Beauty in Imperfection {Personal Reflections}

Yesterday’s tour of classic interior designs in an English townhouse included an image which tugged at my heartstrings and inspired all sorts of musing about wabi sabi and imperfect loveliness. Curious? Go see it!

Serene vignette on a dresser with urn, candles, and painting by Loretta Lux. #hellolovelystudio #serenedecor #whitedecor

Hello Lovely Studio – on a dresser, an urn which was cracked when I purchased it.

Today, the exploration of imperfection continues since it is a timely one. We are living through a season when it seems nearly impossible to not be confronted daily with: comparison obsession, pressure to be less flawed, and the nagging vague sense that unless they are peerless, our efforts are somehow failures.

This discussion seems particularly relevant for artistic, creative types since we tend to be extra sensitive and our own worst critics.

Pink pointe shoes by Hello Lovely Studio. #balletslippers #blushpink #pointeshoes #shabbychic #ballerina #hellolovelystudio

Hello Lovely Studio – from my dead pointe shoe collection…used up symbols of strength.

Have you noticed how I have played around with the byline at the top of this blog’s header for several weeks? Something new is trying to be born. A number of circumstances compelled me to consider shifting the scope of the blog. Decorating ideas and interior design inspiration are engaging topics for me; yet, there are so many sources online who do a better job (see how sensitive I am to the comparison game!). So this shift of which I speak has me inching toward the idea of INSPIRATION FOR INTERIORS, inclusive of those landscapes of beauty within us and not just our homes.

Torn, distressed beachy denim jeans in a serene fashionable photo by Hello Lovely Studio. #distressed #fashion #tornjeans #serene #hellolovelystudio

Hello Lovely Studio – beat up denim is hard to beat.

Timelessness, tranquility, peacefulness, and serenity in regards to interior design have counterparts in the heart, after all. I’m passionate about the flow between the two. Those who long for these qualities in their decor often desire them for their interior lives too.

Pink ballet slippers (pointe shoes) hung from an industrial garment rack by Hello Lovely Studio. #balletslippers #ballerina #pointeshoes #hellolovelystudio #romanticdecor #shabbychic

Hello Lovely Studio – slippers hanging from an industrial rack we made for a dressing room.

Heart language is maybe my mother tongue, and while it mostly feels dangerous to share online and as if readers will cringe, it’s too much a part of the imperfect human I am to keep it hushed. The only way I muster courage to post personal reflections is to imagine it is simply you and me here. Just two friends meeting for tea (make mine green) with open hearts ready to receive, with deep calling deep.
Hydrangea in a vintage bucket upon a French metal chair. Hello Lovely Studio. #shabbychic #hydrangea #frenchfarmhouse #hellolovelystudio

Hello Lovely Studio – an old galvanized bucket gets better with age.

Of course, I receive reminders it isn’t just the two of us. Not everyone cares for the tea here.

Black and white edgy painting on wood by Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #painting #blackandwhite

Hello Lovely Studio – one of my imperfect works on wood on a friend’s porch.

And that’s okay too. We all have our favorites.

White cate drinking milk from a mikglass bowl. Hello Lovely Studio.

Hello Lovely Studio – the late Mrs. Potts.

Lately I have been stirred to think more critically about identity, the state of my own interiors, what I desire, and the vast beauty in imperfection.

What comes to mind when you hear BEAUTY IN IMPERFECTION?

Dark roots and all – oy – what a blessing to have modern medicine.

Maybe certain people or objects in your home to mind. I tend to think about divine moments of thin places which I store as treasure within my inner landscape of beauty. About 15 years ago, during a tricky Crohn’s disease flare (I had contracted the flu), I found myself in a hospital bed with constant vomiting and diarrhea, too weak to walk or even lift my arms. While the I.V. fluids dripped, my husband, my beloved, voluntarily cleansed me and took care of all the hygiene to keep me comfortable since I couldn’t leave the bed. Instead of calling a nurse every 5 minutes that day, he took care of the unspeakable unpleasant duties out of love for me. I’m not sure I have ever felt as vulnerable.

Friends, it was more beautiful to me than my wedding day.

Beat up white VW Beetle with For Sale sign. Hello Lovely Studio. #imperfectbeauty #hellolovelystudio #vwbug

Hello Lovely Studio – for sale near our home…can’t imagine who bought it!

Over the years, I have asked designers, artists, and creatives the question: WHAT SPRINGS TO MIND WHEN YOU HEAR BEAUTY IN IMPERFECTION?

