Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Perfectly Imperfect Home

My Favourite Decor Book

Several times in my blogs I have referred to Deborah Needleman's book The Perfectly Imperfect Home. I thought it was about time I showed you what I'm talking about.

Undecorate and House Beautiful Kitchens are from the library, but I own The Perfectly Imperfect Home.
As a teacher and a writer, I read a lot.  I read poetry, Y.A., non-fiction about poetry, education, and other serious topics, and increasingly, as I become more interested in how to make my home feel right, decor books.  Because of generous subscription gifts from my mother-in-law, I have been reading Canadian decor magazines for most of my married life; more recently, I have read House Beautiful as well, but never saw a connection between those magazines and my rental apartment, or beginner spec house.  Then Frances Schultz wrote about this book on her blog, and I ordered it, because I love Frances Schultz's taste. 

I read it, and then I read it again and again. Perhaps it is something about the premise of the perfectly imperfect that drew me in. As the daughter of a perfectionist who taught me how to set the table and make my bed, I recoiled from perfect decor as though it meant stress and ridicule.  But Needleman's tone is light and self-deprecating.  Also, my learning style is linguistic, so I don't learn much by looking at pictures without having what is going on in them spelled out for me.  Her topics are didactic and helpful, and often humorous, even gently satirical. I like how she starts with lighting, and the quirky titles of the chapters, like "A Bit of Quirk" and "Cozifications."
Part of the Table of Contents.
It was in the ottoman section on p. 78 where I learned that I could recover my old ottoman, and in Excellent Bed Linens, or the index at the back, where I learned I could get a good linen duvet cover from Restoration Hardware.  I wish she had chapters on curtains and rugs.

However, perhaps the biggest reason I cling to this book is the illustrations by Virginia Johnson, a Canadian artist. I realized after looking at them for countless hours, that I had seen many of these rooms in magazines before, and that now, through the watercolour paintings, I could envision my own home, whereas with sharp, digitally enhanced glossy photos, I could not.

Virginia Johnson illustration of Miles Redd room.
 Do you see all my sticky page holders? That is a sign of a loved book.
Another Virginia Johnson illustration of  a Miles Redd room.
How many hours have I stared at photos of these rooms in magazines? 

Yet I never really imagined how my rooms could be like those.  Suddenly, in water colour, I could see a green sofa like mine, and a green lamp that I could buy in a local store. The pillows, with their suggested patterns, could be like some I could find or make.  Maybe I don't want my walls that dark blue, but I could paint them in high gloss, or not. 

I am not an artist, but I guess there is something about water colour art in particular that opens up the imagination in ways that photography cannot.  Unexpectedly, creating a beautiful room seemed a simpler matter of colours, patterns and shapes, which could be achieved with not only the most expensive materials. It is as if the illustrations themselves say, "It is O.K. if everything is not perfect. It is still beautiful."
Virginia Johnson illustration of Steven Gembrel entry hall.

And for some photos I had not yet seen, how exciting it was to see them after the illustrations, and have them seem not so intimidating. Anyone can paint a hallway green, this page seems to say, whether it is  lacquered or not.

Sometimes, I follow the book like a recipe,which I know is not creative, but like I said, by creative talents are with the written word.
Pillow recipe.
I actually found the pillow cover on the left in a store in California and ordered a tiny "boudoir" one over the phone. They didn't know how high the duty would be and neither did I until I received it! I thought we had free trade between Canada and the United States, but it turns out these pretty little pillow cases are made in France. Oh dear, slavishly following even a drawing can be expensive.
"Boudoir" pillow on my bed. "Not Too Many Pillows."
Deborah Needleman is a perceptive decorator and convincing writer, and has chosen the best pictures for her book. I read it again every few months, even though I have it pretty well memorized, to pick up more tips on how I can make my house beautiful and how to live well in it.  I hope you have a chance to look at it, too.


Frances Schultz said...

Susan, wow, thanks for the LOVE! And right back atcha! But even apart from that - what a great post. I love your writing about how the paintings opened you to see other possibilities and further inspired your own creativity. Wow. Keep it up.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Frances. How absolutely thrilling and honouring it is to have your comment on my post!