ALL POSTS IN Book Reviews

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Let’s get real: when it comes to design coffee table books, you kind of have to judge a book by its cover. These things sit out in the open, center stage in your living room, so it’s important to know if a book is: Hot! Not! A must buy! Or a must skip! Who needs Tinder when you’ve got me?

I’ve “swiped right” on all the best design books, and picked out six that are so darn pretty and chock-full of designery goodness, I would slap anyone who put an actual cup of coffee on them.

1. Black and White (and a Bit In Between): Timeless Interiors, Dramatic Accents, and Stylish Collections by Celerie Kemble

If Pinterest made a book of their most pinned interiors, I’m pretty sure designer Celerie Kemble’s book would be it. While focusing on the most classic of color combos, black and white, Kemble collected gorgeous images from the best of the best in the world of interior design: Thomas O’Brien, Mary McDonald, Delphine Krakoff, Brad Ford and many others. This book makes you feel like: eh, who needs color?

2. Bright Bazaar: Embracing Color For Make-You-Smile Style by Will Taylor

I know I just told you to forget about color, but blogging superstar Will Taylor’s book made me ditch that plan, stomp on it, and then set it on fire. Taylor’s blog Bright Bazaar is like a candy store on the internet: he serves up delicious, bite-size bits of colorful design inspiration every day on his site. His book features a ton of  beautiful interior design projects with color and decor ideas bursting at the seams.

3. ABCDCS: David Collins Studio by David Collins

ABCDCS is a new book featuring the work of the late architect David Collins, and it’s  filled with a collection of showstopping images of beautiful hotel, restaurant, and residential interiors that his firm designed all over the world. Each photo represents a different letter of the alphabet, which is used to highlight various design concepts (from “architecture” to “zzzzz”). While Collins’s interiors might be a bit too va va voom for some, I think there are a ton of inspiring images here with loads of great ideas…especially if you’re decorating a ballroom or a helipad. K-I-D-D-I-N-G.

4. The Big Book of Chic by Miles Redd

I nominated myself as President, Vice President and Under Secretary of the official Miles Redd fan club years ago, so this book has been center stage on my coffee table for a while now. Redd’s projects are all hardcore glamorous, bright, bold and engaging. The book features photographs from his design projects all over the world, and I may or may not have used an entire post it note pad marking ideas that I’d love to copy one day.

5. Elements of Style: Designing A Home & A Life by Erin Gates

Released just this week, Elements of Style blogger Erin Gates’s new book is jam packed with loads of fab photos as well as practical advice, lessons learned and insight from Gates’s own home renovation, as well as her work with her other design clients. She delves into nitty gritty type stuff (like choosing countertops for your kitchen, or decorating a nursery without cartoon characters), and best of all, she also includes an extensive resource and shopping guide with all the scoop on where to go to buy all of the fab stuff you see featured in the book.

6. The Inspired Home: Nests of Creatives by Kim Ficaro, Todd Nickey, Mayer Rus, Sarah Sophie Flicker

Did that invite from musician Moby to have cocktails up at his Hollywood Hills “micro castle” get lost in the mail? MINE TOO. Luckily, The Inspired Home captured pics of Moby’s joint, as well as countless other creative musicians, stylists, writers and tastemakers to give you an inside look into each of their homes. There’s so much amazingness going on in these pages it’s hard to know where to look…but Moby’s “micro castle’ is a good place to start.

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I’ve been a fan of Petit Collage’s wares since I worked on a gallery featuring kids’ room decals and found some adorable examples on their site that I just had to feature. It’s truly a testament to the quality of the designs that they appealed to me even though I don’t have little ones of my own yet and I could easily imagine them fitting into my mid-century modern decorating scheme.

Turns out that the force behind Petit Collage, artist and designer Lorena Siminovich, is quite the multi-tasker! In addition to starting the successful home decor line in 2006, she has authored and illustrated over 20 childrens’ books. Her latest book, Petit Collage: 25 Easy Craft and Decor Projects for a Playful Home, came out in April from Potter Craft, and it’s definitely one that’s for parents as much as it is for the kids. These decor projects are stylish enough to earn a place in every room in your home and the crafts would make darling handmade baby shower gifts, though they’re so cute that it’s hard to imagine giving them away once you’ve made them.

New Book Release: Petit Collage

Photography: Thayer Allyson Gowdy | Design: Sara Gillingham Studio

I chatted with Lorena about the book, her personal style and how becoming a mother shaped her business. Plus: Try one of the book’s sweet DIY crafts!

READ THE INTERVIEW AND GET THE SAMPLE CRAFT

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The rising cost of gas and the world’s growing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint has sparked exciting innovations in prefab home construction. Showcasing the unlimited possibilities offered by prefab to build stylish, energy-efficient, green houses, Prefabulous World features cutting-edge examples of eco-friendly home design around the globe.

Prefabulous World

The book is available for purchase now.

Stunning photos spotlight a vast spectrum of architectural styles and settings for these houses. The 50 homes in this book fit in beautifully with their natural surroundings and far exceed any preconceptions you may have of prefabricated homes. For each featured house, Koones presents specs, green aspects, energy aspects, challenges faced by the builders and solutions that help these homes achieve new heights of sophisticated and sustainable living.

With floor plans, multiple images of the exterior and interior of each home, and an extensive resource section listing architects, builders, and suppliers, Prefabulous World is a vibrantly illustrated yet practical guide that reveals how living in a beautiful, well-built, energy-efficient home is truly achievable.

And did I mention that Academy Award Winner Robert Redford wrote the book’s foreword? Here’s an excerpt of what Mr. Redford had to say:

“Sheri Koones’s books have inspired professionals and homeowners to consider using prefabrication methods that reduce waste, inherently conserve energy, and limit the need for fossil fuel. This latest book…demonstrates the valiant efforts of builders around the world to use prefab methods to build houses that are not only beautiful but also substantially reduce energy usage and drastically reduce construction waste. I hope these examples will inspire you as they have inspired me.”

Prefabulous World

Beachaus, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada © Courtesy of InHaus Development

Prefabulous World

Casa Locarno, Solduno, Switzerland © Courtesy of designyougo

More of Today’s Prefab

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Kelli Ellis 'Do I Look Skinny in This House' book cover

How do your rooms speak to you? Do you feel calm and positive or anxious and disoriented? These are the questions interior designer Kelli Ellis is asking in her new book, “Do I Look Skinny in This House?: How to feel great in your home using Design Psychology.”

Ellis, whose work has been featured on HGTV’s Takeover My Makeover, explains why you should focus on the 3 F’s (function, flow and feel) to make your home comfortable and practical for your lifestyle. She says a room can be fit for a magazine spread, but the owners will still be unhappy with it if the decor is based around trends and fads instead of what fits their personalities.

“Turning your house into a haven is something that we obviously care about. We have entire TV channels and we have entire stores that are to making homes beautiful,” Ellis said. “All of us want to come home and we want to feel great, comfortable and productive in our homes. We really ask our homes to be everything to us.”

Design Psychology simply focuses on being intentional when creating spaces by using simple and effective design principles.

Ellis gives tips on how to customize your house using color therapy, light therapy and certain scents that mesh with your emotions and passions without breaking the bank. Her advice includes small changes, like leaving at least three feet of walking space around furniture to instantly improve a room’s flow, and larger endeavors, like steps to recovering your home after a natural disaster.

Interior Designer and Author Kelli Ellis

The book is available on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle.

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How are those New Year’s resolutions going so far? I’ll be honest — I don’t have any because I can never stick to them. Mainly because I get lazy and easily fall back into my old habits. Good, now that I got that off my chest, I’d like to reach out to those who are doing awesome and keeping their resolutions (or maybe those who need a little encouragement).

I’ve recently connected with Caroline Shannon-Karasik of Sincerely Caroline and she shared her new book The Gluten-Free Revolution with me. What I was expecting was a gluten-free cookbook. What I got was an easy-to-follow healthy lifestyle book. Not only does it make living the gluten-free and vegan lifestyle easy to accomplish , but it also includes yoga and pilates exercises, tips on what items and tools to stock in your kitchen and has simple homemade beauty recipes.

The Gluten-Free Revolution Book

After reading this book from top to bottom, I decided to share some of my favorite recipes with you.

See My Top 5 Recipe Picks

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A former partner of the legendary design firm Parish-Hadley, interior designer Brian McCarthy is a member of Elle Decor’s “A-List” of designers and is known for creating personal and distinctive interiors for an elite and very private clientele. Brian’s clients’ desire to keep under the radar means that he doesn’t often publish his projects, but in his first book, Luminous Interiors, he’s pulling back the curtains on nine luxury residences from all over the country.

Luminous Interiors by Brian McCarthy

Left: Luminous Interiors Cover | Right: Brian McCarthy photo by Peter Murdock

Inside, Brian showcases the refined eclecticism that defines his work. He’s passionate about collecting art and furniture, and for one project shown in the book, he took his clients on a grand tour throughout Western Europe — a total of 35 trips in five years! — to scout for the perfect pieces to fill their home.

Take a sneak peek at some of the luxurious and opulent homes Brian has designed for his anonymous clientele:

The Grand Tour

Luminous Interiors - Elegant Guest Bedroom

Photo: Fritz von der Schulenburg

This guest bedroom offers the ultimate retreat, balancing both opulent and rustic design styles.

Peek Into More Luxurious Interiors

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I’m a DIYer to the core. (Also see: Obsessive Craigslister, craft store aficionado, Pinterest project beta tester.) My first thought when I see a vase or a bookshelf or a wreath I like is usually “How can I make this?” But I’ll admit, I’ve always been a bit intimidated when it comes to upholstery projects.

So when I saw a lampshade-making class on the schedule at Altitude Design Summit, I decided to give it a shot. That’s when I met HGTV.com and Design* Sponge contributor Amanda Brown for the first time.

We started with funky, amazing fabrics you wouldn’t find in most big-box stores. After gluing the fabric to plastic backing, we clamped it around metal rings and embellished it with ribbon. I went home with a pretty amazing lampshade, and a desire to learn more about the craft of upholstery. (Come back to Design Happens next week to learn this process!)

Amanda Brown - Spruce Upholstery

Just a few short years ago, Amanda was just where I am: Eager to put her own DIY stamp on furniture finds, but not sure where to start. She enrolled in some upholstery classes, and before she knew it she had jumped in with both feet. She started rehabbing furniture as a side project; then started Spruce Austin to make her side job her day job. Over the last several years, she’s learned the tricks of the trade. Luckily, you don’t have to start an upholstery shop to learn her process. She wrote the new book, Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design to be the textbook she wished she had when she was first starting out.

Spruce Design Book

The book delves into the step-by-step process of revamping the furniture pieces in Amanda’s real-life living room, from a bold wingback chair to an upholstered ottoman to modern-lined sofa. It’s full of practical knowledge like how to find and use the tools of the trade, plus tips to choose the right fabrics and figure out the proper yardage for each project. There’s also a handy glossary to help you decode upholstery terms.

EXCLUSIVE: SEE HOW AMANDA PREPS FURNITURE FOR UPHOLSTERY

Along the way, she also shares some of her favorite furniture transformations, and fun moments from the upholstery shop. Here are just a few of the items Amanda and her staff have recovered while reupholstering pieces (no diamond rings or pearl necklaces yet, though!):

New Upholstery Book by Amanda Brown

Ready to start your upholstery journey? Meet up with Amanda and the Spruce team in person on their cross-country book-signing tour, or attend a workshop and learn to make your own bench or lampshade. Find her in HGTV’s stomping ground of Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, November 12. (See the full schedule here.)

RELATED: MAKE YOUR OWN UPHOLSTERED DOOR

But don’t just take my word for it…see more design bloggers’ thoughts on the book here:

Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery And Design, is available now.

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The Knit Parade by Rebecca Rymsza showcases 12 original knitting patterns for motif sweaters from the creative team behind the Wheres Me Jumper brand. These patterns make a bold statement and encourage knitters to personalize their sweaters as much as they like. Each pattern is inspired by a song, ranging from musical notes (“On Repeat” by LCD Soundsystem), to a leopard print (“Me Jane” by PJ Harvey) and dripping paint (“Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones).

