Can the Japanese have a greater respect for the old and the new because they have an older history? I admire Japanese designers for their cutting edge creations but respect them deeply for their acknowledgment of tradition, simplicity and the imperfection of aged and worn goods that offer soul and character to their designs. As a culture Americans can finally find value in our great historic buildings but as group of people we are labeled as consumers. Westerners commonly have a penchant for everything new.
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term, which means that old, weathered items have an essence that lend character and convey meaning to an overall space. Of course, it is more complicated than this but what is important is the understanding that just because something has been used, rather than its value being diminished it increases. So often new interiors can have a sterile sense, lacking warmth and appeal. In our zeal to revamp we discard old pieces that hold charm and history. It can be difficult to integrate these decrepit pieces into a new crisp space, but if it is done consistently and with purpose they will be embraced. Remember all your college furniture? Maybe those dinged-up, weather-beaten pieces passed down from Mom and Dad were just incongruous with your select choices from Target and Ikea. As long as what is held on to on some level expresses quality in material and craftsmanship, value remains. Some examples of wabi-sabi items that lend character are woven baskets, aged wooden furniture, metals with patina, antique tiles or fixtures, rough stones and organic branches or pieces of wood. If you are not fortunate to have been handed down family treasures there is no harm in heading out to the antique shops on South Broadway in Denver. The mid-century modern era has beautiful examples of finely made furniture that would segway into most contemporary settings. The lines are clean and the construction is usually superb. Sometimes all it takes is a soft rag and a loving hand to bring these pieces out of the cobwebs and appreciate their innate beauty and history.
Recommended reading: The Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren and Living Wabi Sabi The True Beauty of your Life by Taro Gold.