This holiday, curl up with some home decor page turners
Winter hasn't even officially started, but I'm ready to snuggle up on the sofa, grab a warm blanket and cuddle up with a home decor book until the groundhog sees his shadow.
Who wouldn't be? In our ever-busy, ever-texting, ever-tweeting, constantly engaged society — a recent study by Flurry Analytics found people with access to a smartphone or tablet spend an average of nearly three hours on them each day, more than TV — nothing feels as good as unplugging with a book.
And home decor books are more than pretty; they're a smorgasbord for the senses. They're inspiring, educational and motivational.
Some of the best home decor and shelter books this year are full of great tips — from how to transform a small space to nine do-it-yourself ways to transform throw pillows.
There are also a couple of dense, thorough reference guides, chock-full of useful information on Arts and Craft design and four centuries of quilting.
Or if you want to ogle some beautiful spaces transformed by some incredibly talented designers, there are several options this year, including "Elle Decor: The Height of Style" and "Veranda: A Passion for Living."
Below are some of my favorites this year. And with Christmas just 26 days away (and Hanukkah even sooner), they're great gift ideas as the holidays approach.
Unplug and enjoy!
"Elle Decor: The Height of Style"
Let's be honest: Elle Decor knows its stuff. No wonder why its book, "Elle Decor: The Height of Style" (Abrams, $45) is not only beautiful to look at but also has some really useful designing tips. The book, written by Michael Boodro, editor-in-chief of Elle Decor, and the magazine's editors, is broken down into four styles: Classical, Fanciful, Practical and Personal. In each section also is a page, "What the Pros Know," with tips for designing and decorating kitchens, bathrooms and dressing rooms. I loved the mix of beauty, inspiration and practical know-how. Bobby Flay's kitchen is featured, along with Michael Bay's living room.
"Arts & Crafts: Living With Arts & Crafts Style"
Judith Miller, the go-to authority on antiques, turns her attention to the Arts and Crafts design style in her new book, "Arts & Crafts: Living With the Arts & Crafts Style" (Miller's/Mitchell Beazley, $39.99). Considered one of the most influential design movements of all time, it began in the late 19th century and is still being reworked and expanded by designers today. Miller's book delves into furniture, ceramics (Detroit's Pewabic Pottery makes an appearance in the book), silver, metalware and jewelry, and a miscellaneous section that includes lighting and textiles. Miller delves into the products created by the Arts and Crafts' movement founders, including Gustav Stickley. And while it is essentially a reference guide, if you love Arts and Craft furniture, it'll be a guide you won't want to put down.
"Sarah Style: An Inspiring Room-By-Room Guide to Designing Your Perfect Home"
I remember designer Sarah Richardson early in her career on HGTV and there was always something about her down-to-earth, engaging style that you couldn't help but like. Richardson, a Toronto native, is known for her modern and clean but fun style. In her book, "Sarah Style: An Inspiring Room-By-Room Guide to Designing Your Perfect Home" (Gallery Books, $26), she tackles nearly every room in the house: the entry, family room, the office, the kids' bedroom. I especially loved her tips for designing children's bedrooms, from the bohemian bedroom to her ideas for neutral nurseries.
"Veranda: A Passion for Living"
Carolyn Englefield spent 13 years as a European correspondent for American design magazines. She says eclectic decorating "is becoming de rigueur in the United States, but it's a style we've adapted from Europeans." Englefield's "Veranda: A Passion for Living" (Hearst, $60) highlights beautiful homes in Belgium, England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden. It's lush, rich and oozes luxury. It also has a sense of history. There is a Tuscan farmhouse, a former fishing lodge and garden folly called the Temple in England, and the French countryside retreat of designer Kathryn M. Ireland. Also featured is Althorp, a storied estate in Northamptonshire now in the hands of Charles Spencer, brother of the late Princess Diana.
"Four Centuries of Quilts: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection"
If you love quilting, "Four Centuries of Quilts: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection" (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation/Yale University Press, $75) is a dense, detailed compendium of textiles dating back to the 1600s. A beautiful reference guide, curated by Linda Baumgarten and Kimberly Smith Ivey, it has more than 300 color images of woven and nonquilted bed covers collected from around the world, including India, Europe, the United Kingdom, colonial America, and later the United States. Every figure details who made each quilt (if the information is available), when and where it was made, materials used, size, stitches per inch, and how it came into the Colonial Williamsburg Collection.
"Flea Market Fabulous"
Lara Spencer, co-anchor of "Good Morning America" and flea market aficionado, can spot a good find from a mile away. And that's just the first step. It's what she and her team do with these vintage treasures that's often incredible. Her new book, "Flea Market Fabulous" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $25.95) follows Spencer and her team as they not only find awesome deals and transform them, but then also re-use them in a room. The book, which follows Spencer's first, "I Brake for Yard Sales," also has great tips (example: oversized door knockers — rather than knobs — are a great choice for a vintage cabinet). I loved that the book included how much Spencer and her team paid for most items. And if you're ready to start your own collection, she has three suggestions of where to start when it comes to collectibles: Animal figurines, sea creatures, and vintage books.
"A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home"
Sisters Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman are all about transformation — one do-it-yourself project at a time. There isn't a project these two bloggers (abeautifulmess.com) won't tackle. Their book, "A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home" (Potter Style, $21.99), is chock-full of painting, crafting, and decorating projects to make the spaces in your home brighter and cheery. They're big on painting: some of their projects include painting a geometric-pattern on a coffee table, a hand-lettered statement wall, even painting a duvet cover (seriously).
"Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills"
This book isn't for everyone, but if you're raising chickens in your backyard (and secretly watching TLC's "Risking It All"), "Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills" (Skyhorse Publishing, $27.95) may be for you. Edited by Abigail R. Gehring, author of the "Homesteading Handbook," this dense book, now in its fourth edition, covers just about everything you'd need if you ever decided to leave it all behind and start anew in the woods somewhere: buying land and building on it; energy from woods, water, wind, and sun; and raising your own food. One section covers "Skills and Craft for House and Homestead," including spinning, weaving, patchwork quilting, soapmaking, and candlemaking.
"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"
Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant who argues that tidying up isn't an innate skill, it should be taught. Her neat, tiny book — "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (Ten Speed Press, $16.99) — delves into the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, and it has already sold more than 2 million copies. Each chapter is practical, with titles such as "Sort by category, not location," "Designate a place for each thing," and "Discard first, store later." Her approach seems simple and yet bold at the same time: "Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination."
"The Wreath Recipe Book"
Who says wreaths are just for the holidays? "The Wreath Recipe Book" (Artisan Books; $24.95) has recipes to create your own wreaths, swags, centerpieces and other decorations year-round. And these aren't your mother's or grandmother's pine cone wreaths. Written by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo, best friends and business partners behind Studio Choo, a San Franciso floral design company, there are recipes featuring cherry blossoms, lilac, dogwood, persimmon and bittersweet. The book is divided into seasons — spring, summer, autumn and winter — with about eight or nine recipes per season. Each recipe lists ingredients and has step-by-step instructions with pictures. I especially loved the acacia recipe, juniper centerpiece and cotoneaster garland (which would be perfect for a Thanksgiving table). Some recipes would be beautiful for a rustic wedding or bridal shower.