The additional six customizable graphic swatches are practically begging to be played with. “Use one or use them all, however you like. You might be a polka-dot prince, or princess, and choose to stick to one pattern … or you might want to channel the Fresh Prince, circa 1991, in which case, we salute you,” Rebecca says in The Knit Parade.

Take a peek into the funky patterns you can expect. (Hello, handmade Christmas gifts!)

The Knit Parade Sweater Pattern

Pattern: Bad Girls
Inspiration: “Bad Girls” is a song from alternative electronic hip-hop artist M.I.A’s fourth studio album, Matangi, in 2013.

The Knit Parade Sweater Pattern

Pattern: Weather Experience
Inspiration: “Weather Experience” is a song from English electronic band The Prodigy’s debut studio album, Experience, in 1992.

The Knit Parade Sweater Pattern

Pattern: Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
Inspiration: The song “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” is by English new wave band Tubeway Army from the 1979 album Replicas.

Who’s ready to get out their knitting needles and speakers?!

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Made By Hand, the newest book by Lena Corwin, is a collection of projects based on the classes held in her studio. Her first book, Printing By Hand, showcases a modern guide to handmade printing with stamps, stencils and more. In her newest book, she decided to expand her curriculum and even invited some of her talented friends to teach classes on everything from dyeing and sewing to weaving and jewelry making. In 26 studio classes, Made By Hand introduces readers to ageless crafting techniques with modern projects. Take a look at some of my favorites straight from the book:

Lena Corwin's Made by Hand - Rotary-Printed Cloth Napkins

Project by Lena Corwin

Rotary-Printed Cloth Napkins: ”While planning this book, I spent time experimenting with printing techniques that were new to me, and I have become especially interested in the concept of rotary printing,” Lena says in Made By Hand. “When manufacturers produce rotary-printed fabric, a large cylinder is carved with impressions and is used to print on long, continuous rolls of fabric.”

To make a smaller rotating stamp, Lena attached pieces of foam to a rolling pin. The foam pieces soak up the ink, allowing the design to easily transfer to the fabric. Here, she chose a fun polka-dot design in neon hues to create napkins.

Lena Corwin's Made By Hand - Crocheted Garland

Project by Erin Weckerle

Crocheted Garland: To create this garland, Erin used three different doily patterns and chose muted, vintage colors. You can hang the garland anywhere around your home — on a mantel, headboard, window, etc.

Lena Corwin's Made By Hand - Crocheted Rugs

Project by Cal Patch | Braided rug, top; Crocheted rug, bottom

Crocheted or Braided Rugs: “For this project, Cal and I decided to show two great rug-making methods — braided and crocheted. Both methods use the same fabric but produce distinctively different looks,” Lena says in Made By Hand. “Braided rugs … have a classic, old-fashioned appearance, while crocheted rugs … look more modern.”

SEE MORE HANDMADE PROJECTS

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Interior designer Holly Holden is an expert in old-school design. For more than 25 years, she has been creating pretty, classic and tailored spaces for clients around the world. Then two years ago, her daughter, Alexandra, asked her: “How do I furnish my new house to look like a ‘big girl’ house?” Holly knew this question required more than just a simple answer; it elicited lists, tips and design advice “peppered with words like ‘pretty’, ‘proper’, ‘polished’, ‘refined’ and ‘well-proportioned’,” she said.

Now, after years of compiling examples, photographs and time-tested advice, Holly has created the handbook for creating an authentic living space, The Pretty and Proper Living Room. Here, Holly guides readers through the subtle qualities of creating this type of space while sharing the must-know no-no’s.

The Pretty and Proper Living Room Holly Holden

“Classic interior design, like good manners, never goes out of style,” Holly says.

The Pretty and Proper Living Room Holly Holden

This living room’s theme: elegant European refinement; old meets new and East meets West.

I spoke to Holly this week about her new book and her love of traditional design. Here’s what she had to say.

