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Deborah Needleman Interview For The Imperfectly Perfect Home

Talking Imperfect Perfection With Deborah Needleman

This year at High Point Market I was thrilled to finally meet Deborah Needleman, one of my all-time design heroines. The lovely Ms. Needleman led a design luncheon at High Point where she talked about her new book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home. It has risen to the rank of my favorite home decor book of the past year, and it sits atop my slant-top desk next to a small box filled with antique German coins, one of the "smalls" that Deborah talks about that make my home personal, happy, and perfectly imperfect.

The former editor of Domino magazine and the current editor of WSJ. Magazine, Deborah recently answered some of my questions about her book, decorating philosophy, and personal favorite decorating ideas and quirky pieces. Keep reading for the first half of my interview with Deborah Needleman!
CasaSugar: What inspired The Perfectly Imperfect Home?
Deborah Needleman: It was inspired by how uncomfortable I feel in overly decorated, everything-just-so houses, and how inspired and comfortable and happy I feel in houses that are stylish and real. I love houses that are portraits of their owners.

CS: How do you think the concept of designing imperfectly can spark creativity and growth in decorating?
DN: You can’t be creative if you are constantly just trying to keep everything neat and perfect. If the evolution of your life is reflected in your decorating, that means your decoration will not remain static. It changes as you change; it grows and morphs with you. I’ve never liked or believed in the idea of decorating as something that can be finished. Like life, it is a work in progress.


CS: Can you describe one of the stylish, welcoming, and imperfect homes you’ve visited and found particularly inspiring?
DN: The decorator and design writer Rita Konig is my patron saint(ess) of stylish imperfection. She was raised by a fancy decorator (Nina Campbell), has lived in and visited beautiful houses her whole life, and knows all the rules of decorating, but she is never hampered by rules or fussiness. She is inspired by the kind of life she wants to go on inside her house. It is always inspiring, exciting, and completely comforting to be in her home. Her home always smells fantastic. It has a lot of personality, quirk, and color. There are soft pillows on the sofas and chairs, lots of books you want to read, and interesting things on the walls. Plus, she’s a doting host, always ready to make you something nice to drink and eat.

All the top editors at Domino had homes like you describe — stylish, welcoming, and imperfect — and they inspired me enormously. I hired them so they could inspire others like they did me. The brilliant Sara Ruffin Costello (who now writes the best and cheekiest decorating column out there for the Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal), Tom Delavan (who is now editorial director of the recently launched GiltHome), Dara Caponigro (editor in chief of Veranda magazine), and the aforementioned Rita Konig (who is European editor of WSJ. Magazine magazine)

Keep reading for more of our conversation with Deborah Needleman!
CS: What mollifier do you have in your home?
DN: I’ve so accepted these offenders that I now just think of them as part of the landscape and kind of even love them: framed anarchist posters from the Spanish Civil War; coffee mugs designed like old penguin paperbacks, and a littering of miniature plastic skateboard ramps (don’t ask).

CS: What jollifier in your home do you adore?
DN: I adore them all. Framed pictures of my children and drawings by them hung on a wall in my dressing area; notes from the children taped to the mirror inside my closet; a plaster model of my daughter’s hand; my son’s skateboards in the front hall; a collection of ceramic things my husband made in middle school; a small leather bull; a low basket in the front hall filled with pretty cards and invites and notes that I’m too fond of to toss or file. It’s so obvious that it’s nice to have things scattered around that make you happy.

CS: What’s your advice for someone who’s hesitant to embrace their own style for fear of seeming out of sync with the shelter magazines and online blogs?
DN: Nothing brilliant has ever come out of following someone else, or listening to conventional wisdom. Everyone is following everyone else and the magazines, the blogs, the decorators are all looking at each other. If you’ve got a style or an idea that seems out of sync with them, you should most certainly go for it. Either it will be the next thing, and they’ll all be looking to you, or it’ll be awful, but at least it will be authentic and interesting and yours, so who cares. The only thing to care about is whether it makes you happy.

Want more great advice and ideas from Deborah? Tune in tomorrow for the second half of my interview! Make sure to hit your local bookstore for a copy of The Perfectly Imperfect Home or order The Perfectly Imperfect Home online. And for even more daily doses of advice and ideas from Deborah, follow her on Twitter at @debbieneedles!

Reprinted from The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman. Copyright © 2011. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Virginia Johnson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

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