A Touch of Zen: Applying the Bonsai Philosophy at Home
When it comes to furniture or flora that’s uniquely Japanese, the bonsai is one of the first symbols that springs to mind. Although it takes its roots from China, the art of just subtly altering a potted tree to achieve art is one that has, over time, become a trademark Japanese custom.
The word “bonsai” is made up of two characters: “bon,” meaning a dish or thin bowl, and “sai,” meaning a tree or any other planted growing plant. Strictly speaking, this means the bonsai can be just a potted plant growing in a small container. At the same time, a bonsai can be so many other things, like an art form, a tradition, a practice, a re-creation of the natural environment outside, and even a way to achieve inner peace.
In some ways, careful and constant cultivation of a bonsai is a practice that can also be applied elsewhere: in self-improvement, creating art, and even planning your home’s interior design or renovation. Indeed, applying the special philosophy of the bonsai to your next home renovation project would be almost like adding a touch of zen to the place you feel most comfortable in.
Balance in Form
The bonsai represents harmony and balance for the Japanese, which are values that are easily seen in the way it is structured. A bonsai is predominantly shaped by the triangle – or, more specifically, an isosceles triangle. With its unconventional, unpredictable shape, the isosceles triangle is able to convey a more dynamic aura, to reference the same dynamic nature our own lives take. This is unlike the static, equal nature of the equilateral triangle, as well as all the other conventional rules of symmetry and equal measurements.
Interior design is also something that follows the basic principles set by textures, colors, and layers. In everything, balance is key, more so if we are heading renovations on our own homes. Like the bonsai, home interior could also benefit from being unpredictable. While following trends is nearly never a bad idea, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to mix things up a little.
A Clutter-Free Philosophy
At the same time, the appeal of a bonsai lies in its utmost simplicity. While layers and textures to the plant itself are just as important in its formation, a bonsai does not need anything more to stand out. A perfect bonsai will have no extra branches, nor will it have anything that’s lacking in its structure. Its simple charms are also influenced by the container it is encased in. This does not need to be fancy or expensive; most of the time, a plain, simple box or tray will more than suffice. With a bonsai, the tree itself becomes the focus, and anything else – the soil, the pot, and other external decorations – will only distract you from its true beauty.
Observing a clutter-free philosophy when it comes to the home will prove helpful, especially if a minimalist approach is in the cards. Additional items may prove distracting and could take up more space than necessary. Maintaining a simple lifestyle and ridding your home of the clutter will allow your space to shine the way it was meant to.
Here's a quick guide to Marie Kondo's trademark de-cluttering philosophy and how it has done wonders for homes elsewhere.
Let the Change Happen
For a bonsai to truly flourish, it is important to let its growth happen organically, without forcing a branch or a leaf to bend a certain way. Our life’s best moments are also unforced, and the same should apply to the process of crafting a bonsai. To force the plant to look a certain way will reduce its natural aesthetic and take away its authentic charm.
This is the same for our homes, where it’s just as important to give them time to breathe on their own. By allowing things to move organically without forcing the changes, we can come up with better designs or renovation jobs for them. While planning certainly helps a project go more smoothly, sometimes, taking the minimalist and natural approach will also prove helpful.
Improvement is a Process
To take care of a bonsai means making the commitment to do so over a lengthy period of time. As perfection is something that cannot be rushed or achieved right away, creating the perfect bonsai is an art that could take years to complete. Allowing the bonsai to breathe on its own for years is the ideal for artists, as age will only help enhance the beauty of the plant. With the bonsai, age is more than just a number, and the older the plant is, the more valued they become. Age helps define the aesthetic of the bonsai and it definitely gives the plant more character.
By constantly doing work on our homes, be it by way of little tweaks or huge shifts, we can help facilitate a more organic type of change. Instead of renovating everything in one go, we can practice a philosophy of continuous improvement, where we allow the change to happen, as it happens. This isn’t to say should be indecisive about our home’s designs. What this means is, we put in the constant work over the years to achieve a specific goal we’ve set from the beginning. As every bonsai artist begins work with the design they want to bring to life, we should also set some clear goals for ourselves and our home throughout the renovation period.
Forge a Relationship with Nature
Having a bonsai inside the house gives you a special relationship with the outside environment, almost connecting you to the nature that can be found outside your window. Giving yourself time to craft the bonsai gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, even if only in this limited capacity. There is a unique bond between you and nature that’s forged in the process, and it’s because of this artists can work freely with their bonsai.
Adopting a similar mindset for your home can prove healthy for you and the other people living in it. You can add some greenery to the home for a fresher, more vibrant feel indoors. And after rough days, having some plants inside can give you some peace of mind and calm you down. This is in addition to the ecological benefits an indoor plant can give you, especially when it comes to ridding the house of pollutants and other toxic odors.
Here are some other indoor plants you can consider for your home.
Meaning is not always instantly recognizable to the naked eye
The best bonsai are not obvious about being manufactured; while the artist’s influence will certainly be there, their personal style comes in so quietly, the audience would think the bonsai grew that way on its own. While there will always be feelings we realize immediately upon seeing the bonsai, a gifted artist will give their work an extra layer, so that the piece hits differently at a second glance. Nothing about the bonsai is an accident, and even the smallest, subtlest details were meant to be placed there by the artist.
It would help to practice the same level of care when working on your home, especially when it comes to adding the little details that will make your home’s personality pop. If you treat the re-designing or renovation with as much respect as the artists lend to their bonsai, then this can become a fun exercise in creativity.
And who knows? You might also be able to get something much more profound or cleansing at the end of the experience.
Strike the healthy balance between minimalism and functionality with us today. Tokyo Grand Renovation (TGR) is a design and build specialist when it comes to crafting luxury and functionality in one. Inspired by Japanese philosophy and style, TGR’s headquarters is at 9110 La Campana St. cor. Trabajo St., Brgy. Olympia, Makati City, 1207.
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