out there), a Baton Rouge couple rebuilt a green, energy-efficient house that encourages connection with their neighborhood's 'front porch' culture.
4/21/2011
Do you dream about living in a tiny, super-efficient home but worry about living with less space? This list of reasons for living could help push you off the fence. Dream big, live small!
5/27/2011
A proper tea house is a luxury I believe in.
4/6/2011
Plant a patio garden, get a more efficient TV and change your light bulbs, suggests eco-designer Sabrina Soto.
11/4/2010
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller details plans for a National Passive House Alliance in the U.S. and shares the activities of current regional Passive House alliances.
3/22/2011
An affordable prototype home helps revitalize a blighted Syracuse, New York, neighborhood--and could be the city home of the future.
7/22/2011
The PopUp House from House Port, Inc. embodies the definition of model green home as it utilizes sustainable methods, not only within the structure of the dwelling, but also within the interior of the home.
8/18/2011
Citing breaches of contract and “good faith,” Dr. Wolfgang Feist of the Passivhaus Institut has announced that it is cutting ties with the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), no longer allowing the branch to certify Passive Houses in the U.S. 
4/8/2011
The first Tiny House Conference will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, on April 16.
1/3/2011
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company founder Jay Shafer teaches Americans how to build efficient homes of less than 1,000 square feet.
8/11/2011
At only 156 square feet and just 4 feet across at its widest, the Keret House in Warsaw, Poland, might just be the skinniest tiny house ever.
12/15/2010
Made from bamboo, wood and grass seed, this tiny house could be our future.
12/27/2010
Small house builder Rich Daniels seeks to cluster 100 homes under 400 square feet in a former sawmill.
10/2/2009
President Obama plans to help earn the White House LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
12/1/2010
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes how and why the Passive House conference inspired her to change the NewenHouse kit home's design to meet Passive House certification.
7/29/2011
Designed as a shotgun-style house for natural ventilation, the Alligator House was designed and built as part of the rehousing effort in post-Katrina New Orleans.
1/7/2011
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller pinpoints areas where unconditioned air could be leaking into or out of homes.
5/18/2011
In her new book, Micro-Green: Tiny Houses in Nature, Mimi Zeiger profiles 36 creative, innovative small dwellings that represent a 'new, rich architectural typology.' Here are eight great examples to start fueling your fantasies.
10/21/2010
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller offers an introduction to the Passive House standard, including what makes Passive Houses energy-efficient and how they differ from passive solar homes.
3/16/2011
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller offers solutions to thermal bridging.
10/20/2010
Follow along as architect Mark Miller takes his energy-efficient design skills to the next level with the Passive House standard.
7/11/2011
The American Institute of Architects' most recent housing trends survey shows housing sizes inching back up again after the first declines in decades. Will people still want smaller houses in better economic times?
2/16/2009
Orchids are some of the most beautiful flowers—they're safe around house pets, they come in a multitude of colors and shapes and ... they're edible?! Read more.
7/11/2011
Ryan Mitchell, founder of TheTinyLife.com, is saving up to pay cash for a 130-square-foot home on wheels in North Carolina. He’s seeking perspective, clarity—and a girlfriend who gets it.
7/7/2011
Diana and Tony Varnes are the happiest they’ve ever been, and they attribute their well being to living in a small home. They have more time for reading, talking and enjoying the outdoors—and their relationship is better than ever.
10/22/2010
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller continues his introduction to the Passive House standard.
2/8/2011
While many indications point to house size shrinking in America, National Public Radio reports that the McMansion is far from dead.
7/14/2011
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse Here Sonya gets ready for a busy week of subcontractors for the NewenHouse kit home. The interior of the home is nearing completion!
2/12/2012
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse tests the performance of her new Passive House by not turning on the heat—and enthusiastically reports that you can comfortably live furnace-free in Wisconsin in the winter.
11/29/2011
The NewenHouse kit home has officially received Passive House certification! The Passive House is also the highest-rated Energy Star home in the state of Wisconsin.
12/15/2009
After weeks of planning (and a little bit of panicking), the Natural Home team finishes decorating the Blair House and State Department for the holidays with a selection of fair trade, artisan-made items that benefit our planet and its citizens.
11/25/2009
Natural Home has been invited to decorate rooms in Blair House, the President’s guest house that hardly anyone ever gets to see, and the U.S. State Department’s Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, DC in the first-ever Magazine Holiday Design Showcase, a partnership between the U.S. State Department and the Magazine Publishers of America.
1/25/2011
Explore fresh herb flavors and mouth-watering recipes with this recommended cookbook.
12/21/2011
Decorate your home with zero-waste decor that can be reused, recycled or consumed—instead of toxic landfill trash. The Christmas decorations of Colonial Williamsburg offer inspiration for using natural decor.
1/27/2011
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller shares discusses the lack of energy-efficient, insulated doors in the U.S.
11/18/2010
Architect and Passive House consultant Mark Miller explores high-performance windows, a key element in reaching the Passive House standard.
8/4/2014
In Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage, high-performance houses experience much more comfortable temperatures with little electric output.
7/15/2014
See how one blogger made the decision to build a tiny house and her plans to build it herself.
2/4/2011
Sonya Newenhouse describes the roof truss system and air-tight barrier between the second floor and the roof for the Passive House NewenHouse Kit Home.
6/22/2010
Refresh the exterior of your house with a coat of YOLO Colorhouse paint inspired by the landscape around it.
6/28/2010
Guest blogger Rebecca Selove searches for the most energy-efficient lighting for her sustainable Tennessee farmhouse that she is building to LEED Platinum standards.
6/28/2011
Sayra and Dominic live with their 5-year-old daughter in a charming 550-square-foot home in rural Idaho. There are challenges, but they've found that less really is more. 'It's like living in a fun clubhouse,' Sayra says.
7/7/2010
The American Institute of Architect’s Home Design Trends Survey confirmed what Natural Home predicted in January—Americans are moving to smaller homes.
4/16/2012
Sonya Newenhouse describes how she uses the southern-facing 17-inch-deep windowsills of her Passive House-certified home to grow seedlings.
12/14/2010
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes how she and her team insulated under the slab of the NewenHouse prototype home and the importance of air sealing to achieve Passive House certification.
6/7/2011
Swamp Hut is a complex of four 8-by-12-foot huts surrounding a deck with a fireplace. This an off-the-grid, light-on-the-land summer getaway could easily be replicated in your favorite vacation spot.
12/30/2010
Green Builder Media’s Vision and ReVision Houses highlight energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, indoor air quality and great new green materials.  
9/9/2011
Perched atop a cliff overlooking Montana’s Flathead Lake, this 830-square-foot off-grid cabin steps lightly on its site so as not to disturb osprey nesting in the surrounding forest.
6/17/2011
Last October, President Obama filled us all with hope when he announced he would install solar panels on the White House by this spring. The panels haven't materialized, and the White House isn't talking. Call Obama and find out what's up.
4/18/2011
This tiny kit home—less than 90 square feet—is energy-independent and so well-designed that you'd never miss the space.
6/21/2011
Summer's here, but the solar panels that President Obama promised to install on the White House this spring aren't. Today the administration announced that it's still working out the details. We'll just have to wait.
1/15/2008
Managing editor Jessica Kellner discussed her early house hunting experience and her hopes to do green remodeling.
6/14/2011
This 433-square-foot floating home on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, feels spacious and airy on the inside.
3/28/2011
When Steve Sikora and Lynette Erickson-Sikora restored Frank Lloyd Wright's first small, affordable home, they discovered how green the iconic architect really was.
2/7/2011
For the first time, acclaimed Not So Big House author and architect brings quality-over-quality design to a residential development.
3/23/2009
The Obamas plant an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House.
7/1/2010
The Herb Society of America hosted an open house to celebrate its newly constructed headquarters in Kirkland, Ohio. Check out the photos.
10/6/2010
The Obama administration announced yesterday that it will place solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the White House roof by spring 2011.
3/23/2009
Michelle Obama's new organic White House vegetable garden is the first of its kind since World War II. I spoke with a friend who was at the scene as students from a local elementary school broke ground Friday, which was the first day of spring. Find out what the new "First Herbs of the United States" are.
11/16/2010
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes the super-insulated, sustainable and small NewenHouse kit home she's planning to bring to market in 2012. The prototype, being built in Viroqua Wisconsin, is striving for LEED Platnium and Passive House certifications.
6/20/2011
Matt and Kelly Grocoff keep cool in Michigan by taking advantage of their 110-year-old home's natural ventilation strategies. It's as easy as opening a couple of strategically placed windows.
1/19/2011
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes the framing process and how she finds opportunities for borrowed light in the inner walls of the NewenHouse kit home.
4/16/2012
Here Sonya Newenhouse describes how she uses her southern facing 17 inch deep window sills to grow seedlings. She also notes that their electrical bill for February in the furnace free home was only $11 -- $8 of which was service fees.
10/25/2011
Here Sonya describes moving into the the NewenHouse and conducting the final duct blaster test (reaching an amazing score of .51 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals)and balancing the HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation Unit).
