Wabi Sabi and Tiny Living

wabi sabiHave you ever heard the term Wabi Sabi? I first learned about this Japanese concept when we began designing La Casita a couple years ago. A simplified translation, taken from Taro Gold’s book Living Wabi Sabi, would be wisdom in simplicity and imperfection but this translation does not even begin to involve the depth of this concept. Wabi consists of the spiritual aspects of life while Sabi refers to the material side of life. Gold continues describing it as a worldview which, “fosters a bohemian sense of beauty that celebrates the basic, the unique and the imperfect…it supports ecocentric living and compassionate humanism.” This philosophy has been a continued source of inspiration as we’ve designed, built and improved upon our tiny home and it helps remind us of the imperfect beauty inherent in life.

How do we specifically experience Wabi Sabi in our home? When we P1000103look up at our ceiling joists there are holes in the heart pine where nails  held up a home built in the 1920’s in West Ashley. We choose to leave the holes exposed as a reminder of the wood’s previous life. Our uneven floors of maple evoke a worn, weathered look. They were reclaimed from an old cigar factory in downtown Charleston. They have scratches, knicks and rough spots where worker’s boots scoured the factory floor from the early 20th century until the 1970’s. If you look closely the wainscoating downstairs, which came out of a house on a nearby island, contains dings from what we don’t know but the stories that embody each and every piece of our home make all the imperfection that much more inspiring and reflective of what we choose and the impact it creates on ourselves, our community and our environment.

Cedric and I have been living Wabi Sabi since before we knew there was a philosophy. Living in a city such as CharlestonP1000111 where the wood floors slant toward the river and the windows creak in the wind, weathered imperfection is just the average  Charlestonian experience. In La Casita we’ve taken it a step further as we constantly strive to simplify our living space and reduce our material gain. However, it’s not always easy living Wabi Sabi. The imperfect aspects of life often cause some kind of suffering. In La Casita sometimes the imperfect creates discomfort or general anxiety. Cedric is a very detail oriented, symmetrically inclined artist and the imperfection which occurs when using reclaimed materials makes it hard to keep things aligned. There are times, when he looks at the floor, that he cringes and wishes he had refinished the planks. There are rough edges around our bathroom that have yet to be trimmed, none of our windows match and the corners don’t always match up exactly as we’d like but this also leads to creative reuse that gives our home its unique character. Each piece of material, no matter its imperfections, is valued for it’s story and we love living in a storybook tiny space that houses many tales.

P1000098Living in a space that challenges us, physically as well as mentally, never allows for boredom! We’re are constantly recreating our space and continuing to be open to change as living in La Casita evolves and teaches us to live the life of imperfection and accept it for all it’s worth. The difficult times in life, when things aren’t going exactly our way, is where we learn the most. We experienced that when we moved in to our home a month early because our apartment had been foreclosed on. It was a tough time but ultimately we came out of the situation stronger. That certainly continues to be our lesson while living the tiny life but we’ll continue to accept the challenges that come our way and remember to appreciate all that is Wabi Sabi.

Your Turn!

  • Where do you recognize Wabi Sabi in your life?


  1. Very nice and thoughtful article. As a detail-oriented, everything-must-match person myself, I’m definitely sympathetic toward Cedric’s adjustments to working with re-usable materials. I’d have to have everything planed, sanded, and finished before I could consider it done. Though looking at a fatter wallet and bigger checking account could sway me toward the “imperfect” camp temporarily.

  2. good timing with this article – I have been moaning over our scratched cypress floors. When we were looking at flooring options, I wanted a wide board floor, and something other than overused oak. So we got cypress thru a local mill. We didn’t stain it, just sealed it with polyurethane. I didn’t realize just how soft a wood it is, or how our dogs would scratch it. What drives me crazy is the look of the raw wood in the scratched areas compared to the rest of the floor. I try to tell myself that a rugged looking floor is appropriate for our 19th century farmhouse. Meanwhile I still explore ways to treat the scratched areas to make it so they dont stand out quite so much, without redoing the whole floor. Like treating with lemon oil, or scotts liquid gold, or a light colored stain applied with a q tip.

    I still wouldn’t trade the great look of the cypress, or my dogs!

    • We have cypress siding on LaCa and it’s great! We reclaimed it and love how it’s aging!

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