Here are some of their responses.

Pale pink thread and twine. Hello Lovely Studio. #palepink #blushpink #vintagestyle #shabbychic

Hello Lovely Studio – vintage love goes along with celebrating imperfect beauty.

It has been my pleasure to interview designer Rachel Ashwell on several occasions. In our 2011 interview, when asked about imperfect beauty, she shared a most poignant snapshot from her childhood.

“It is no accident that I have had a career centered around embracing the ‘beauty of imperfection.’ From a very young age, I would observe my mother’s process of restoring antique dolls. While a fashionable and lucrative profession some 40 years ago, most of her peers would restore to the point of perfection. My mum had boxes and boxes of frayed ribbon, crinkled velvets, boxes of dye, all as part of  her process restoring the dolls’ clothes to enhance its character of age, rather than eradicate the evidence.

And in doing so, I learnt how to know when to stop the restoration process and to embrace the cracks, creaks and brokeness.

I often find metaphors and parallels with life and my design work. And knowing nothing is really perfect, except perfectly imperfect, is much less intimidating whether it be a person, a room or a treasure.

Perfection to me is too intimidating to get close to.”

GO HERE for more shabby chic inspiration.

French country house exterior with climbing vnes and old stone. Hello Lovely Studio. #frenchcountry #frenchfarmhouse #climbingvines #hellolovelystudio

Hello Lovely Studio – an amazing 1930’s estate we toured and considered buying a few years back.

When I interviewed the amazing interior designer, Gerrie Bremermann, whose work makes me swoon – she responded ever so briefly. What comes to mind for GB?

“Nothing is perfect.”

Detail of old stone and ivy covered French country home exterior. Hello Lovely Studio.

Hello Lovely Studio

My favorite interior designer and curator of lovely in Chicago is the amazing Michael Del Piero, and when I caught up with the busy world traveler (she travels the world to collect art and objects for her clients and boutique Good Design) a few years back she revealed her avoidance of perfection.

“I seek out the imperfect! 

I have always found the irregular, bumpy, discolored, oddly shaped, worn and unusual the most beautiful. The look and feel of something created by hand, found, used and weathered is unmatched in its perfection to that which is clean, shiny and even.”

See more of her work RIGHT HERE.

Stone exterior of a French country house covered with ivy. Hello Lovely Studio. #ivy #frenchcountry #frenchfarmhouse #hellolovelystudio #climbing

Hello Lovely Studio

If you have followed Hello Lovely for some time, you may be familiar with the encaustic paintings of artist Betsy Eby, whose wholeheartedness, creativity and wisdom have inspired me for years. Betsy is an accomplished musician as well as a painter and offers illuminating reflections.

“In nature there is no straight line. As an artist, we must get out of our own way and be the continuum of nature that we are.

Don’t let the work be too tight, too precious, too thought about. Allow room for variance and a bit of chaos. Beauty, as John O’Donohue states, lives at the edge of things.

Nothing is more tedious than a piano concert where the performer is academic and perfect in their interpretation. On the other hand, a sloppy off-tempo performance is just as off putting. This is where “the edge” comes in. We must learn our skills and craft through arduous practice. But we must stay open so that we continue to tap the mystery through that practice…

The Native Americans kept several stitches open and unfinished at the edge of their prayer blankets. It is said that they do this to allow the evil spirits to get out. I see it as a metaphor for leaving aspects of a creative practice open to mystery.”

Read the complete interview with Betsy RIGHT HERE.

Old leaded glass windows in a 1930s French country cottage. Hello Lovely Studio. #oldwindows #frenchcountry #frenchcottage #hellolovelystudio

Hello Lovely Studio

Artist, illustrator, and branding expert Kate Schelter (she paints commercial work for Dior, Bonpoint, Toyota, Diane von Furstenburg…) allowed us a glimpse into her creative genius. She was passionate about imperfect beauty. What does it mean to Ms. Schelter?

“Everything! 

Nature. Design. When something is too perfect it becomes static. I have a saying that I use for styling a lot:’to jooge it up’ which is my slang for: if it’s too perfect, push something askew. It will look better that way.”

