Design Books

Monday, January 9th, 2012

2012 Resolutions: Catching Up on Your Design Reading


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Have you been meaning to catch up on your design reading but just haven’t had the time? The lucky thing is, now you can figure out which books from 2011 lived up to the hype and which ones you should take a pass on. As for the best design books of 2011, here are ten that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend from interior designers, shop owners, magazine editors, bloggers and trendsetters, in no particular order.

1. Decorate by Holly Becker: The top blogger, along with co-author Joanna Copestick, has come up with 1,000 design ideas. That’s right, 1,000, for every room in your home.

2. Black and White (and a bit in between) by Celerie Kemble: Kemble breaks out of her Palm Beach roots here. She has collected the most stylish uses of black and white rooms around. She’s one of my favorite design writers – insightful, intelligent and she doesn’t take it all too seriously.

3. The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman: The founding editor of Dominio and current editor of the Wall Street Journal’s magazine has compiled a charming tome of design advice, accompanied by wonderful illustrations by Virginia Johnson.

4. Undecorate by Christiane Lemieux: While it’s not the opposite of Decorate, this book is about loosening up and the beauty of casual comfort. By the way, Christiane is the founder of DwellStudio.

5. Katie Ridder Rooms by Heather Smith MacIsaac: I love that Ridder has her own distinct style that really cannot be categorized. It’s fresh and feel-good.

6. Big Easy Style by Bryan Batt: This is a more personal pick, because I love this actor, who played Sal on Mad Men, and I love almost everything about New Orleans, a city that’s unique and special in so many ways, including its architecture.

7. The Happy Home Project by Jean Nayar: I love not only that this book provides a guideline for making your home healthier and thus your life happier, but also that Nayar digs deep into everything she’s doing, whether it’s learning about how to be greener or how to achieve Wabi-sabi.

8. Patina Style by Brooke and Steve Gianetti: Perhaps you recognize Brooke from her popular blog, Velvet and Linen. It’s so much fun to finally have her and her husband Steve’s style all wrapped up in a beautiful hardcover book!

9. Alexander Girard by Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee: I’m so glad that Todd Oldham has gotten into books. This book as well as his giant Charley Harper book that came out a few years ago are must-haves for graphic design aficionados.

10. Summers in France by Kathryn M. Ireland: Kathryn Ireland is one of those people you wish you were friends with.  With this book, you get to take a vicarious visit to her beautiful home in France and pretend you are friends with her.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2011? Please share with us in the comments section. I’ll be sharing whatever I pick up in 2012 as I go along this year. Happy Reading!


Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Sad Chairs


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

The only thing sadder than the Framingham Massachusetts rest area at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve is a massage chair in said rest area, stuck in between the candy machine and the men’s room on Christmas Eve. What’s even sadder than that is a pair of them. And the saddest thing of all, is that the sign above them says “Chairs Are For Massages Only.” So non-paying sitters are not welcome to wait for their loved ones outside of the bathroom unless they are feeding quarters to the chairs.

How stiff would your muscles have to be to tempt you into sitting in one of these? Anyway, looking at this picture made me feel oh so much better about every single chair I have in my house. It’s also making me think that putting a real spa in a rest area is not a bad idea.

What’s the most bizarre thing you have seen in a rest area? Let me know in the comments section – I’ve got the post-holiday blues and I’m feeling really uninspired!

By the way, this post reminds me of one I wrote back in 2005, where I linked y’all over to 50 Sad Chairs by Bill Keaggy. It’s still one of my favorite things on the interwebs and I’m happy to report it’s still up and running. In fact, there is even a book, published in 2008, called 50 Sad Chairs (go figure). You can still find it on Amazon:

There’s also a Flickr group called Sad Chairs. I think I’ll be over there checking out the 1400+ submissions they have for the next few hours. Come join me if you want!


Friday, December 16th, 2011

Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas


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For a lot of you this will be a weekend of gift wrapping. Get out your Scotch tape, your gift tags, your ribbons, your raffia, perhaps some Happy Tape, your boxes and your wrapping papers ready. Here is a list of some of our favorite resources around the web to inspire you.

1. I feel we must start with Martha. If you try to emulate her to perfection, you’ll probably drive yourself nuts, but her gorgeous wrapping ideas may spark some more simple ideas. This one’s easy – silver wrapping paper, a few different ribbons in fun patterns, and some berry doodads:


2. Real I always count on Real Simple for great ideas that won’t be too tough to execute:

photo: Kate Seers for

While they recommend making this paper on the computer, you could do the same thing with butcher block paper or brown wrapping paper and a Sharpie.

