When an older couple (neighbors from my childhood years) decided to downsize and leave snowy New York for Florida, they called a guy who “buys stuff.” He came to their house and they were dismayed that he wasn’t interested in buying their very nice wood dining room table or their pristine china or any number of other beautiful things they had once spent a lot of money on.
However, he was excited by a beat-up, paint-splattered, pine wood cupboard in the basement that was used to store nails. They were astounded. In their words to my parents, “It was nothing…a piece of junk.” But that’s what he bought.
This happened decades ago and even then (long before I started buying and selling vintage stuff) I understood why the guy wanted the unpretentious, beat-up cupboard and not the highly polished, mass-produced dining room table.
These days my own heart beats a little faster when I find an item that has the beautiful patina from age and usage…honest wear and tear…edges that have been worn down, paint that’s been rubbed off, a dent or two, odd make-do repairs, fraying and fading, a bit of tarnish or rust.
Here are a few things I’ve bought that appealed to me all the more for the honest wear and tear. Most of these things are sold and I was gratified that others saw their beauty too.
This appreciation for “honest wear and tear” is nothing new…it’s a centuries old, wabi-sabi way of thinking…
Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered and it reveres authenticity above all….It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. – Robyn Griggs Lawrence, “The Wabi-Sabi House”
I don’t know much about wabi-sabi philosophy, but I found this wonderful graphic that shares a few simple guidelines for home decor that resonate with me.
Here are a few of the things around my house that fit “wabi-sabi for the home”…
- antique metal card holder. In another era this would have been attached to a wall and used to collect visitor’s calling cards. Today, I use it for my business cards.
- a gathering of humble little items on our mantel: two handmade ceramic flasks, a tiny handmade cat and a piece of petrified wood.
- a painting by artist and friend Kevin Courter. Titled “Baa Baa Black Sheep” I put this charming fellow on our sideboard as a temporary display spot, but Baa Baa seems to like watching over our tray of booze and hasn’t moved!
Would love to hear your thoughts. What kind of things fill your home??