4/21/2011
Green is Universal and Etsy's The Art of Reuse Contest is a gold mine for DIY home project ideas. My favorite pays homage to Audrey Hepburn's ahead-of-its-time sofa made from an old clawfoot bathtub in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
8/13/2012
Lisa Lillien, aka Hungry Girl, shares a recipe for Teriyaki Tofu Kebabs, perfect for a neighborhood block party or backyard cookout.
12/30/2010
Sonya Newenhouse describes how she and her team insulated the perimeter of her model Passive House slab and installed an EPS foam frost skirt around the slab for cold climate construction.
6/22/2009
Natural Home editorial intern Kristin Standley takes a look at the Marrakesh House, the new sustainable home of filmmaker Chris Paine.
5/17/2011
The original weeHouse prefabricated kit house is 435 efficiently designed square feet and comes with everything you need to live well. Need more space? You can snap together two or more of the modules to satisfy your needs.
3/21/2011
Sonya Newenhouse discusses some of the issues with synthetic gypsum drywall and documents the steps she will take to avoid electromagnetic fields in her new house.
1/10/2011
As Passive House Institute standards up the ante, USA Today’s "Best Green Homes of 2010" list reflects Americans’ desire for affordability, efficiency and style.
6/22/2011
This 275-square-foot cabin on the shores of Lake Simcoe in Ontario provides its owners with a comfortable vantage point for watching sunsets and enjoying nature.
5/19/2011
Simone Swan built her off-the-grid domed and vaulted home in Presidio, Texas, as a model of how financially and thermally efficient adobe can be. For $50 a square foot, she built a masterpiece. She says you can, too.
1/21/2009
Weigh in as Natural Home collects reader and contributor suggestions on "greening the White House."
1/16/2012
Innermost House, a 144-square-foot off-grid cabin in Northern California, provides a retreat for Michael Anthony and Diana Lorence to pursue simple living.
5/24/2011
Built from a recycled shipping container, the 160-square-foot Surfshack uses folding, moveable panels and smart design to fit all the creature comforts of home into a durable, weather-proof frame, creating a home-away-from-home on the Washington coast for an avid surfer.
12/24/2009
Natural Home and the Obamas are in sync on fun, waste-reducing holiday projects. Find out more about decoupage ornaments.
10/25/2011
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes moving into the first NewenHouse and conducting the final duct blaster test and balancing the HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation Unit).
4/8/2011
Apartment Therapy's annual Small Cool contest, featuring homes of less than 1,000 square feet, is a gold mine for smart ideas that make tiny spaces elegant, graceful and liveable.
2/25/2011
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes building the 12-inch remote Larsen Truss wall, which, combined with the OSB air barrier, will create a 16-inch-thick insulated wall system for the NewenHouse kit home.
7/11/2011
The miniHome by Sustain Design Studio puts a modern twist on traditional trailer design.
10/22/2014
After a year with her family spent in a high-performance home, one blogger shares the joys of living in a home that offers low utility bills, energy independence, comfort, lasting memories and much more.
3/10/2011
Ken Ruck wants to build a fully self-sustaining earthship on New York's Lower East Side.
5/31/2011
Guest blogger Sonya Newenhouse describes the HRV (heat recovery ventilation) unit and insulation installation for the NewenHouse Kit Home.
12/11/2012
In the summer of 2008, one guest blogger started reading Rosemary’s Sampler, an herb blog by two of her two favorite sisters from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and was inspired to start writing her own blog: Lemon Verbena Lady’s Herb Garden.
11/3/2011
An amazing, off-the-grid Welsh hobbit house was built in less than four months and for less than $5,000.
5/9/2011
Designed to be a comfortable, modern home with a minimum impact on the environment, the Cube generates its own energy and proves that you don't have to sacrifice creature comforts to live in a small space.
2/25/2011
Take a trip across the pond with the Lemon Verbena Lady to discover a 300-year-old garden.
12/1/2011
Two years ago, the Natural Home & Garden staff had the honor of decorating President Obama's guest house with sustainable and handmade holiday decor. Try some of these "president-approved" projects yourself!
6/29/2010
Guest blogger Bill Hutchins outlines ways to build green while keeping a light footprint on the earth.
10/1/2014
Two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, our indoor air quality is worsening. Embrace these five healthful practices for cleaner air.
10/16/2014
Get your garden in shape this fall, and have some fun in it, with these fun and innovative fall garden ideas we've collected on our Pinterest page.
12/17/2012
This holiday season, avoid the shopping frenzy and make your own gifts straight from the heart. These homemade holiday gift ideas are fun and should cover nearly everyone on your shopping list.


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