Gothic arch doorway in a 1930's French country cottage. Hello Lovely Studio

Hello Lovely Studio

I admire the work of Swedish watercolor artist Stina Persson, and I checked in with her not long after the launch of her exhibit PERFECTLY FLAWED in New York (2011). Stina explored ideas of imperfection within the work and shared these sentiments with us (I can’t help but wonder what the artist thinks about our culture’s revved up preoccupation with insta-perfection 7 years later!):

“Perfectly Flawed dealt with accepting mistakes, drips, and cuts. With an ever more digitalized, botoxed, and photoshopped reality I think we yearn for the original and the handmade, even if imperfect. Or maybe just because.”

Artist's palette with colors of the rainbow. Hello Lovely Studio.

Hello Lovely Studio – I loved watching a friend use these to create a masterpiece.

One of the most gracious and friendly blogfriends I made authors the site Decor de Provence, and Desiree shared the following reflection about beauty in imperfection:

“Finding beauty in simple things, uniqueness of the individual, the freedom to be me, art, and nature.”

See her incredible French Gustavian cottage RIGHT HERE.

 

Exterior of a French country cottage with ivy and overgrown brush. Hello Lovely Studio. #frenchcountry #frenchcottage #frenchfarmhouse #exterior #hellolovelystudio

Hello Lovely Studio – the cottage had been vacant for some time, the property in a natural wild state of imperfect beauty.

Character and the rusticity and elegance of antique stone came to mind for shop owner and blogger Tina of The Enchanted Home:

“Finding the redeeming qualities in something or someone, because almost everything and everyone has them.

Some of the most beautiful people I know are those who might be considered the most flawed. Some of the material things I treasure are hardly perfect; in fact they have many imperfections and yet they make my heart beat faster!

The reclaimed limestone floors in my kitchen, for example….perfect? Far from it. But beautiful? Yeah…’melts my heart every time I see them’ kind of beautiful. Flaws can and often are beautiful…it is those very things that give a person or thing character that makes them uniquely them.”

See Tina’s inspiring kitchen RIGHT HERE.

Ivy overgrown on a stone French country cottage. Hello Lovely Studio. #frenchcountry #frenchcottage #ivy #frenchfarmhouse #hellolovelystudio #stonecottage

Hello Lovely Studio

Impressionist painter, Holly Irwin was reminded of her faith:

“Who is perfect anyway?

It reminds me that no matter how many times we fail, God is always there to help us get back up, and He can bring good out of the worst circumstances if we put our faith in Him.”

Read a recent story about the artist here.

Psalm 94:18-19. When I said my foot si slipping, your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. Photo by Hello Lovely Studio. #scripture #psalm #encouragement

Hello Lovely Studio – one of my favorites. I snapped this of a Swedish bible gifted to me from Monika of Splendid Avenue.

Your turn.

Grey African beaded prayer necklace by Asa Daxberg for Splendid Avenue. Hello Lovely Studio.

Hello Lovely Studio

What springs to mind when you hear “Beauty in Imperfection?”

William James quote and photo by Hello Lovely Studio. The Soul is stronger than its surroundings. #hellolovelystudio #quote #williamjames

Hello Lovely Studio – my sweet freckle-perfect niece was holding a white balloon.

I’d love to compile a lovely collection of your responses for another post on the topic.

