A holiday treat: Best home books of 2016

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

What do two junk gypsies, a Detroit hustler, a couple of HGTV stars and a Japanese organizer have in common?

They’ve all written some of my favorite home decor books this year.

Every fall, just in time for the holidays, I dig through the piles of home, gardening and organizing books that come my way throughout the year to dig out my favorites. And if the huge stack about to keel over is any indication, a lot of great books came out this year. Maybe I should keep one of the organizing books for research (if I can find it).

For the first time, this year’s list includes three made-in-Detroit books. Two are memoirs and one goes behind the scenes of last year’s gorgeous Flower House, an abandoned duplex in Hamtramck converted by floral designers from across the country into an art installation with flowers.

“Detroit Hustle” by Detroit journalist Amy Haimerl chronicles the former New Yorker’s journey along with her husband, Karl, to restore an abandoned house in the city’s West Village neighborhood and turn it into a home. They overcame financing issues, a shortage of contractors and many other challenges to put down roots in Detroit. Their house was profiled earlier this year in Homestyle.

The second Detroit book is by Lake Orion native Nicole Curtis, star of HGTV’s “Rehab Addict.” Her memoir “Better Than New” recently hit the New York Times bestseller list. For the first time, Curtis pulls back the curtain of her life to reveal troubled relationships, how she rose from Hooters waitress to TV star and the lessons she’s learned from the many old houses she’s restored along the way.

If you ever wondered why Curtis kept her second pregnancy a secret or what things were really like behind the scenes as she and Quicken Loans brought the iconic Ransom Gillis mansion in Detroit’s Brush Park back to life in 2015, her book is your chance to find out her side of the story.

Also on the list are some great books by some old favorites, including HGTV star Vern Yip, “Dream Decor” by Will Taylor and “Spark Joy” by the world’s best known Japanese organizer, Marie Kondo. Kondo’s simple advice about keeping or throwing away objects – “does it spark joy?” – haunts me every time I look at the clutter in my basement or closets.

And while clutter may not spark joy, I hope these home decor books do. Enjoy.


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Twitter: @mfeighan

domino: Your Guide to a Stylish Home

Written by the editors of domino magazine, Jessica Romm Perez and Shani Silver “domino: Your Guide to a Stylish Home” (Simon & Schuster, $35) is all about honing your personal style, finding inspiration and mixing and matching big and small components. It’s full of beautiful images, but with minimal text. Instead, it’s all tips. It breaks nearly every component of a room – seating, walls, art, flooring, shelves and vignettes – into chapters. It’s inspirational and educational. I especially liked the “style standoff” pages that break down different approaches: for example, using a patterned sofa versus a solid one or creating a symmetrically setup room versus asymmetry.

Junk Gypsy

Country music lovers, take note: If you love home decor too, this book may be for you. Written by sisters Amie and Jolie Sikes of Texas, who’ve starred on HGTV and have also designed for country stars such as Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, “Junk Gypsy: Designing a Life at the Crossroads of Wonder & Wander” (Touchstone, $25) has a little bit of everything: Do-It-Yourself ideas, road trip advice, a flea market field guide, even recipes. It’s fun, crazy and eclectic, a bit like the Sikes sisters’ style. And while rock stars may be the only people who can afford to hire an interior designer to decorate their Airstream trailer, it’s still fun to peek inside to see what’s possible in such a small space (and I love the title of Chapter 5: “Magic in a Tin Can.”) If you love color, bold patterns and junk with a story, this book has it all.

The Creative Home

Author Geraldine James has scoured country estates, urban apartments and seaside retreats to find some examples of what she calls “beautiful living. Her book “The Creative Home: Inspiring Ideas for Beautiful Living” (CICO books, $29.95) is divided into five chapters: Cook & Eat, Relax & Socialize, Work & Create, Sleep & Bathe, and Store & Display. I especially liked the chapter devoted to home offices, an often ignored place that has real possibilities. James visited the offices and studios of several artists, revealing an eclectic array of work spaces. “A work space that is comfortable and personal is as important as having all the right components to do the task at hand,” writes James.

