Tag Archives: design definitions

Design Definitions: Wabi Sabi

We’ve noticed the term “wabi-sabi” popping up on Instagram and Pinterest recently and, because we couldn’t suss it out based on context, we decided to do some investigating into what it means.  Most definitions we found include reference to imperfection and age, but we think this explanation from the Utne Reader says it best:

“Broadly, wabi-sabi is everything that today’s sleek, mass-produced, technology-saturated culture isn’t. It’s flea markets, not shopping malls; aged wood, not swank floor coverings; one single morning glory, not a dozen red roses. Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a gray December landscape and the aching elegance of an abandoned building or shed. It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.”

So how does that definition translate to decor?  We think this Ibiza home, with its raw, imperfect sink and rough-hewn wood, captures the wabi-sabi aesthetic to a T.

Red House West || Design Definitions: Wabi Sabi

Red House West || Design Definitions: Wabi Sabi

The wavy edges of Michele Michael‘s ceramics would put a little wabi-sabi on your table (and we’d certainly like to put them on ours).

Red House West || Design Definitions: Wabi Sabi

Red House West || Design Definitions: Wabi SabiRecognize this next image?  Its ubiquity on Pinterest must speak to the widespread appeal of a wabi-sabi aesthetic.

This next image is a little wabi-sabi vignette, each piece having its own patina and story to tell.

If a key component of wabi-sabi is that things are worn, loved, and aged, then these two images are wabi-sabi to perfection.

Are you familiar with this term and, if so, did we understand it the same way you do?  Anything to add to the definition?  Have a great rest of the week!

Design Definitions: Chinoiserie

We’ve been hearing about and seeing a lot of ‘chinoiserie’ out in the design world lately but, while the word conjured up images of hand-painted paper, we didn’t know exactly what it meant.  The word “chinoiserie” is French for “Chinese-esque” and refers to the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century.  It can refer to furniture and decor, but in this post we thought we’d round up chinoiserie wall treatments.

Chinoiserie wallpaper is indisputably fancy, and most of the examples we found were in very posh rooms – we only found a few examples of it used in more modern spaces.  In this bedroom the slab headboard is a nice and weighty contrast to the willowy vines, while the all white bedding lets the wallpaper be the star.

This room has some particularly modern elements — most notably the Serge Mouille ceiling lamp — and the chinoiserie wallpaper adds the perfect organic element and gives the room a feeling of lived-in layers.

from Domino magazine

This verdant wallpaper beckons from the hall.

The yellow flowers on the purple-grey background of this version make it one of our favorites.  And you just know that cup of tea is perfectly steeped.

Pretty unusual to find chinoiserie in a kids room.  We’re not totally sold–do you think it works here?

chinoiserie close upThe hallmark of chinoiserie wall treatments (including wallpaper) is that it is hand-painted. Here’s an action shot.

treasure hunt 2A more affordable way to get the look is to use chinoiserie wallpaper panels and frame them in plexiglass like our favorite blogger and muse Jenny Komenda did here.

This room unabashedly embraces chinoiserie everything. The carp are a little creepy, but in a good way.

Anthropologie has its own interpretation, but if they hadn’t named it chinoiserie we’re not sure we would have recognized it. While it contains the standard elements of birds and flowers, the colors are much more vibrant and it feels overly tropical to us.

Have a great week everyone! We’ll be back on Wednesday with a report on our Eugene weekend together–we thrifted up a storm!

Design Definitions: Modern vs. Contemporary

Two words that often come up when talking about style, furniture, or design are “contemporary” and “modern.”  In a non-decorating context, we think of the words as synonymous, but in the design world they seem to mean very different things.  We decided to poke around and try to figure out what, precisely, contemporary and modern mean in the design context.  First, definitions of the words:

Contemporary: adj. belonging to or occurring in the present.

Modern: adj. of or relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past.

Sounds the same, right?  But add on the word “style” to either word, and they evolve to mean something very different.

First, “modern style”:  modern style references a specific movement characterized by clean lines and minimalism.  “Modern” emerged in the 1920s-1950s (according to dubious, but numerous, internet sources), so the word in this context doesn’t mean ‘relating to the present,’ but is a specific and static design style.  In other words it’s the style of a design, not how recently it emerged, that designates something like the Panton Chair (cir. 1960) as modern.  Perhaps the most recognizable iteration of modern style is mid-century modern style, which is, confusingly, quite popular in contemporary interiors (as in, right now).  Here are some examples of ‘modern style’ rooms:

At its most broad, ‘contemporary style’ seems to mean a style that focuses on design trends from the second half of the 20th century.  Contemporary decor incorporates neutral colors, with lots of brown, taupe, cream, and white, as well as stainless steel, nickel, and chrome.  Pattern is eschewed in favor of tone-on-tone solids and furnishings are ultra linear.  We found that most often ‘contemporary style’ is defined by what it’s not: traditional (another design definition post in the making!).

Here are some spaces that illustrate contemporary style:

Red House West||Modern vs. Contemporary

This is from ‘Better Homes and Gardens,’ where contemporary style is described as being “defined by clean lines with a casual atmosphere, open spaces, neutral colors, and elements and materials inspired by nature.”

Red House West || Design Definitions

Going through this exercise has shed light for us on the difference between modern and contemporary decor, and the ways in which the styles overlap and intersect.  What do you think? Have we cleared it up or further confounded you?