Kayla Kitts for Design Happens: Have you always been drawn to classic, traditional design? What makes this style so appealing to you as a designer?

Holly Holden: I was introduced to this type of design by my parents from day one, so on a personal level it is familiar and comforting to me. Speaking more objectively, this style of design is elegant and inviting. The finished product is a room that is memorable, but also comfortable — a room that guests do not want to leave! Additionally, there is a timelessness to this style of decorating, both in the sense that it has stood the test of time and in the sense that it is not going to fall out of fashion in the future.

OUR INTERVIEW WITH HOLLY HOLDEN

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Have you ever wondered who created the very first sofa? Or what Victorians brought home from vacations as souvenirs?  Design*Sponge managing editor and self-described bibliophile Amy Azzarito tackles the history behind household objects (everything from curtains to chandeliers to cast iron) and how those stories intersect with modern life in her Past and Present column.

Amy’s new book by the same name is full of dinner party-worthy facts — things you might not know now, but will be glad you learned. For example, sofas and armchairs just didn’t exist until the early 18th century,  when Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour began to popularize private spaces made for comfort, not just display. Watching a movie just wouldn’t be the same curled up on a straight-backed wooden chair, right?

Past and Present Book Review on HGTV's Design Happens

Part history lesson and part DIY manual, she pairs 24 essays about interesting moments in decorative arts history with thoroughly modern projects developed alongside design trendsetters like Todd Oldham, David Stark and ConfettiSystem.

I especially love this black-and-white headboard project designed by Eddie Ross: It’s inspired by the iconic jasperware pottery created by Josiah Wedgwood, which features white relief designs on a matte black surface. This modern version is made from a hollow-core door, white PVC trim and decorative moldings.

Black and White DIY Headboard - HGTV's Design Happens

I chatted with Amy about the collaborations and her personal style. Plus, try one of the book’s DIY projects!

READ MORE

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How does a luxurious interior design sensation like Miles Redd create a brand of “cozy glamour” and step into the world of design? It all started at age five.

“When I was a boy growing up in Atlanta, Ga., my mother had a copy of Cecil Beaton‘s book The Royal Portraits that I used to flip through for hours on end. The photographs are heavy stuff: Princess Elizabeth in ermine coronation robes, holding scepters; Princess Margaret in an immense tulle ball gown splayed across a red damask banquette. After that, there wasn’t a prayer for me; my five-year-old eyes had seen what appeared to be the height of chic, and there was no turning back, at least not until I had my own tufted red madness. It was my first glimpse of the great big glittering world to which I wanted to belong.” — Miles Redd, The Big Book of Chic

The Big Book of Chic

Miles was inspired by chic, elegant decor at a young age and remains drawn to the same style of living to this day. I truly believe you can learn the most about a person by looking at their photographs, and interior designers often convey their personality through their designs. Miles’ newest book, The Big Book of Chic (Assouline, 2012), does just that. It’s 300 pages long with 150 full-page illustrations, giving readers a glimpse into what inspires Miles and provides intimate portraits of a beautiful, sophisticated life. You know, a group gathered around a well-dressed table enjoying hors d’oeuvres and cocktails; an elegant man stepping off a private jet with his dog; and a photo of Princess Margaret in a luxurious tulle ball gown. Quotes from Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Pablo Picasso, Henry James and Alexander Pope (just to name a few) are truly the icing on the cake of this beautifully-illustrated book.

Plus, readers can peek into several of Miles’ own townhouse and beach house projects in Houston, Atlanta, Millbrook and Locust Valley. What I love most about this book is that I can be staring at the details of an antique crystal chandelier on one page and turn to a picture of Miles in a tuxedo standing on a chair in a mirrored room.

Miles ReddCourtesy of Cameron Krone

Step inside the colorful, whimsical, inspirational, spirited and eclectic world that is Miles Redd.

The Big of Chic Interiors© Francesco Lagnese

“There are chemists who spend their whole lives trying to find out what’s in a lump of sugar. I want to know one thing. What is color?” — Pablo Picasso, featured in The Big Book of Chic

READ MORE

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If you’ve read the blog Young House Love at all, you know Sherry and John Petersik are real can-do people. They’ve completely made over a house and a half and chronicled their successes (and failures) for millions of readers in their signature fun-loving, no-nonsense voice.

