Imperfect Perfection: Why the Little Things Gone Wrong Can Be Oh So Right

Imperfect Perfection: Why the Little Things Gone Wrong Can Be Oh So Right

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Carolyn Purnell
Jul 23, 2015

In this world of Pinterest-ready interiors, get-your-home-spotless products, and a love of everything new, the quest for perfection can seem like the thing to do. But in fact, it's the imperfections in our homes that make them into livable, lovable spaces. Here are some reasons that it's okay- even preferable!- to embrace those imperfections.

A Sense of History

The chipped tiles in Keith McNally's home featured in House & Garden above, give a sense that the bathroom has been used and lived in for ages. Even if vintage aesthetics aren't your thing, having a few flawed items in your home can give it a deeper, richer sense of life. When a home is filled only with new objects, it often seems sterile and impersonal. Objects that have been loved, beaten up, and moved around give the distinct impression of life lived and risks taken. Imperfections give a home the feeling that it has stories to tell. If only the walls could talk....

(Image credit: Anson Smart via MFAMB)

Visual Interest

From a design standpoint, this bedroom by Anson Smart has a host of little imperfections: there is only space for one nightstand, the overhead light is too small, the painting over the bed is off-center, and the doorway is covered by a large mirror. And yet, it's absolutely charming, and all these elements bring interest to the room. With human faces, it's often a person's distinctive facial characteristics that we remember, and the same goes for a room. Imperfections are often the source of personality and interest, and the very features that initially annoy you about a room might end up being the very things that give it its character.

(Image credit: MilK Decoration)

Surprise and Delight

This Paris home featured in Milk Decoration may not be "imperfect," so to speak, but it does thwart some of the conventional expectations for a perfectly designed space. By doing so, it shows the immense joy that can come from the unusual combination and arrangement of objects. The humor of the pea pod sculpture contrasts with the dark, moody nature of the canvas next to it. The circus stripes in the hallway don't really "go" with the colors of the adjoining room, and one typically doesn't see stripes painted on a surface that isn't flat, as is the case with the curved panels here. But it's precisely these "flaws" that give the room its spice and delight.

(Image credit: Design Sponge)

A Sense of Ease

Interior stylists will tell you that the most effective photographs always have elements that are placed to make it look as if a human just left the scene: an open book, a throw tossed "just-so" over a sofa arm, kicked-off shoes, etc. This is because these little imperfections are what make a home look like it's lived-in, and we can immediately imagine ourselves there, reading books and kicking off our own shoes. A space where everything is 100% arranged, placed, and styled can look uninviting, but one with these types of casual imperfections can instantly put us at ease. Let your textiles be a little rumpled, as in this 100-year-old home from Design Sponge, let some toys stay on the floor, and let your magazines flop onto the living room table. It's all in the name of comfort.

Psychological Benefits

In a recent article for Real Simple, Karen Bender described living in a bug-infested home in Taiwan for a year. Reflecting on her experience, she wrote, "Why is the idea of home-as-fortress necessary? From bugs, from dirt, from any chaos at all?" I'm not suggesting that we should all embrace living with creepy, crawly critters, but she has a point. The more energy we devote to making our home impervious to imperfection, the more it will feel like a fortress and the less it will feel like a home. A home is supposed to be a place of refuge, not a place that brings additional stress. If that means embracing its imperfections and living with ugly finishes, having some stray clumps of pet fur, keeping scratched-up hardwood floors, or living with anything else that you deem "imperfect," then so be it. Give yourself some room to relax, rest, and be happy with your home, imperfect though it may be.

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