Wabi Sabi: some notes from a conversation with Ed Young

Below, a bit from a few notes taken while talking to Ed Young in the Spring of 2006; at the time, I was working on a magazine article/shoot that would feature rooms I'd created for children...and the best part of the preparation was a chance meeting with Mr. Young and the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking to him about his thoughts on design for children.

Here are the notes, just as I transcribed them in another little blog I had at the time:

"...Mr. Young, who trained as an architect, had such important things to say about environments. The first thing he said was that I needed to talk to Ashley Bryant, who lives near the shore and takes daily walks there and collects various things and writes poetry and turns his play into work. Mr. Y thought this was of great importance (these are my weak notes, written fast because I could not breathe and was trying to get it all down and nothing made sense to my hand 'tho it was all making the most primeval sense to my brain. When I look at the entry I made after talking to him, I know somehow I got it because, two entries later, I used a quote of Mr. Y's that I found, and realized--later, again--that they were remarkably similar) because...notes, finally:

  • [children are] 'hungry for something that's not made already'
  • 'branches | personal | imagination' (think this was in connection with the walks on the shore of A. Bryant, and his making things...play into work...as children love to do)
  • 'express themselves through their imagination'...[by taking bits and pieces and making] "things out of them" (this might have been in connection with the statement--Mr. Y. talks softly, and almost lowered his voice to a whisper when he said this--and I didn't write it down, so this is paraphrased - 'do you know where children really love to get things? From the dump...')
  • 'architecture' (I think this is when he told me that is what he had been trained in)
  • [questions for architects should be] 'is it healthy?' | 'is it human?'
  • 'when humans use it and play with it - it becomes beautiful' (this in thinking that architects want the things they build to be beautiful, and that the mistake they make, often, is that pure 'beauty' becomes the most important end result to them--but if humans don't use it, it isn't beautiful. Mr. Y. said that places that were supposed to be beautiful but are not used by humans, because they are not people-friendly, often become the most blighted areas of a city...)
  • [for] 'creating a culture in' - (the highest use of architecture, I believe this was his thought)
  • 'once it's used, it becomes healthy' "
[The following were a few more of my own thoughts:]
Okay, so there you have it. The bottom line (literally) is that once it's used, it becomes healthy.

Perhaps this is the greatest problem with some of the interior design we see these days. Beautiful (perhaps), but who on earth really wants to live there? An immaculate house that looks like an untouched museum? Too often, nobody's home. Who would want to be?

Little ones, above all, are not supposed to be perched on the edge of a chair trying not to spill on it ... rugs are not supposed to be pure white unless you are the boy in the plastic bubble ... people need to be able to stretch and read and eat and play and write and be happy in a room, and this includes, most especially, children.
This can be achieved: we can make beautiful spaces that will be lived in, and not just admired, so that we can function better as a society, and members of a society.


  1. What is it about the dump that is so magical? I loved it as a child (going to the dump was always a special trip with my dad). It still fascinates me, this idea of rescuing discarded items and turning them into something to use and love. I think every home should have something salvaged in it.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I am enjoying yours immensely.

  2. visited, scrolled up and down, clicked on links...really like the fresh, spare design!