I live in a wabi sabi home, or at least I aspire to. Wabi sabi is a Japanese frame of mind as well as a design concept, hard to understand and even more challenging to achieve. It’s like the tea ceremony, but for houses.
Wabi sabi values authenticity, not warehouse stores; wood, not plastic laminate; salvaged not custom-made, and objects with stories and the marks of the past, like the antique high chair my father once used that still bears his baby teeth marks on the wood.
Simply put, wabi sabi is the joining of the Japanese wabi, or humble, and sabi, which connotes beauty in the natural progression of time. Americans have no comparable word, perhaps because we have no concept that suggests we set aside the quest for endless renovation and learn to appreciate the unconventional beauty of things as they are.
Americans have long held the belief that more will make it better. They travel to Europe for a sense of richness they lack in their own surroundings, the general texture of life they envy Continentals. It’s just that soul doesn’t lie in faux finishes, greed and gadgetry.
You can come closest to understanding wabi sabi in New Orleans, where the past is revered and its faded glory accepted instead of replaced. Like Orleanians, I tend to live in a house “as is.” It never occurs to me to do away with the old — a little scuffed paint, the patina of rust or weathered wood — and try to make everything like new again. I believe a home’s façade is like a woman’s face: To remove the history of either and fill in the cracks is to take away all interest.
If the ceiling’s caving in, that’s different.
Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The culinary- inclined turned out en masse despite blustery March winds to tour a half-dozen home kitchens courtesy of the Lafayette Junior League . The debut event is a riff on a similar successful concept in New Orleans and co-opted by the ladies for Lafayette, who had tourists meet at their headquarters in River Ranch before fanning out. We picked the West Bayou Parkway area and managed to pick two twins — mixes of modern and Old World, antique beams and both white — 312 Ducharme and 101 Asbury Road. “I cook dinner from scratch every night,” said Megan Domingue, lady of the latter house. “It’s a chef’s kitchen. I wanted everything very white, airy and one with nature.” The money raised assists the League with its civic projects.
It was all Junior League all of the time this week. Emily Hamner hosted the Junior League sustainers for a cocktail buffet at her just-completed home next to the Horse Farm, and if that’s not a view, we don’t know what is. Lots of ladies turned out to see it, too, including JL President Maggie Simar, Linda Alesi, Ramona Mouton, Pat Olson, Fete fan Clarice Burch, and the two winners of the “Prettiest Parasol” contest, Sue Golden and Erin Landry. The hors d’oeuvres were excellent and the oysters amazing, but best of all — a true Southern lady — was Jacquelyn Jenkins, who insisted on packing us a plate to go. There’s your JL poster girl.