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“What We’re Reading” brings you our monthly pick of new design-related books, along with comments from our HGTV.com editors. For May, here’s a look into the world of French cottage decor, the grand apartment homes of 5th & Park Avenues and the retro-fantasy stylings of the Steampunk movement.
HGTV Designs Happens - What We're Reading - May 2011

HGTV Design Happens - What We're Reading - The French-Inspired Home

The French-Inspired Home: Crafty Francophiles among you may already be familiar with French General, a vintage fabric, notions, home goods and all-around general store located in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. (Check out their online store to purchase charming jewelry kits, old glass buttons and handpicked linens.) Stepping into owner Kaari Meng’s store and reading her books is like a journey to the French countryside. In The French-Inspired Home, now available in paperback from Lark Books, Meng shares tips for discovering the unique treasures traditionally used to decorate a rustic French cottage. From tips for cleaning delicate, heirloom glassware and fabrics to her own recipe for lavender and citrus bath salts, the author shares her process for creating a home that is welcoming, comfortable and filled with beautiful, personalized objects. Bonus: 22 easy-to-follow project ideas plus lovely paper labels and cards that can be scanned or copied. —CAMILLE SMITH, Decorating/Handmade Editor

HGTV Design Happens - What We're Reading - The New York Apartment Homes
The New York Apartment Homes of Rosario Candela and James Carpenter: If you’re a New Yorker like me who’s heard rumors of the existence of Manhattan apartments with enough space for “Maids’ rooms,” you probably dismissed such nonsense as the stuff of fairytales. Well, these places are real. Within the pages of The New York Apartment Houses by Andrew Alpern and back in print from Acanthus Press, you can take a peek inside some of the most exclusive and grand apartment homes with addresses on Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue. It is no cliché; this is a city that’s obsessed with housing.  We want to know where, how big and how much. Alpern’s book delivers on all levels, including period photos, illustrations of interiors and most gratifying floor plans of apartments on a such a large scale that it can boggle the mind. But then again, one can never have enough maids’ rooms. —LILI ZARGHAMI, Managing Editor
HGTV Design Happens - What We're Reading - The Steampunk Bible
The Steampunk Bible: I couldn’t help but devour my May assignment, The Steampunk Bible. I’m a huge fan of the Victorian-fantasy style crafts that can be found on Etsy.com as well as the sci-fi novels of turn-of-the-century authors H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. So naturally, I’ve been drawn to the Steampunk sub-culture, a movement I now realize is so much deeper than metal-on-metal whimsy. Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers’ compendium, new from Abrams Image, illustrates how Steampunk reverts back to a time when individuals could create something of value from the scraps at the bottom of a barrel…and is nostalgic for the fanciful visions ignited by the Industrial Revolution – a world where airships fight wars in the sky and the organic is fused with the mechanic resulting in clock-work or steam-driven animals. Steampunk decor doesn’t step back – it steps sideways. By embracing and repurposing 21st century technology, a Steampunk tinker creates something extraordinarily personal. (Check out the brass-frame laptop with vintage typewriter keys on page 108.) DIY is an essential element of Steampunk. With electricity, chemicals, heat and water, you – the artist/inventor – can create etched tins with an historic, unconventional edge – perfect favors for your next sepia-toned soiree (page 125).
HGTV Design Happens - What We're Reading - The Steampunk Bible
So I wanted to ask VanderMeer’s perspective on this — Hollywood is clearly still enthralled with Steampunk, as are indie DIYers and fashion designers, but interior design insiders are saying Steampunk is on its way out in that sphere. As someone with his finger on the pulse of Steampunk, is this true? Here’s what he had to say:
VanderMeer: “If Steampunk interior design is going to try to further leverage re-hashes of Victoriana or rely on the aesthetic of William Morris or John Ruskin — or ideas received from movie set design — then it’s probably over.  But, the DIYers are still at it fervently, and there’s so much untapped potential in the “punk” side of Steampunk, then there’s still a lot of artistic potential. Who, specifically, is going to do it? Like usual with Steampunk, no one will know until next month, but be assured someone is working on it right now, because just when people think Steampunk has jumped the shark, some cool new manifestation comes along. The future in this area might be going over to a more streamlined industrial style that’s also a little rougher, but not quite cyberpunk…that would be both interesting and perhaps more livable/contemporary than salutes to Queen Victoria. For example, Raygun Gothic is a subset of Steampunk influenced by Fritz Lang and art deco that’s gained ground in the movies and comics, not including  full-scale installations like Sean Orlando’s Raygun Gothic Rocketship. The main point is this: Steampunk subculture is reaching out beyond 19th century England for influence, even back to the Islamic Enlightenment. So we’re on the cusp of sea-changes in Steampunk.” —KARLI SANDERS, Assistant Editor

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10 Responses

  1. [...] via: What We’re Reading – May: A Look Into Other Worlds Category: Design Tags: into, Look, Reading, We’re, [...]

  2. Alsteve says:

    These look to be very interesting reads. I'll have to check them out. Thanks for this post. <a href="http://www.skylarkmanor.com” target=”_blank”>www.skylarkmanor.com

  3. BrodskyOrganization says:

    With maids rooms or otherwise , we are adding The New York Apartment Homes of Rosario Candela and James Carpenter to our approved reading list. Great historical look at the Manhattan rental market. Thanks for sharing

  4. LeopardPrint says:

    Is it weird that I love both French cottage and Steampunk? Both these books are going on my birthday wish list.

    • Karli_HGTV says:

      Leopard Print, I also love them both! Is it the vintage look? The less-than-perfect aesthetic? Maybe the European influence? I'm always working to seemlessly incorporate both styles in my home.

  5. [...] HGTV blog has a nice piece on The Steampunk Bible, saying in part “I couldn’t help but devour [it]” and quoting coauthor Jeff [...]

  6. angel says:

    if u like to see more about steampunk, with some bright , homey, and modern takes

    go to http://thesteampunkhome.blogspot.com/

  7. Honez says:

    I have been collecting metal stuff for twenty years. Now I know my destiny !

  8. This would be the right blog for every person who hopes to be familiar with this topic. You already know a fantastic deal of its practically difficult to argue together with you (not too I personally would want

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