Monday, January 9, 2012

Design Books I Recommend

 Don't you hate wasting money on a book that doesn't deliver?   It is always a gamble, buying a book.  Some books are great, others not so much.  I like reading design books and have a collection that I read over and over.  The books reviewed today were all publications I read last year.  I purchased all with the exception of receiving one as a gift, one I won from a blog, and two I got for free for writing a book review on my blog. So here is my take on the following:
 Summers in France by Kathryn Ireland.  This book is more of a diary and documentation of how she came to buy a home in France and the stories that went along with decorating it and living in France. I really enjoyed this book, although I thought it was going to be more about decorating than a diary.  It turned out to be be an enjoyable read~Kathryn is kind of a bohemian free spirit, and I love how she makes big decisions on things~never looking back and carrying on when she stubs her toes (like getting divorced).
 The book has hand written notes and sketches which I found charming.  This book is so nice~I plan to give it to a girlfriend who has been to France and loves decorating and gardening.  She reads my blog, so I might have just spilled the beans.
 This is an old book that I bought used on Amazon by Bunny Williams, titled On Garden Style.  It came without a book jacket and that was just fine with me.  Did you know you can buy used books at a fraction of the cost if they are missing such things or have a little wear?
 Bunny Williams home in Connecticut is just a marvel and I love her sense of style, especially in designing outdoor spaces and gardens. Lots of practical advice for the gardener in this volume, its a classic.
 This is Bunny's greenhouse. I love all the choices she made using old cobblestones and peastone and antique bricks...this structure looks like it has always been here.
 I got on a Betty Lou Phillips kick and ordered three of her books from Amazon.  That is generally where I buy all my books. This one above is one of her early books. Some of the pictures are more dated, but at the discounted prices for older books, I wanted to add it to my collection on French decor.
 These other two are bigger and loaded with glossy pics of gorgeous rooms all done in the french style.
If you can only buy one, get French Impressions!  This book is not country french, it is grand french style~so feast your eyes on how the other half lives when you turn the pages.
 Um, have you ever seen a marble tub like this one?  I could have shared more pictures of gorgeous rooms, because it was so wonderful, but I have a lot of books to show you!
 This book is by Carolyn Westbrook, The French Inspired Home.  I was given this book by Cico publishers to do a review.  I loved, loved, loved this book!  It is more my style of french with chippy and shabby and a mix of high and low.
 It has lots of pictures of Lauren Ross' home, who I think has the most wonderful house! Her white slipcovers are legendary in blogland. Lauren and I met through my blog, which is another reason why I love blogging!  I was bragging about Lauren's style so much on my blog that one day she emailed me and after I fainted I wrote her back!  She is a darling lady with great style and substance.  I hope she writes her own book one day.
 The French Inspired Home also showcases my favorite kitchen~this image has made the rounds in blogland as well.
 The most recent book I read was Patina Style by Brooke and Steve Giannetti.  My son asked my what I would like for Christmas, and I suggested this book.  I wasn't planning on buying it because I thought I could find it all on Brooke's blog, Velvet and Linen.  But I was very wrong!  This book gives advice on how to do the things it takes to get their look.  Loads of beautiful images fill the pages, and I can say it was one of my favorites of all the books I read in 2011.
 This image is Brooke's home office.  I love the mix of old and new, the french influences with a mix of some more masculine things.  The perfect balance is what she and her husband have been able to achieve in decorating for both the man and the woman and their children.  Hard to do!
 HERS, by Jacqueline deMontravel is a new design book written for those looking to inject femininity into their spaces.  Practical advice can be found here as well on how to do that~and she doesn't mean painting rooms pink and adding floral fabrics.  I love to decorate with a romantic bent, and this book was wonderful because I could see all the ways feminine style can be achieved.
 This grey washed book case is one example~paired with a french chair.
The cottage french look that I find so appealing.  This book addresses interiors as well as outdoor spaces.
 Pale and Interesting, by Atlanta Bartlett and Dave Coote came out a while ago.  I got this early in the year.  It is more farmhouse style oriented with a less is more type of decorating attitude.
 Still there are pages of the more frenchy look I love, and the furntiure combinations in the rooms are certainly fresh.
 However this industrial farmhouse whitewashed look is more of what is in this particular book.
 Brunschwig and Fils Up Close is an older book and one I found at a bargain price on Amazon.  This is a classic company in decorating and I was thrilled to add it to my collection, even if some of the images are dated.  It has a history of the company as well as loads of decorated to the nines spaces.
 Even though this room is over a decade old, it looks pretty up to date by today's standards.
 This old chinoiserie fabric is one that Brunschwig and Fils resurrected.  If you love the history of fabrics and want to learn more about a giant in the industry you might like this book as well as I did.
