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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I purchased this book after listening to an interview with Needleman on a podcast I subscribe to. I watch a lot of HGTV and DIY, but beyond that I am very new to the consumption of interior design products, and every magazine I've bought on the subject only served to depress me about the lack of money and skill I have to reproduce the results in the photos.

Needleman's book did not inspire the same defeatism; in fact, it has energized me to redecorate my home on my own budget and to my personal taste.

Pros:

- Needleman's writing and tone is accessible and interesting. She was just enough authority and technical terms to make me feel that I was in the hands of an expert and just enough joking and asides to keep the material from being dry.
- Love the water color paintings. Most magazines give you snapshots of someone's perfectly designed house, which actually limits your ability to imagine how you'd recreate the look or modify it for your own home. The water color somehow subverted that and was just beautiful enough to be inspiring.

Cons:
- No chapter on home office
- The kitchen chapter could be more substantial (most of it focused on the dining area)
- In terms of class consciousness, I couldn't help but be regularly reminded of my staunch middle-classness at times, especially when being told that a certain candle from Italy is really the only candle worth having. Use of French was at times a bit pretentious.

Overall:

I read this book cover to cover, and plan to re-read it as I redecorate my own home this spring.
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well by Deborah Needleman is a terrific resource for home decorators. Needleman writes that the point of decorating is to "create the background for the best life you can live." As a designer myself, I fully agree with this sentiment.

This book is the opposite of what a staged home would be like...(staging is when one creates a home to appeal to all and depersonalizes it.)

According to Needleman, one does not decorate simply to have a home look good...one decorates to feel comfortable, to fit ones lifestyle--functionality, and to feel good in. "Decorating improves ones life!" She claims.

The reader is asked to decide what you want your home to do--what functions should it serve? Next, how does your home make you feel? With this information, you are guided in furniture and styling to make your home work best for you.

The goal is to make your home personal and comfortable and highly functional. she writes: "Luxury is simply what makes you happy."

The remainder of the book is divided into sections with many tips on how to make a functional, personal and comfortable home. Within each of the following chapters, these are discussed:

* Lighting
* The entry way
* Areas for conversation
* "A bit of quirk"--personalizing your space to reflect you
* "Spots for books, drinks, and feet"
* "Cozifications"
* Bedroom
* Bathroom
* "Glamifications"--wallpaper, objects
* "Dinners with friends"--making entertaining special with pretty objects and functional with a well stocked pantry
* Personal stuff
* Smells--adding flowers, scented things
* History--adding antiques, crafts

Altogether, I highly recommend this book. Another book I recommend to my clients and friends is HARMONIOUS ENVIRONMENT: BEAUTIFY, DETOXIFY & ENERGIZE YOUR LIFE, YOUR HOME & YOUR PLANET for more great tips on how to decorate your home for living well.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is as refreshing and lilting as a Cole Porter song. The tone of it is a great mix of what the author loves best in design, and writes about: it's light, welcoming, chatty, quirky, comfortable, insouciant, cozy, glamorous, festive, personal and has a sense of history.

For design aficionados, it may read like a good novel. The winsome watercolors by Virginia Johnson add to the quirky charm of this book. They are frame-worthy and would be lovely on the walls of a reading corner, guest room or small bathroom. The watercolors of rooms are appealing the way a painting of a loved one is appealing in place of a photograph. You may enjoy guessing which rooms by designers the illustrations are capturing.

The star here is the text--the pointed point of view of the author Deborah Needleman who was founder of one of the most original design magazines DOMINO and is now Editor in Chief of WSJ MAGAZINE. If all design is opinion, she's got one; it has been informed by the pantheon of the first generation of great professional designers. They are quoted liberally in this book. We know them by their last names: Wharton, Fowler, Baldwin, Hicks, Hadley, Parish, Hampton and de Wolfe. English design is a strong bloodline in this ancestry which influences her philosophy. It combines with a bit of French elegance, and a touch of American democracy in decorating such as don't get hung up on the provenance of a piece as Hadley would say, and combine the handsome with the homely per Bilhuber. Needleman also has favorites in designers working today--some of whom may be on your list. It's an eclectic mix. It may prompt you to create your own list of designers whose works tantalize you.

If design is an expression of personality, this book is an expression of the author's. It synthesizes some of the best of the past, adapting and combining it with contemporary living today. It may inspire you, as it did me, to think about what constitutes your own ideal of a "perfectly imperfect home". What are the 10 adjectives that describe your ideal style? If one word is glamorous, what embodies glamour for you? A folding screen that 1940's stars are always changing behind in 1940's movies? It may provoke you to write down on folders your 10 or so favorite adjectives for style you love, and then start collecting photos of rooms, or elements of rooms, that include the ingredients which epitomize these adjectives for you. You may want to collect quotes by favorite designers on design elements you love, and consider combining them to produce your own book on MY PERFECTLY IMPERFECT HOME. (ELLE DECOR last week sent out an email on BLURB which, for as little as $10.95, will publish a personal bookstore-quality book that you design for your own coffee table or ottoman.)

