Wabi-Sabi Residence: Embracing Japanese Aesthetic Culture

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Sparano + Mooney Architecture, a renowned design practice in Utah, is known for its innovative and award-winning contemporary designs. The firm’s founders, Anne Mooney and John Sparano, have a deep commitment to the creative process and a passion for designing within the rugged western landscape. Their latest project, the Wabi-Sabi Residence, located in Emigration Canyon above Salt Lake City, beautifully captures the essence of Japanese aesthetic culture while celebrating the connection between nature and architecture.

Embracing the Wabi-Sabi Philosophy:

The Wabi-Sabi residence draws inspiration from the ancient Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, which cherishes imperfection, transience, and simplicity. This philosophy seeks beauty in the natural weathering and aging of objects. Sparano + Mooney Architecture has translated these principles into a contemporary design that harmonizes with the surrounding mountain, vegetation, and wildlife. The result is a residence that embraces the imperfect and creates a direct connection to the serene canyon landscape.

Unique Design and Indoor/Outdoor Relationship:

Nestled in the canyon, the Wabi-Sabi Residence offers a breathtaking elevated view of Salt Lake City. The home is cleverly divided into two cantilevered volumes, floating above the landscape. The north volume, oriented along an east-west axis, houses the private and domestic functions, while the southwest volume contains the public and active gathering spaces. This design approach enhances the indoor/outdoor relationship, allowing the homeowners to enjoy the captivating mountain vistas from uniquely-framed perspectives.

Thoughtful Material Selection and Sustainability:

Sparano + Mooney Architecture prioritized sustainable practices and thoughtful material selection in the construction of the Wabi-Sabi Residence. The exterior of the home features full-height, vertical cedar boards, which were sorted on-site, minimizing construction waste. The use of FSC-certified Western Red Cedar Select, in standard lengths, reduced material cutting and waste. The interior elements, fixtures, and furnishings were also carefully chosen to align with the project’s sustainable objectives.

LEED Gold Certification and Sustainable Features:

The Wabi-Sabi Residence is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, showcasing its commitment to sustainability. The architects incorporated various sustainable features into the design, including a window system with operable openings for natural ventilation, reducing the reliance on mechanical heating and cooling systems. The vegetated roof, planted with local grasses, blends the home with its natural context, while native and drought-tolerant plants and trees enhance the site’s ecological balance.

Collaborative Team:

The successful realization of the Wabi-Sabi Residence was made possible through collaboration with a skilled team. Living Home Construction served as the builder, ensuring the design integrity throughout the construction process. McNeil Engineering contributed their expertise as the civil engineer, while Structural Design Studio provided structural engineering support.


The Wabi-Sabi Residence is a testament to Sparano + Mooney Architecture’s design philosophy, which combines innovative thinking, sustainability, and a deep respect for the natural environment. The residence seamlessly integrates Japanese aesthetic culture with the rugged landscape of Salt Lake City, creating a dwelling that transcends traditional notions of beauty. Its unique design, meticulous material selection, and sustainable features make it an architectural gem that will inspire and captivate for years to come.

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Technical sheet

Architects: Sparano + Mooney Architecture
Builder: Living Home Construction
Civil Engineer: McNeil Engineering
Structural Engineer: Structural Design Studio

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