But less than 5 years ago, they were remodeling novices too, muddling through their first project as homeowners. In short: If you’re new to home improvement, they’ve been in your shoes and want to help. That’s the idea behind their new book, Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love.

Young House Love Book

To the Petersiks, home design isn’t about the big reveals, it’s about the small victories. That’s why they worked to come up with  more than 200 home improvement ideas (most of which you can accomplish in less than a day) that range from easy DIY projects like recovering a dresser with wallpaper to shopping and storage tips to no-nonsense remodeling advice. A favorite: ‘A home-decorating decision is not going to save the world…or end it…it’s all going to be okay.’

RELATED: See Sherry’s Best and Worst Room Picks

As a new-ish homeowner who only recently began experiencing the angst (It’s been a month…why haven’t I accomplished more?) and satisfaction (I actually completed something!) that is DIY remodeling, I appreciate that the Petersiks have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. Their project ideas are pretty darn inspiring, too:  Why yes, I think I will paint a pattern on my stair risers and frame a collage of favorite ticket stubs this weekend.

I chatted with co-author Sherry to learn more about the book and get her been there, done that remodeling tips. Plus: Get two sample step-by-step projects.
READ MORE

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HGTV’s Carter Oosterhouse (host of Carter Can, Million Dollar Rooms and Red, Hot & Green) has a new book out for homeowners who want to tackle their home design challenges (with practicality, style and a bit of environmental responsibility). Carter’s Way hit bookshelves just yesterday.

Carter Oosterhouse

Available for purchase Tuesday, October 2.

Carter knows how intimidating home design can be. With his upbeat “you can do it” attitude, he shows readers how to create budget-conscious design elements that they can implement with basic tools and a little DIY experience. His mission is to bring people’s imaginations to life when it comes to home design.

In Carter’s Way, he decodes the principles of design, using specific examples and stunning photography. He also teaches readers how to be environmentally responsible by using green products wherever possible — without adding huge costs or hassle to the project. Each chapter covers a different area of the house, acknowledging the diversity of layouts in today’s homes.

Carter Oosterhouse

This room uses a black-and-white background to showcase two stunning purple chairs. Don’t be afraid to flash your style (as long as it makes design sense).

I spoke to Carter this week about his book and while I had him, I asked a few other questions as well. Here’s what he had to say.
Interview With Carter & Chance To Win Autographed Copy of Carter’s Way

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Tomorrow, Gil Schafer III’s The Great American House:Tradition for the Way We Live Now will be hitting shelves in bookstores across the nation. And let me tell you, if you have a love for traditional design — you have to go find this book. We at Design Happens received an advance copy weeks ago and this book has been viewed by most everyone — and the resounding response from the team has been “That’s a stunning book!”

The Great American House

Available for purchase Thursday, September 20.

Gil takes the best of traditional architecture — from the detailed craftsmanship to the elegant, balanced proportions — and translates it for the kind of connected spaces that fit today’s family. The book is full of gorgeous photos, alongside personable, informative tips that illustrate the entire process of restoring, renovating, and building classic homes.

The Great American House inspired me to ask designers from across the U.S. to speak on what they consider to be classic elements of traditional design within American homes. Here is what they had to say.

Tobi Fairley of Tobi Fairley Interior Design:
American is by its very nature all-inclusive and about choice, individual taste, and freedom. To me, American interiors are bold. They’re courageous and risk-taking without forsaking tradition — timeless pieces of furniture layered among stunning patterns and striking colors. They’re also versatile and dynamic, affording a family comfort and luxury as well as high-function for daily use. Above all, American interiors are welcoming, hospitable and inviting; guests feel natural yet pampered.

Great American House

The family room features painted paneling, a rustic beamed ceiling and a fireplace surround made from granite.

More Designer Interviews & Photos From The Great American House

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When Lara Spencer, coanchor for Good Morning America, says that it’s easy to get “addicted to the hunt,” she’s not talking about stalking celebrity news stories. She’s referring to her off-the-clock passion: finding raggedy, outdated, neglected furniture via yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets and yes, even dumpsters, then transforming it and using it to create amazing, high-end rooms on a budget.

