Mother Earth Living

The Good Life

All things Mother Earth Living

Add to My MSN

How to Be Wabi-Sabi with Western Things

6/29/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: wabi-sabi, interior design, House Beautiful, shibui

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailIn 1960, House Beautiful magazine ran two special issues devoted to shibui, the spare, restrained style referred to variously as “the cultivation of the little” or “the cult of the subdued.” Very similar to wabi-sabi, shibui is the ancient Japanese art of not too much, of quiet grace through economy of means. “Discover Shibui: The Word for the Highest Level in Beauty” (August 1960) and “How to Be Shibui with American Things” (September 1960)—two special issues that deciphered this Japanese concept of “severe good taste” and “superb understatement”—sold out immediately.

To help Americans understand shibui, House Beautiful developed this list of shibui things. They could also be considered wabi-sabi.


18th-century captain’s chests 

early american cupboard 

Early American cupboards, blanket chests, and trestle tables/Photo courtesy of Sylehive 

oaxan jar 

Oaxacan black clay jars 


Shaker furniture/photo by Matt Jiggins/flickr 


18th-century pewter 

salt glaze pottery 

Salt-glaze pottery/photo by Mike Pugh/Flickr 

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.