Rustic French Farmhouse Table
Rustic French Farmhouse Table
French Country Sideboard
French Country Sideboard
French Country Headboard
French Country Headboard
French Country Stencil With Bee
French Country Stencil With Bee
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Linen & Oak Settee
Linen & Oak Settee
Linen & Burlap Tufted Ottoman
Linen & Burlap Tufted Ottoman
French Grey Side Table
French Grey Side Table
French Blue Antiqued 4-Drawer Cabinet
French Blue Antiqued 4-Drawer Cabinet
Weathered 4-Door French Cabinet – 71″
Weathered 4-Door French Cabinet – 71″
French Linen Accent Chair
French Linen Accent Chair
French Country Wing Chair
French Country Wing Chair
French Louis Style Arm Chair
French Louis Style Arm Chair
Teak 3 Leg Stool
Teak 3 Leg Stool
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Linen Slipcovered Dining Chair, Set of 2
Linen Slipcovered Dining Chair, Set of 2
Wing Back Twin Platform Bed
Wing Back Twin Platform Bed
Louis Upholstered Bench
Louis Upholstered Bench
French Country Sofa
French Country Sofa
Pamela Arm Chair
Pamela Arm Chair
Weathered Arm Chair
Weathered Arm Chair
Linen Footstool
Linen Footstool
Rustic Wood Candleholders
Rustic Wood Candleholders
Aged Terracotta Pots
Aged Terracotta Pots
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Linen Dining Chair Set of 2
French Linen Dining Chair Set of 2
Galvanized Console Table
Galvanized Console Table
French Farmhouse Dining Table
French Farmhouse Dining Table
30″ Bar Stool
30″ Bar Stool
Rattan Side Table
Rattan Side Table
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Rattan Armchair
Rattan Armchair
Antiqued French Lamp
Antiqued French Lamp
Light Grey Rattan Chair
Light Grey Rattan Chair
French Country Altar Candlestick
French Country Altar Candlestick
French Industrial Metal Cafe Chair (Set of 2)
French Industrial Metal Cafe Chair (Set of 2)
Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Linen Curved Loveseat
Linen Curved Loveseat
White Farmhouse Lantern Pendant Light
White Farmhouse Lantern Pendant Light
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
French Country Loveseat
French Country Loveseat
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
Oak Accent Stool
Oak Accent Stool
Rustic Ring 12-Light Chandelier
Rustic Ring 12-Light Chandelier
French Upholstered Gray Bench
French Upholstered Gray Bench
Jute ARea Rug
Jute ARea Rug
French Candle Style Chandelier
French Candle Style Chandelier
Swedish Writing Desk
Swedish Writing Desk
French Linen Sofa
French Linen Sofa
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
French Market Basket
French Market Basket
Linen Modern Wing Chair
Linen Modern Wing Chair
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Linen Slope Arm Dining Chairs
Linen Slope Arm Dining Chairs
Parisian Glass Bottle Vase
Parisian Glass Bottle Vase
Magnus Table Lamp
Magnus Table Lamp
Spindle Leg Upholstered Bench
Spindle Leg Upholstered Bench
Modern Farmhouse Lamp
Modern Farmhouse Lamp
White Slipcovered Sofa
White Slipcovered Sofa
Tufted Headboard
Tufted Headboard
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Aged White Writing Desk
Aged White Writing Desk
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
Grey Accent Chest
Grey Accent Chest
Moravian Star 1-Light Pendant
Moravian Star 1-Light Pendant
Highback Armchair
Highback Armchair
Mini Pendant Light
Mini Pendant Light
White Vase Set
White Vase Set
Apothecary Chest
Apothecary Chest
Grainsack Stripe Armchair
Grainsack Stripe Armchair
Fireclay Farm Sink
Fireclay Farm Sink
Striped Dress Form
Striped Dress Form
Elm rustic stool
Elm rustic stool
Matelasse Coverlet
Matelasse Coverlet
Quilted Coverlet
Quilted Coverlet
Grey Bistro Set
Grey Bistro Set
60″ Round Pedestal Dining Table
60″ Round Pedestal Dining Table
Scrubbed Look Wood Bench
Scrubbed Look Wood Bench
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Round Marble Side Table
Round Marble Side Table
French Country Chandelier
French Country Chandelier
Rustic Rectangle Farm Table
Rustic Rectangle Farm Table
Teak Farmhouse Stool
Teak Farmhouse Stool

Peace to you right where you are.

michele

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18 Comments

  1. August 8, 2018 / 1:10 am

    This is such a beautiful post. Your lovely personality shines through it.
    Glad you are well again and that you had such support from your husband. That’s true love.

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 12:10 pm

      He is my true love and such an inspiration. If you had told me in my 20s or 30s that I would someday be disease free, I would have laughed. I never dared to think that possible. What a blessing!

  2. August 8, 2018 / 5:47 am

    What a wonderful question to ask – with the mountains of beautifully perfect inspiration all over the internet it becomes a fantasy land that most of us will never live in or flourish. It is those of us that gravitate toward the rusty, worn, and frayed that see deeper meaning, feel more history, and see more widely. We allow ourselves to celebrate the age and use of everything around us. I call this my “sophistication of utility” by showing the world the imperfect gorgeousness of the most simple and common objects as seen in my photography. No fancy lighting or props to visually enhance, just the raw, well-lived life of old, common, everyday kitchen objects.

    Our home will never be in on the cover of design magazines but when you walk in our door, you will first experience a warm welcome, a comfortable place to sit, and the company of meaningful conversation and peaceful encouragement. No comparisons, judgement, or lecture….just beautifully imperfect humans surrounded by beautifully imperfect treasures all happy to be together.