I can totally relate, because her lifelong addiction to “sale-ing” is my brand new one: Since I bought my first house, I’ve been a Craigslist and estate sale addict, and the thrill of finding (and transforming) that amazing piece is intoxicating. New to the hunt? Lara’s new book, I Brake for Yard Sales, shows you how to find furniture gems in the rough. (Get more of her tips tonight at 8/7c in her HGTV special!)

I Brake For Yard Sales Cover

Thrifting runs in Lara’s family — she spent nearly every weekend as a child hopping from secondhand shop to yard sale to auction with her mother and siblings — so she’s nailed down the tricks of the trade. She starts by helping you define a your style, then offers tips for how to recognize quality pieces (and duds.) She also shows you how to use the pieces once you get home — a vintage sign becomes an industrial-chic focal point in this space filled with modern, graphic touches.

Sign Transformation

From flea market find to living room showpiece.

And as Lara reveals how she makes over and styles each piece, she also tells you how much she paid for them: Can you believe she picked up an Eames lounger for just $150 and a pair of Picasso sketches for $30?! (So. Jealous.) This collection of medallions set her back only $20, while the ornate “musical” chair was a mere $50. Looks like a million bucks, right?

Yellow Wallpaper Antique Furniture

Retro yellow wallpaper gives traditional furniture a modern look.

The book also shows off some of the interiors she’s decorated with flea market and budget finds. My favorite: This living room in comedian Kathy Griffin’s house that’s decorated in a style the friends jokingly call “Palm Springs gay man going through a midlife crisis in his midcentury home who wants to attract the hottest guys to come over.”

Kathy Griffin Living Room

Kathy Griffin's living room, designed by Lara Spencer.

And Lara is full of ideas that take decorating outside the (reclaimed and repainted) box. After recovering her kitchen chairs one t0o many times, she found the perfect budget-friendly solution to two messy kids: cover the chairs with shower curtains!  She used one heavy-duty plastic curtain per chair, and hid the seams with chrome upholstery tacks.

Shower Curtain Dining Chairs

Dining room chairs recovered with high-end shower curtains.

When you finish the book, you’ll want to drive off and slam on the brakes for the nearest yard sale…I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

Take a break from furniture scouting tonight at 8/7c to watch Lara redecorate her best friend’s home on the HGTV special I Brake for Yard Sales.

Happy bargain hunting!

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It’s hard for me not to turn my review of The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate & Live Well (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2011) into an out-and-out love letter to its author, Deborah Needleman. Full disclosure: When I claim that I live with “approximately one million old shelter magazines” in my bio on the blog, 3/4 of those are the mag she founded, Domino. If you were also a fan of the dearly departed Domino, you’ll find a lot of its guiding whimsy and wisdom in these pages.

perfectly imperfect home cover

The main premise of Needleman’s new second book is that great homes showcase signs of life, not a meticulous look that a decorator has crafted for its inhabitants. In each of the chapters, she touches on the elements you need to make your place stylish, yet preserve its warmth at the same time.

The practical tips on things like bed height and proper placement of a rug in a room are helpful, but the book really shines when Needleman encourages personality. “Jollifiers” (i.e., “sentimental things that spread a little joy every time you cast your eye upon them”) and “Cozifications” can easily be neglected or ignored if one is too busy worrying about more superficial aspects of decor. The book is a great reminder to have fun with your spaces and focus on getting the best possible set-up for the life you actually live, peculiarities and all. The cute watercolor illustrations by Virginia Johnson have a charmingly dashed-off feel that further highlight and embody the casual-chic spirit of the book.

I’m thinking The Perfectly Imperfect Home would be a wonderful “jollifier” to add to any design junkie’s coffee table this holiday season.

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  • #TBT Favorite bedrooms from HGTV Dream Homes past

  • #TBT Favorite bedrooms from HGTV Dream Homes past

  • #TBT Favorite bedrooms from HGTV Dream Homes past