There are some who will say, “Teal — you must be joking.” Others who will say, “You have a great eye for design, but have you ever thought about your living room this way?” Yet still more who will say, “I love this piece for your home because it complements the architecture and creates a cohesive look.”
Interior designers are cut from many swatches. Some are highly judgmental and used to driving the furniture and finish selections; others compliment their clients’ vision and efforts while bringing a fresh perspective and solutions; and still more who think about the big picture, put their preferences aside and deliver an approach that suits their clients.
If I had to categorize myself, I would say I fall into the latter category — a designer who chooses pieces that are appropriate aesthetically and functionally and work well with other furniture and the home itself.
Technically no one is better than the other. A successful partnership with an interior designer will be one based on shared perspectives, values and personalities. Who is right for Person A may not be for Person B.
Differences in how designers approach clients go hand in hand with their approach to the profession. Last fall I saw my design approach represented in a magazine under the headline “Perfectly imperfect decor.”
Perfect imperfection hearkens back to ideas from the Arts & Crafts movement, which celebrated the artisan and the handmade quality and details of furniture. Arts & Crafts, which started as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution’s mass produced goods and the Victorian era’s consumerism, is relevant again today. The world of Wayfair deals exemplify mass production and instant gratification instead of the artistic expression of a craftperson’s one-of-a-kind pieces.
Along with readily available goods we see highly polished interior images through social media.
Design magazines and Instagram posts show interiors at their most perfect. Surfaces are immaculate and accessorized with books, sculpture and fresh-cut flowers; light streams in creating shadows on the floors and walls; pillows are strategically positioned. They are staged for perfection.
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But in this quest to achieve perfection, we lose touch with the character, the reality of everyday living and the appeal in something being slightly imperfect. What’s not shown in those images are the piles of paper that accumulate, the overcast days and the indentations in the pillows from daily use. We don’t see those things because that is real life — not the home fantasy.
Like our lives our homes are works in progress. They may never achieve perfection, and that is absolutely OK. I believe we should embrace a home’s perfect imperfections instead.
I was at a wedding rehearsal when I first heard the concept of perfectly imperfect. The officiant was telling the couple not to concern themselves with things that might not go as planned. However the day turned out, it would be perfect for them.
Since then, I have embraced perfect imperfection as a guide for life and design. Yet at the same time, I admit to being a perfectionist in many respects.
For instance, when hanging photos for a gallery wall in our living room, my husband and I went through a multistep process to create a layout we would like. I arranged the frames on the floor in several configurations and photographed them to make sure I could re-create them. After choosing our favorite, I made templates of the frame sizes and hung them on the wall to give a visual on the wall. I hammered the nails straight through the template — a thin brown masking paper. I will admit the gallery wall is just one example of perfect imperfection in my home. Some of the frames ended up being a little closer than intended as well as other frames that were added later.
You know though, in the end, it doesn’t matter. I know because the gallery wall is in our living room where we spend many hours streaming shows. I often look at the wall with a sense of pride. While I do notice some of the imperfections, I am at ease with the overall effect. How could I not be when I have a canvas hanging that says, “It doesn’t matter where you go in life … What you do … or how much you have. It’s who you have beside you.” That pretty much sums things up perfectly.
• Erin Owen graduated in 2015 from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer.