Design books offer written inspiration

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
  • Some familiar faces in the interior design world have new books out this holiday season
  • Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Richardson and Emily Henderson offer their decorating, design tips

Chatting with a friend a few weeks ago, she was stumped about what to make her family for dinner.

“I have 1,200 pins on Pinterest and I still don’t know what to cook,” she said.

I can relate. In today’s nonstop, multitasking world, many of us go to online bulletin boards like Pinterest for inspiration and guidance.

And yet, we soon forget what caught our attention in the first place. It’s one thing to see something online. It’s another to hold a hard copy in your hands. No wonder why I love books.

Books are more than words and pictures. They offer ideas, inspiration and an escape from the chaos of our daily lives. They don’t disappear when your smartphone or iPad battery dies. And even better, they look great on a coffee table or in a bookcase.

This holiday season, some familiar faces in the interior design world have new books out. HGTV star turned Target stylist Emily Henderson has published her first book called “Styled.” And HGTV star Sarah Richardson, who had a book last year, has another book out, “At Home: Sarah Style” (Gallery Books, $28).

Meanwhile, adorable husband-and-wife team John and Sherry Petersik, authors of the bestseller “Young House Love,” this fall published their second book, “Lovable Livable Home” (Artisan Books, $27.50). It follows the beloved bloggers and DIY-ers as they tackle decorating a new house all while juggling the duties a new baby brings.

And America’s favorite funny lady, Ellen DeGeneres – who hosted her own furniture design show on HGTV this year – also has a home decor book out this holiday season. DeGeneres, who is passionate about design, shares images and stories behind rooms in many of the homes she’s owned over the years.

One of my favorite books this year, “The Bee Cottage Story” (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99), has been described as “Home decorating meets ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’” It follows journalist and author Frances Schultz through a broken engagement and cancer while she restores an old East Hampton cottage room by room.

So whether you’re looking for a gift idea for the design lover in your family or some hardcover inspiration of your own, here you’ll find some of my favorite home decor books this year. And after you read them, arrange them on your coffee table or elsewhere in your decor. Pinterest certainly can’t do that.

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“The Bee Cottage Story”

When writer and journalist Frances Schultz bought a small 1920s cottage in East Hampton in 2008, she had big plans for the house – and for her life. She was engaged to be married and thought the cottage would be the perfect place to start her second marriage. Life, however, had other ideas. “The Bee Cottage Story” (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99) follows Schultz, who first chronicled her renovations for House Beautiful, as she mends from calling off her engagement, fights cancer, and finds healing – all while renovating her little home. “In many ways mine is the story of any decorating project, fraught with ups and downs and fits and starts,” writes Schultz. “What surprised me was how the decorating process became both metaphor and means for personal discovery, and ultimately, for healing.” “The Bee Cottage Story” is part memoir – with personal photos and stories about Schultz’s life – and part home decor book. It goes behind the scenes to explore the nitty gritty of the decorating process in an honest, candid and funny way.

“Lovable Livable Home”

Bloggers and accomplished DIY-ers Sherry and John Petersik added “best-selling authors” to their resumes in 2012 with their book, “Young House Love.” Now, this popular husband-and-wife duo is back with a second book, “Lovable Livable Home” (Artisan Books, $27.50), which follows them as they decorate a new house with their young family. Filled with ideas, projects, and step-by-step tutorials, this book is great for any Pinterest-loving young couple, family or person who has a more modern aesthetic who likes DIY. The book is broken down into seven chapters, each of which represent the spaces usually found in a home, from common areas such as kitchen and living room to smaller space such as foyers and bedrooms.

“At Home: Sarah Style”

She’s back. Designer Sarah Richardson, who has appeared on HGTV and is known for her casual, elegant style, is out with a new book this fall, “At Home: Sarah Style” (Gallery Books, $28), just one year after her hit book, “Sarah Style: An Inspiring Room-by-Room Guide to Designing Your Perfect Home.” But there’s a twist with this book. It isn’t just about home decor, though it captures some of Richardson’s favorite projects, from a modern home with a contemporary style in the city to a country farm. It also includes some of Richardson’s favorite recipes (I want to try her Roasted Sweet Potato Salad). “My approach to food and entertaining is a lot like my direction with design: I like fresh, simple, and creative ideas. While I love the classics, I like a little reinvention and imagination,” she writes.

“The Kinfolk Home”

Kinfolk is monthly magazine known for its clean, streamlined aesthetic. Now, founder Nathan Williams has gone one step further with “The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living” (Artisan Books, $35). The book explores 35 different homes across five continents and is divided into three categories: Homes for community; homes for simplicity; and homes for slow living. What is “slow living”? “The slow approach to crafting a home is subjective to each dweller’s aspirations, but it always finds its foundation in our deepest values. It’s not about luxury or laziness, nor is it about forgoing our most beloved belongings: Slow living isn’t about determining how little we can live with – it’s about working out what we simply can’t live without,” writes Wiliams and his wife, Katie Searle-Williams.


We all know Ellen DeGeneres is funny. Hilariously funny. But what some may not realize is that DeGeneres is also passionate about home design and furniture. She explores that passion in “Home” (Grand Central Life & Style, $35), inviting readers inside some of the homes she’s renovated over the last 25 years. “Interior design is what I would do if I wasn’t a comedian and talk show host,” writes DeGeneres. She says houses are a lot like the guests she interviews on her show – some are old, some are young, all have a story to tell.

“Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves”

HGTV star Emily Henderson started her career as a prop stylist. Her job was turn rooms from “eh to amazing,” she writes, for photo shoots. Her book, “Styled” (Potter Style, $32.50) is all about sharing those little tips to turn up the volume in your space. She says her goal is to deconstruct the styling process for readers, offering tips and tools to “layer your stuff so that it looks both effortless and yet cohesive.” The book includes a Home Style Quiz, which provides the blueprint for styling your home. Henderson also offers great tips on creating vignettes and honing your style.

“Happy Home Outside”

We may live in Michigan where it’s cold four to five months out of the year (or longer if Mother Nature is in a particularly crabby mood), but when it’s warm, we treasure our outdoor space. In “Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outside Life” (Jacqui Small, $43.99), author Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau offers ideas and inspiration for creating the ultimate, colorful outdoor living spaces. Gueniau, who with her husband owns a houseware store called RICE in Denmark, says her attitude with decor is, “Why not?” “If you can bring a little everyday magic to thing that matter to you, and if it can make you and the people who surround you smile, then go for it!” she writes.

“The New Bohemians”

Bohemianism evolved in early 19th century France when artists moved into a lower-rent area of Paris. Trying to create art while living in Paris, “this convergence of cultures gave rise to a kind of vagabond lifestyle, where the pursuit of wealth and other traditional indicators of success were abandoned in favor of a creative life,” writes Justina Blakeney in her book, “The New Bohemians: Cool and Collected Homes” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35), released last month. Blakeney profiles 20 homes divided into six themes in her book — The Modern Bohemian, The Earthy Bohemian, The Folksy Bohemian, The Nomadic Bohemian, The Romantic Bohemian, and The Maximal Bohemian.

“Cupcakes and Cashmere At Home”

A follow-up to her first book “Cupcakes and Cashmere,” “Cupcakes and Cashmere At Home” (Abrams, $19.95) follows popular lifestyle blogger Emily Schuman as she decorates her first home with her husband and offers her tips on entertaining. The book is divided into two sections: one about interiors and decorating, another about entertaining. She offers easy, practical tips such as “Little moments that go a long way.” Her tips: Paint the trim, paint the ceiling a different color, get curtains and swap lampshades.

“Upcycled Chic and Modern Hacks”

Upcycling is the process of taking something old and reinventing it in a new and creative way. Hacking is “transforming and ordinary piece into something special,” according to “Upcycled Chic and Modern Hacks” (Cico Books, $29.95). For anyone obsessed with re-inventing old objects (or shows such “Flea Market Flip”), this book may be for you. Divided into seven chapters, it goes room by room, offering upcycling and hack tips. One fun idea: Use a vintage chair as a bedside table.

“Design Mom”

Who says your sense of style and design have to go out the window when you have kids? Designer Gabrielle Stanley Blair, a mother of six, says you can have a home that’s stylish, organized and functional for both kids and adults. In “Design Mom: How to Live with Kids, A Room-by-Room Guide” (Artisan Books, $29.95), Blair, whose kids range in age from 4 to 17, offers tips for the entry way, living room, and of course, kids’ bedrooms. Her style is bright, fun, and whimsical. And I like the tips she offers throughout the book in “At the Blair,” which focus on everything from screen time to room sharing.