 This was another old book about a legendary company~Scalamandre, Luxurious Home Interiors.  Oh my, yes they were luxurious!  This is a book on  traditional style for the wealthy and discerning.  I believe this company can claim most of the White House drapery fabrics and trims are by their company.
 You will enjoy beautiful interiors, in a traditional style.  Some of the rooms will show their age, as today's rooms seem to have less pattern and color, however tons of inspiration can be found here.
 For example, a bathroom like this in toile is timeless!
 Segreto Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors by Leslie Sinclair was a book I won on the Skirted Round Table after they interviewed the author/artist.   Wow!  If you love painting or creating finishes, you will be so inspired by the things Leslie's company has done.  Just gorgeous cabinetry finishes, wall finishes and just about every surface you can think of.  And I am not talking about sponge painting!!  These are sophisticated and elegant and drool worthy.
 Here is a living room with beautiful finishes of a subtle nature.
 Not only finishes, but you get to see the beautiful homes Leslie has worked on.
 This book purchase, Mary McDonald Interiors, was a result of me falling in love with her on Million Dollar Decorators, a TV show on Bravo. You can read my post on the show here.  I loved this book so much!!  Mary is quite a kick  #ss decorator I have to say.  She can do it all~as I learned by reading this book.  I thought of her as a glam queen from the TV show, but she can do so much more.
 Her book is simply gorgeous, and I was totally inspired by her talents and vision.  She nails elegance, and can  turn a room around by just changing out paint colors.  She loves to cover desk tops with fabrics and nailhead trim after painting them a glossy shade of fill in the color blank here.
She seems to have born with a silver spoon in her mouth~check out this lovely garden vignette with huge blue and white temple jars tucked in the boxwood hedges.
 This ladies dressing room is brimming with pizazz and style.  I am in love with the Louis XVI chair in blue velvet, the antiqued mirror dressing table, and surprisingly I loved the busy wallpaper too!  Look at the feathers sticking out above the mirror.  This is one of her glamour rooms for sure.
 I had read a review that complained there were too many cutesy shots of Mary in the book.  I disagree~I love seeing Mary doing her thing~look at how cool Mary is in her pink PJs on her bed.
 Mary is also known for her love of Pagodas....she loves adding a little chinoiserie to a lot of her rooms.  I noticed while watching her on Million Dollar Decorators that Mary tends to use a decorating formula of black and white (or cream) and one bold color.  It is a sure fire recipe for drama.  This book was a great read and is filled with  lots of beautiful images on heavy glossy pages.
 Now, the best I have saved for last.  I got this book last Christmas, 2010.  It is the BEST of the bunch!! My Passion For Design by Barbara Streisand is a knockout of a book if you love design.  She is a brilliant woman who built a compound of houses with part of her fortune and she takes you on the journey of how she accomplished it all.
 Inside the book cover you will see her hand written notes and sketches.  She waited years to land this property and then left no stone uncovered to have it done the way she imagined it to be.  I was really amazed by the details and her perfectionism and the lengths she went to create her perfect home.
 This painted antique bathtub is in her private bath~a blogger friend of mine was asked out to Barbara's house to give her a quote on doing some work for her, including this tub. But alas she was too busy and had to turn Barbara down!!  Wowsers~well it was a fun story to hear, and maybe one day she will blog about it.
 Barbara had a whole room devoted to the planning of the home.  She kept files and samples and models and sketches and everything she needed as this was quite an undertaking and she is very detail oriented.  I think she admitted to being a pain in the neck at times.
 She had inspiration boards for every part of the compound.  This was before Pinterest, of course.
 But the biggest thing that told me she was a genius was that she designed the house to look like two homes. The driveway side of the house looked like a Vermont barn type of residence.
 And the ocean side facade with white clapboard looked like a Nantucket home! It is the same house!! With two facades!  Brilliant~I would love that~  I would have a French countryside home and a New Hampshire Farmhouse....The book has this great centerfold pullout so you can see just how fabulous it is.
 I loved this side of the house the most.  She grew climbing roses up the pillars, she had glass instead of railings so she could see the ocean~
 It is just breathtaking! It looks like a movie set. She tells how she does use movie set designers to help with some of the home designs and uses some Hollywood tricks too, like adding dust to paint to make it look like it is an older paint job with heavier chunks...
 Barbara devotes sections of the books to things like her flower garden, her vegetable garden, her movie theatre room, her dressing room, her husbands office, her office, the kitchens, the step-daughters bedroom, her antique shops in the cellar, her water mill house (yup, she built a water mill), and on and on.
 How is that for a view??
 I highly recommend this book~A plus grade on this one. Nice job Barbara!
These are my 2011 book reviews~I hope you get to read some of them.


