story of shibui

Story of SHIBUI

When I was very young and a goldsmith’s apprentice, I learned the word “Shibui.” It was, I was told, the goal we were to strive for in our work. It was presented as the ideal of craftsmanship and beauty in my trade, and I came to love the word. And, as I grew, I came to better understand it.“Shibui” is almost as difficult to define as it is to achieve, but these abridgements from the August 1960 issue of House Beautiful come close:Shibui describes a profound, unassuming, quiet feeling. It is unobtrusive and unostentatious. It may have hidden attainments, but they are not paraded or displayed. The form is simple and must have been arrived at with an economy of means. Shibui is never complicated or contrived.It is a knowing exploration of its methods’ and material’s inherent capabilities. A thing shibui must have depth worth studying after first being noticed. It must not reveal itself all at once. It is interesting, with intrinsic quality and depth of character. Its beauty is imperfect and unique, enhanced by particularities.

If a color scheme is to be shibui, the large areas should be dark, rich, and unobtrusive, but with a touch of sharp, astringent color to add interest. Shibui is the essence of controlled understatement, and requires an attitude of modesty and humility.

When I opened my own store, I called it Shibui to honor my childhood and the ideal of beauty I strive to bring my customers. Though my action was of pure intent, most older Japanese generations would find it laughable: No one advertises himself as Shibui! No one calls himself “Shibui.” It goes against the very nature of the word!

But my mistake was sincere, and I can only hope it will add to the richness of this store’s history. Though I have grown less naive, Shibui maintains the earnestness and honesty with which it was named. Because they are part of what we are. And we are still Shibui. However elusive, we will continue to pursue that ideal.

**Interestingly, younger Japanese generations have appropriated the word “Shibui” for themselves. In hip young circles, Shibui now means “cool” or “rad.”


what is shibui

What is SHIBUI?

In Japan, people think of beauty in levels—from blatant, brash, and bold to the ideal of beauty: Shibui. “Shibui” means the type of beauty that doesn’t need announcement; its quality speaks for itself. It involves the maturity, complexity, history, and patina that only time can bring—like a fine vintage wine. Shibui objects have a history which they convey. They speak of understated elegance, utility (each piece serves an important function), rare beauty, and unobtrusive sophistication. Shibui brings a deeper meaning to our lives, and we hope to share that richness with you.

Collectors and designers alike are drawn to Shibiu’s wide assortment of offerings for reasons as varied as our inventory: from wanting to enhance an environment and elevate the level of beauty in their lives to acquiring a secure financial investment.

On this site, you can do all three. Here, Shibui will bring you a continually updated stock of unique pieces, including a sophisticated assortment of ceramics (including oribe and shigaraki), textiles (including folk textiles, kimono, and obi), traditional Japanese arts implements (including sumi-e brush painting, ikebana flower arranging, and cha-do tea ceremony), and our specialty, authentic antique tansu. We are also proud to offer you the assistance of our small, knowledgeable and friendly staff and expert restoration services.

Shibui means thorough quality, so we hold both our products and our service to the highest standards. At Shibui we believe in quality customer service. We are dedicated to understanding your needs, and will do our very best to satisfy them.

Getting what you want from us is easy. When you see a piece you like, you can order it directly through this site, or call us (1.718.875.1119) for personal assistance. And we’ll help you protect your new investment with our unconditional guarantee of quality and authenticity.

After all, our promise is in our name. We invite you to see for yourself, and explore this beautiful world.



About Dane Owen

A love of beauty runs in my blood. My father was a goldsmith, my mother studied and practiced ikebana, and they filled my years at home with thoughtful beauty. I made my first gold ring at ten, and worked in my father’s jewelry store until I left home at eighteen. During the subsequent years, my general appreciation of beauty matured into a lasting fascination with Asian arts, and I began collecting Japanese antiques. My criterion for obtaining these items was the same then as it is now: a rare, palpable essence of quality and timeless beauty. The Japanese have a word for such beauty: Shibui.

To enhance my understanding of the eastern aesthetic that so enthralled me, I studied the classics at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had taken my beautiful surroundings for granted before, but at college I learned just how important they were to me. My new home was an aesthetic void – a cold, bare cinderblock dorm room. I felt bereft in these sterile quarters, but on a student budget I could no longer afford to live amid the beauty that nourished me. Still, I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I did.

Over time, this lack of beauty and funds gave me an idea: I could send for the objects that made my last home so beautiful, and sell a few to finance the shipping. When I put them on the market, the interest that met these eastern antiques was overwhelming. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only person in the desert who loved the elegant simplicity of Asian art. People were hungry for more, so I began to furnish them. It was my junior year in college, and Shibui was born.

Since graduating, I have worked exclusively to develop Shibui and make it accessible to people around the world. I continue to study and increase my familiarity with things Shibui, and strive to acquire one-of-a-kind merchandise that can transform and enrich any setting. At Shibui, I do what I love: share my passion with others and add beauty to their lives. Thank you for your interest in our collection; we hope it will enhance your life as well.


Dane Owen