Reading this book is an aesthetic delight and best experienced curled up in a favorite spot, with a throw, tasty beverage on requisite side table, and a fire or scented candles lit for an uninterrupted hour of sheer immersion in design. Here's a sampling of some favorite design insights from this book. You will have fun finding your own:

* Upholstered chairs are the backbone of a room. (Billy Baldwin)
* Every room should have a personality chair (Sister Parish)
* No more than three brown pieces of wood in a room (Sister Parish)
* When mixing patterns, connect through color and contrast through scale (Needleman)
* English furniture, all foursquare and sensible, was relieved by the delicacy of a French piece (John Fowler)
* I personally try to avoid all ceiling lights because I think that overhead light is a tragedy (Albert Hadley
* Make your home as comfortable and attractive as possible and then get on with living (Albert Hadley)

and one that may make you laugh:

* Every room needs a bit of ugly--"often an ugly color is introduced such as a faded black or drab, to give counterpoint to colors that are sweet and clean." (John Fowler).

Beautiful with a bit of ugly, stylish and sensible, your own vision of a perfectly imperfect home should be enhanced by this book. If you like the elements of style on the cover, you should enjoy the content inside.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
From the title, I was expecting this book to be a refreshing look at the obsession with perfection that so many of us have toward our homes, and a reminder that no, we don't have to be perfect all the time, and neither do our living spaces. Maybe with some awareness that not everyone has the time or money to make their homes look fantastic, and some basic advice for making things look good without spending all your time and energy on decorating.

Sadly, it seems to be filled with just as much this-is-what-you-MUST-do advice as other home decorating books. A few pages in, I was already overwhelmed with rules and extremely specific "advice" I know I'll never be able to afford to follow. I should be symmetrical, but not TOO symmetrical. I should fill my home with beautiful things, but also add "a bit of ugly." I need Egyptian cotton sheets that were made in Italy, and if I'm unlucky enough not to have my own "in-house laundress," I can "treat" myself to getting them professionally washed and ironed. Ironed! Life is far too short to waste time ironing sheets.

It's pretty obvious that this, like so many other decorating books, is written for people with much more money than I will probably ever have. Did you know that ottomans are "a personal matter between me and my upholsterer"? I can't even imagine saying the words "my upholsterer" with no sense of irony. I suppose the words "founding editor of Domino magazine" on the cover should have tipped me off.

The watercolor illustrations by Virginia Johnson are gorgeous, and I like that they're drawn and painted rather than photographed. It makes this book unique, and also lets your imagination fill in the details rather than thinking "okay, I have to have THIS chair and THIS wallpaper," etc.

And to be fair, I'm sure my home would look beautiful if I followed the advice in this book. But for that to happen, I'd have to be able to afford to move out of my tiny apartment and buy furniture that didn't all come from Craigslist.

I'm sure people can find some great nuggets of advice in this book that will work for them. Meanwhile, I'll keep searching for a decorating book that doesn't require a six-figure salary and a personal upholsterer.
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93 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I love Deborah Needleman and pre-ordered this book. But it was actually pretty disappointing.

The text isn't too bad since there are a few useful hints here and there, but the illustrations dragged down the entire book. The illustrations in this book aren't even quite like illustrations you find in early Mark Hampton and Charlotte Moss books. These are very loose, impressionistic watercolors of imaginary rooms (though some were copied from real rooms) and vignettes that really don't convey anything and are probably only meant to eat up white space. I wish there were actual photos were you could see textiles, textures, etc. -- all the things that tie into the text and make a decorating book worthwhile.

Also, the illustrations -- page after page after page -- really became very cloying.

I don't think I would've bought this book had I known how incredibly mediocre it would be.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is very twee and well put together. However, I find it lacking when it comes to actual details. For example, in the chapter about a good couch, Needleman says she won't "bore us with details" about why custom/expensive/non-catalog couches are best. But I want details!! When investing thousands of dollars in furniture, I want to know what specifically to look for and why.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I think this book is so well written with really useful tips and advises. I am so in love with this book and i could relate to Deborah childhood which was the same as mine. Now I just want to be surrounded with beautiful things. This book is simply perfect. You would not regret buying this book. This book is so easy and a pleasure to read.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book given the background of the author (I enjoyed Domino and miss it) but was immediately disappointed when I saw the book had only illustrations, no photos. Yes, the illustrations are charming, but the charm wears thin quickly, and the illustrations fail to fully , well, illustrate what the author is trying to show. I noted this early in the first chapter , when the illustration did a completely inadequate job of showing a variety of light sources casting a warm glow.

The book is full of info, and many may find the look of the book attractive and charming, but the ultimately uninformative and monotonous drawings undercut the whole effort. Interpersing some photos with drawings would have saved this book for me. Form defeated function in this case.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I loved Domino and was so sad when the magazine became a victim of the recession. So when I found a book by the former editor, I got excited. The best thing about this book is how practical it is. I have so many things that I've picked up over the years and it can be completely overwhelming figuring out what to do with them all. This book is like decorating geometry - if the sofa is x then there should be y chairs in z places with appropriately arranged tchotchkies. Like a textbook, only fun and with pretty pictures. Love it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
At first I was taken aback by this book, as I expected photographs of rooms, and soon realized it was all drawn illustrations, and I thought this might make her suggestions hard to conceptualize. This quirk, however, soon proved to be the book's charm. Rather than serving as the "decorator porn" of most decorating books where one gets distracted by specific designers and labels out of common reach, this serves as a down-to-earth guide for making your house more appealing. I have used several of Needleman's suggestions and have benefitted from each chapter. For instance, she suggests a table lamp in the kitchen for a homey touch, which I adopted and love. Would recommend to anyone interested in learning from a pro.
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