  1. I love design books. Some of these I've read, and some are new to me. Thanks for the recommendations.

  2. Wow Amy love this post and am bookmarking it....many good reads here. I think I would enjoy that Kathy Ireland book, have all Betty Lou Phillips, talk about a lot of bang for your buck ,ditto Charles Faudree! Also really like the Scalamandre and Mary McDonald books...looks like I have a few new goodies to add to my Amazon list (I get all my books there, its soo easy, sometimes too easy)!

  3. Wow Amy...what a fabulous post! I love Mary McDonald and Kathryn Ireland. I have Bunny William's An Affair With a House and it's such an inspiration. I usually get my books at the library and find that works well for a sudden decorating craving! I would also add Nell Hill's books in there as well as Charles Faudree as beautiful inspiring decorators. I am amazed at Barbra's book. What gorgeous pictures! I may actually have to ask for that one for next Christmas. Great post....

  4. Ok Amy, now I have a big problem...I want them ALL! Love that marble tub & beautiful and I too love the French inspired kitchen! My favorite designer is Charles Faudree and of the ones you've shared I think I will have to start with Barbara Streisand's, looks very interesting! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. I have several of these books too! I love the old Bunny Williams book, too, even if it is a bit dated. The one I do NOT have is Barbara Streisand's book. I think I need to get a copy soon. One of my favorite things to do is to go through the old design books. xo Diana

  6. Hi Amy,
    I just love all of these books and I have a few of them. Seems as though once I get ahold of one I love, I never let it go. Some of mine are at least 10 years old and I still enjoy reading them.

    When I find a good one in a thrift store I just can't believe someone would give it away! LOL!

    Thank for the reviews.


  7. What a fantastic collection! I have started checking out decorating books from the library first and previewing them before purchasing them. I checked out several lemons last year, and I did not buy as many books. Thanks for such an informative post!

    Ricki Jill

  8. Fabulous post Amy,
    I really enjoyed reading this post and seeing all the different books and your reviews to go with them,i love Barbara Streisand's book which i bought after you posted about it,its so glamorous and i also have 'the french inspired home' which i love too,i am going to have to order a few of yours i think.
    Thank you for your review x

  9. I loved your book reviews, thank you for sharing them!!! Gorgeous books are so inspiring. I really enjoy coming by here for a visit Amy!!!
    Yours is a blog of fabulous inspiration.

    ~ Violet

  10. Great books, Amy! I just got the Carolyn Westbrook book and am looking forward to sitting down with that one. I've had the Betty Lou Phillips books ~ I fell for her style years ago when I saw her in some magazines. The Barbara Streisand book is on my list to get. My Mom got that one last year and just loved it.

  11. They all look wonderful. I have a lot of design books, but I only have two of the ones your reviewed....The French Inspired Home and Patina Style. I will have to check out the others while I am at Barnes and Noble. I too order from Amazon and buy used books there all of the time.

  12. Thanks for sharing your favorite books and pictures from within. Will definitely have to check those out. I can see where you get your inspiration now.

  13. Those are some good recommendations. I have some of those already and really love them. I'll have go check out a few that you showed that I don't have already.

  14. I enjoyed your review very much!Barbara Streisand's home and garden is amazing!!!


  15. Hi Amy~` Thanks so much for all the recommendations. There are a few I think I need to go out and

    Have a great day.

  16. Great post! I love the Bunny Williams book, For the Love of a House, but I have On Garden Style, too! BTW....I wanted to invite you to stop by my blog. We are having an "impossibility" challenge for 2012!

  17. quite a selection. amazed at the marble bathroom......oh! marble surrouned arched windows. how wonderful. love bab's notes too.

  18. ps- just read a great bunny williams post over at 'for the love of a house' that i think you'd enjoy.

  19. Ok, i think i'll get the "French Inspired Room", and the "Barbara Streisand" book! That was a great overview.... I always see your magazines and books around your house and want to just sit on your comfy sofa, and grab them off of your little round table and dig in!


  20. I have quite a collection of books and magazines, but you have some here that I haven't seen. Thanks for the reviews. Do you have "French Influences" by Betty Lou Phillips? I like that one too.

  21. my favorites you mentioned are pale and interesting and summers in france. i LOVE getting lost in a well done design book and sometimes even reading the words inside them.

    beautiful photos of your collection!

    so thrilled to receive the swatches today and already had a little fun with them. of course it'll be on the blog soon when i get some decent natural light. thank you so much for the lovely lovely stash!


  22. i must say, im starting to build a collection my own self. i so want to get her book. ive got numerous file folders with 4 yrs worth of ideas, plans, gardens etc. thank God for pinterest. told my daughter have fun when im gone.... we got quite a chuckle out of that one. @ least now with pinterest, ive got everything in a to speak:) and by the way, i received my samples today and i absolutely LOVE LOVE them. i appreciate that you did the extra goodies for other followers. again thank you. have a good week. susan

  23. that marble tub is about the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. thanks for the recommendations.


  24. What a nice critic! I have wondered about one or two of these titles. Good to see a few pages and have an opinion. Thanks!

  25. I have my own favorites, including a few of these, but think I might have to pick up French Impressions...looks amazing!

  26. Thank you for the book reviews. I have gone to Amazon and ordered the books that I did not already have. I do not often take time to comment on your blog. I read your blog every day and I am thoroughly impressed.

    Love and Blessings,

  27. Really enjoyed reading your reviews! Any chance of maybe another post on design books that have come out/been discovered since this?
    Much happy

    1. HI Sabrina,
      I will certainly write a blog post with updated suggestions as I have been reading a lot of new books and reviewing them on my decorating YouTube channel. Click on one of my reviews here:


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