Decorating Guides

Slow Design: Today's 'Wabi-Sabi' Helps Us Savor the Moment

I have been examining the parallels between contemporary Western style and wabi-sabi, the early Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in things that are imperfect, impermanent and dated. We saw the way the philosophy paralleled modern layout and Arts and Crafts movements, as well as the Shaker.

Today wabi-sabi manifests itself at the Slow Design movement, founded in 2006 by Carolyn F. Strauss and Alastair Fuad-Luke to slow down the metabolism of people, resources and flows. Strauss and Fuad-Luke’s Slow Design manifesto urges designers to “fulfill real needs instead of transient trendy or market-driven needs” by producing moments to enjoy and appreciate together with the individual senses.

There’s also a push to design spaces for thinking, reacting, dreaming and musing. To put it differently, the idea adopts designing for people first and commercialization second, and it aims to balance the neighborhood with the global, the social together with the ecological — Overall, a transformation toward a much hierarchical method of living. This essentially mirrors the wabi-sabi strategy to style. Here are the six fundamentals of Slow Design.


1. Reveal. Uncover spaces and experiences in everyday life that are often forgotten or missed.

The manifesto urges people to “believe beyond perceived functionality, bodily traits and lifespans to think about artifacts’ real and potential ‘expressions'” This wall displaying artifacts is a good example. Dealing with materials is another.

Megan Buchanan

2. Expand. Slow design believes the real and possible “expressions” of artifacts and environments beyond their perceived functionalities, bodily attributes and life spans.

This principle asks designers to consider facets beyond aesthetics and shape, paying attention to the way we live and interact with spaces and objects. In their paper “Slow Design Principles,” Strauss and Fuad-Luke cite Swedish designer Ramiz Maze’s contention that “style isn’t only about the spatial or physical form of objects, but the form of interactions that take place — and also occupy time — in people’s relationships with and through [them].”

These stairs, that provide an enjoyable way for a child to learn to count, show this principle in action. The plan expands arrangement and more than just its structure.

Laidlaw Schultz architects

3. Reflect. Induce contemplation and “reflective ingestion”

“Product designers are questioning not only ecological values, but also perceptual and emotional experiences that the unique materiality of goods can provide,” Strauss and Fuad-Luke state. They encourage performers to emphasize ephemeral beauty that reminds us that everything is transient and short lived.

Strauss and Fuad-Luke cite Icelander Katrin Svana Eythórsdóttir’s biodegradable chandelier, made from highly reflective sugar droplets; it gradually disappears within months, “encouraging its owner(s) to relish each moment of its existence,” they say.

Waterfalls, like this one in Texas, are another means to take a reflective approach.

4. Engage. Share, collaborate and collaborate in an open-source layout process.

This home, by The Architects Collaborative, was designed following the group’s philosophy of camaraderie instead of hierarchy. Directed by Walter Gropius, eight architects’ team encouraged collaboration to produce the product.

Nowadays design charettes, in which several participants meet to brainstorm solutions to an architectural issue, are another example of cooperation.

Debra Kling Colour Consultant

5. Participate. Make everybody an active participant in the plan process.

Color consultant Debra Kling (whose job is shown here) is an advocate of the notion, and she constantly engages her customers in her designs. “Color consulting with my customers is always a very collaborative process,” she states.

Customers who participate in designing their homes normally get more pleasing outcomes.

Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects, Inc..

6. Evolve. Look beyond current requirements and circumstances to consider how good Slow Design can attest positive change.

Strauss and Fuad-Luke cite architect and societal designer Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates, in which conventional lawns are replaced with all productive domestic edible landscapes; the one here is a good example. Growing food instead of resource-intensive grass not only feeds households but addresses bigger problems of global food production also connects people with their surroundings and their communities.

On the most elementary level, planting a tree, that will provide shade, shelter and possibly food several years afterwards, is evolutionary.

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