    Thank you Michele – this is a beautiful way of “refreshing” the beauty of imperfection and I will be anxious to hear the views of others. xoxo

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      Beautiful thoughts taking us deeper, Joan. Thank you for sharing more beauty. Your imperfect interiors sound peaceful and wonderful – to find contentment with your surroundings is invaluable. Sophistication is so rarely paired with utility, and together they reflect to me a very European inspired sensibility…I wonder where your ancestors lived? Where a lot of folks look at interiors and sort of do the math as to monetary value, this is not something which occurs naturally for me. I sense energies and notice palettes, silhouettes, and timelessness. I sometimes post bespoke rooms that are priceless and which were created outside of any budget, not because I am impressed by the expense but because I sense a commitment to a point of view or a purity and devotion. It’s the spirit infused in the pulling together of a peaceful interior that interests me!

  3. Marilyn S.
    August 8, 2018 / 7:11 am

    Couldn’t stop thinking of this old song while reading this post- in fact I’ve been thinking of it for days now , I just couldn’t remember all the words but it all unfolded as I read through this morning –

    Something beautiful, something good
    All my confusion He understood
    All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
    But he made something beautiful of my life

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 11:53 am

      And now I get to hum that today – I know it as well. Thank you, friend. Beauty from brokenness – shattered things becoming whole – such powerful ideas about transformation in wisdom and spiritual work, aren’t they? Oh that I would place more of my brokenness at his feet to receive blessing. xox

  4. Kristin
    August 8, 2018 / 7:42 am

    Oh, Michele,

    What a precious story of your husband’s loving care of you!

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 11:48 am

      I’ll cherish the bitterweetness forever.

  5. Tracy
    August 8, 2018 / 8:48 am

    Michelle if I may ask, who is the beautiful little red haired girl in the pale blue coat that I often see on your blog? Is she you?

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 11:48 am

      She is Marianne – a mixed media artwork by Loretta Lux. Her “imaginary portraits” of children captivated me years ago. She photographs her subjects but then agonizingly works with the images so they become these surreal fine art pieces which inspire a range of responses from the viewer. Marianne is wearing a soiled blue trench coat and to me appears to hold all of her tension in one hand which is something I also do. She is my imaginary daughter. 🙂

  6. August 8, 2018 / 1:40 pm

    I always played with what I like to think of as a “gracious formality” ~ that is, by following basic design principles but avoiding a stiff formality. Make sense? For example, a pair of wing chairs stationed just so as they flank a fireplace, a shawl casually draped across one chair with a corner hanging off onto the floor, an open book or magazine on top as though someone has just left it there. I don’t arrange that shawl or lap blanket; instead, I toss it and allow it to float down where it may. Sometimes it’s an effort to achieve that unstudied look, that perfect imperfection.

    By the way, the charm of an old ivy-clothed brick cottage is a perfect example of perfect imperfection. Vines soften the straight lines of the architecture, the same way a pot of cascading ivy spilling over the top shelf of a short bookcase will do.

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 1:50 pm

      Love that glimpse into your process which allows for a natural imperfection to elevate the whole. That stone cottage is an incredible property with imperfection and age everywhere – so perfect for us except for property tax sticker shock and outdated utilities involving a boiler room. The ivy! This not one of those ‘charming little cottages’ but a series of buildings including a 20 car garage, greenhouse, and caretaker’s cottage pretty enough for me to live in! 🙂

  7. August 8, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    Thank you for including me in your post today Michele!! I’m honored! I love the new direction that you are moving in, it’s such rich inspiration for art, interiors, living. I read your paragraphs about your husband helping you. I have a very similar story with my husband. We are so blessed to have them! Thank you for fearlessly sharing yourself with us❤️

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 1:58 pm

      Your beautiful work adds quality to any post here so thank YOU. Would love to hear the stories and am so happy you have them too. xox

  8. Janice Gail
    August 8, 2018 / 5:51 pm

    Look at the Japanese art of kintsugi. It celebrates the broken places and creates beauty in them.
    So beautiful, and such a life affirming philosophy!

    • michele
      Author
      August 8, 2018 / 9:34 pm

      Yes! I’m familiar with kintsugi – filling the cracks with gold is such a glorious symbol of light, isn’t it? Thanks for adding another layer of beauty here.

  9. August 16, 2018 / 10:28 pm

    This post is just beautiful in so many ways! Thanks for sharing at Thursday Favorite Things!

    • michele
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 9:10 am

      Thanks so much for reading – just visited your wonderful blog and am eagerly looking forward to the instruction for painting upholstery! Keep in touch! 🙂

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