The Perfectly Imperfect Home

There is an almost instinctual urge to view Deborah Needleman’s new book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well, through the lens of her beloved interiors tome produced with the Domino team, Domino: The Book of Decorating. It is admittedly not easy to divorce Needleman’s current work from her Domino days. When our advance copy of Perfectly Imperfect showed up, The Husband called it “The New Testament” in reference to my frequently calling the Domino book my “bible.”

The most striking difference between the two books is photography – Perfectly Imperfect doesn’t have any. Each illustration in the book is a watercolor by painter Virginia Johnson. While painterly and charming, it at first seems that something is amiss with the illustrations. These aren’t just random paintings: they are true studies of actual interiors. However, can this be a true Domino follow up without the pages upon pages of gorgeously photographed interiors to inspire? Maybe that’s exactly the point: This is Needleman’s book, not a Domino staff effort. And for the first time in years of fan-dom, I’m really reading and absorbing Needleman’s theories and philosophies on the home – not just admiring her sofa choice.

It was far too easy to feel one had “read” the Domino book due to sheer hours spent flipping through it and gazing at the photos. Yet, the cliché of “décor porn” was really at work – in truth, readers weren’t paying as much attention to the text as they were the photos. The sub-head of Perfectly Imperfect is “How to Decorate and Live Well.” the latter concept in particular is something that requires description and direction, not just illustration, to teach. In The Perfectly Imperfect Home, Needleman tells how to make a bed (both a fancy and fast set of directions), select the right size rug for a room or the right shape of dining table for how you entertain, and the benefits of different sofa styles. But before all this bed making and implied-rule teaching has you thinking Debbie has tossed out the old Domino boho edge for something more Martha Stewart-ish, remember the name of the book. Needleman shares how irreverent accents and “Jollifiers” (her name for sentimental things that spread a little joy) humanize and add charming imperfection to a well-done home. She even advocates “a bit of ugly”: drabbing down interiors to avoid them looking “dollhousey and saccharine.” (It should also be noted that as we live in the midst of an era where wedding couples have taken to adorning their tables with old timey apothecary bottles, and wackiness-imparting themes like owls and top hats become “over” in the blink of an eye, the painted illustrations lend a slight timelessness that is lacking from some current books on the subject of personalizing a home).

The Perfectly Imperfect Home drops tomorrow, Nov. 1. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips from the book and how we’re using them in our home in the coming days.

One Response to The Perfectly Imperfect Home

  1. Alexis says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been waiting for this book! I saw on AT that it was all watercolors.

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