3. Grab a few colored tapes from the craft store. You can find graphic tape at an art supply store, Happy Tape, or even some fun colors of painter’s tape from the hardware store, and create a fun pattern on your package. This idea came from Oh Joy! – in fact, I think that’s the blog that led me to Happy Tape years ago:

photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D for

4. Unruly Things: If you’re feeling particularly crafty, take a note from Japan and wrap your gifts in fabric – it’s an eco-friendly alternative to throwaway paper that will leave your giftee with a scarf or gorgeous piece they can sew into a throw pillow or frame. Feeling extra-extra crafty? Create your own fabric via this tutorial, and get a result like this one:

photo: Unruly Things

5. Design*Sponge: This is a classic Design*Sponge post I always refer back to. I always keep brown mailing paper, raffia and cheap paper tags in stock for all occasional wrapping, and this post showed me how to step up my game a bit. Guest blogger Amy Merrick has several ingenious ideas in this post, be sure to check it out:

photo: Amy Merrick for Design*Sponge

6. Yes, we’ve all seen the clever (and not so clever) ways to wrap with newspaper, but this tutorial goes to the next level – crafting gift bags from the paper. So empty out the recycling bin and get to work!



Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

New Design Book Alert


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Yesterday Deborah Needleman’s new book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home was released. Needleman was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Domino magazine and now serves as the E.I.C. over at WSJ.Magazine (have you noticed how much fun the “Off Duty” section of The Wall Street Journal is? Needleman is the reason). As someone who has hoarded every issue of Domino and has been getting by re-reading those and her Domino: The Book of Decorating, I had been anxiously awaiting this one. It’s not only full of great advice about making decorating easy and fun, but also charming illustrations by Virginia Johnson. This is a great one to put on your holiday wishlist or to pick up for a loved one who still has those stacks of Domino mags carefully preserved in an honored spot. Needleman understands that decorating is fun in the same way that my favorite designers Dorothy Draper, Elsie de Wolfe and Billy Baldwin did, making reading it a delight.


Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Summer Reading: Which Design Books are You Reading?


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As summer nears its end, I’m wondering, which design books are you reading? I’ve had a few out all summer; a few that watching Million Dollar Decorators on Bravo inspired me to buy, a few I picked up at the Borders going out of business sale, and a few that just sort of came across my desktop and I impulse-bought, so I thought I’d share. We’d love to know which design tomes are inspiring you this summer; please share them with us in the comments section!

Here are the eight that I’ve had out for easy reference this summer.

Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style:  I absolutely loved Mary’s personality on the show, though they were not able to show very many of her big projects. You’ll need this book to check them out.

Summers in France: I absolutely fell in love with Kathryn Ireland on the show as well, wishing she was someone I had a weekly margarita date with. Her personality shows through in this fantastic book, where she shares her farmhouse in the French countryside. She also includes information about how to be a good guest (bring something back from the market when you go, rent your own car, don’t ask to borrow Kathryn’s laptop, and don’t throw cigarette butts in potted plants).

Bunny Williams’ Scrapbook for Living: I admit, I just judged this one by the cover, the fact that it involved Ms. Williams, and the fact that it was deeply discounted in the almost-wiped out design section at my neighborhood soon-to-be-empty Borders store.

Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design: Founder of DwellStudio, Christiane Lemieux, has been a friend of this site for a long time, and it’s been a ball to watch her success. Here, she explains her approach to design (there is no specific approach) and features all kinds of comfortable and stylish spaces that break all the usual rules.

Decorate: 1,000 Professional Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home: We’ve also been following blogger Holly Becker since the very early days of her now extremely popular design blog, Decor8. It’s so much fun to hold a copy of her baby, this book, in your hands and wonder “how the hell did she come up with A THOUSAND ideas?!??!!” It’s also funny to have a book called “Decorate” right next to one called “Undecorate.”

The Happy Home Project: A Practical Guide to Adding Style and Substance to Your Home: I LOVE this book. It is one that truly inspires, not just through it’s beautiful images, but through the direct instructions and advice given by Jean Nayar. She also lives by example, having delved into all of the topics she discusses like the journalist she is, and applying their lessons to her own life.

50 Bauhaus Icons You Should Know: OK, another Borders bargain. I’m taking their word for it. One Bauhaus icon I’d like to forget? Those awful sweatbox Gropius dorms at Harvard. The worst! By the way, I just did a summer program at Harvard, I’m not trying to front like I am a Harvard grad. If you really must know, I applied there for grad school and was rejected. But I digress. This is just a good book to have to round out the serious design shelf.

The New Traditional: This book came out several years ago, but I am cheap and didn’t wind up getting it until I could score a used copy at a good price. It’s a nice one to have around because Darryl Carter’s work is a very good lesson in curating and editing. It makes me look at traditional items with fresh eyes.

Which design books are capturing your attention and inspiring you this summer? Please let us know in the comments section!