If ever there was a book that appealed to me on title alone, it's this one: A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life, written by Mary Randolph Carter. The title comes from a doormat the author found once while shopping. She bought 9 of them for each of her siblings and herself & one for her parents. I need to know where that store is so that I can get one for each of my entries - a forewarning to all those who enter!
The book is set up with 9 case studies - people the author knows (or knows of) with photographs & a write up about their house & how they live in them. The author's own home is the last case study. Each of these case studies focuses on a main area of the homeowner's life. There is a study on a photographer & how he melds his work space & his home space; a study on a family of 7 & how they cope with lots of people in a small space. There is a study on an artist living outside of Paris & how she keeps her studio. The study on the author deals with her love of junk. I liked these little glimpses into others' lives and homes & appreciated their honesty & openness. The couple living in London, for instance, obviously didn't try to tidy up before their photo shoot! But really, that's the whole purpose of the book - to show real people & their real living spaces.
In between the case study chapters, Carter (as she is known) has chapters on topics like comfort, ambience, the unmade bed, the purposeless room, etc. She discusses these topics using the case study "subjects." It just gives you a further understanding of the case study participants & how they live their lives. I liked the chapters with these random topics, & I love her description of her own purposeless room - "our happy, lazy room." I want one of those!
The author also did all the photography in the book - and there are tons of photos! She's a really good photographer & I think her visual style added a lot to the book. Mary Randolph Carter seems to be quite an interesting person - I'd like to meet her! There are a couple of photographs with blatant product placement - her other books are displayed a little too prominently. But I think we can overlook that! I also found the same blue bag pictured in two of her case studies - one in NYC & the other outside of Paris. Could it be that these 2 families actually have the same (unusual & eclectic) canvas bag, or is it Carter's bag that crept into the shot? I wonder!
Keep in mind that this is not really a hands-on instructive kind of book. Carter is not trying to teach the reader how to tidy up, or how to hide your mess, or how to do anything for that matter. Rather, I think she is trying to show us real people and some of the challenges they face. This is a great coffee table book, one that is perfect for sitting & perusing through when you just don't feel like doing the dishes.