Simply Styling

Kirsten Grove is an interior stylist and the editor and creator of the popular Simply Grove blog. Her book, “Simply Styling” (Sterling, $24.95) is all about the tools of her trade. She offers ideas and tips for styling not just rooms but pieces of furniture in each room. A good tip for both coffee tables and mantels? Vary height of the objects on both. And I took note of her advice on throw pillows (which I’m obsessed with): display pillows in odd numbers such as three or five; to create variation, mix pattern with stripes and solids; and group the pillows in odd numbers (two on one side, one on the other, for example).

Design Wise

Vern Yip just has a way about him. The HGTV star who made it big on TLC’s “Trading Spaces” is always level-headed but sunny, bright and helpful – much like his new book. “Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home” (Running Press, $27.50) is both informational and aspirational. It’s full of tips on everything from how to choose seating to paint colors. Yip also offers great advice on trim, area rugs and mirrors. This may be the first home decor book I’ve read with detailed measurements on exactly how to hang art, light fixtures and sconces. What’s the optimal height for hanging pictures and mirrors on walls without other architectural features? 60 inches, writes Yip. There are wonderful sidebars throughout the book with Yip’s advice, appropriately titled “Learn from Vern.”

Detroit Hustle

Amy Haimerl and her husband, Karl Kaebnick, were longtime Brooklyn-ites when they took a big risk: They decided to buy an abandoned house in Detroit and restore it as their home. Drawn to the city’s cheap real estate, the city didn’t make it easy as Haimerl details in her book, “Detroit Hustle: A Memoir of Love, Life & Home” (Running Press, $24). They struggled to find contractors, financing and a sense of place without being labeled as gentrifiers. I really enjoyed going behind the scenes to learn just how much goes into restoring an abandoned home in Detroit.

Better Than New

If it seemed like Lake Orion native Nicole Curtis – star of “Rehab Addict” on the DIY and HGTV networks – was being secretive about her life last year, maybe she was really just saving it all for her memoir. “Better than New: Lessons I’ve Learned From Saving Old Homes (and How They Saved Me)” (Artisan Books, $27.95) delves into Curtis’s life and her many home projects, including three in Detroit. The 240-page book is filled with fun personal photos and chronicles her rise from Hooters waitress and real estate agent to TV star. Curtis writes that she wasn’t trying to be deceptive by hiding her pregnancy with second son Harper, but wanted to “preserve some privacy and protect my unborn baby.” “When you have millions of followers on social media and on television and you’re as outspoken as I am, a lot of people feel free to pass judgment on what you say or do,” she writes.

Dream Decor

If you could pinpoint one style and make it your own, what is your dream decor? Blogger Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar tries to answer that questions with his second book, “Dream Decor: Styling a Cool, Creative and Comfortable Home, Wherever You Live” (Jacqui Small, $35.00). Bright and airy, Taylor’s book highlights both dream elements – color, pattern, texture – and 11 dream styles, such as Coastal Retreat, Mediterranean Marvel and Curious Collector. At the start of each chapter, Taylor, who is known for his love of color, highlights the common elements that go into each style. What goes into a Hedonistic Hipster style, for example? Vintage paintings, reclaimed wood, white painted brick walls, flea market finds and copper kitchenware.

Spark Joy

“Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” (Ten Speed Press, $18.99) is as much a philosophy book as it is an organizing One. The follow-up book to author Marie Kondo’s best-selling “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Kondo narrows down her tidying-up philosophy to two words. What objects “spark joy” for you? She writes that determining what sparks joy for each person “represents the driving force that can make not only our lifestyle, but our very lives, shine.”

Flower House

Written by official Flower House photographer Heather Saunders, this self-published book goes behind the scenes of last fall’s Flower House, a large scale art floral installation in which an abandoned duplex on the I-75 service drive. “Flower House Detroit” details the magic that unfolded at Flower House, room-by-room. Primarily a book of photos, the captions delve into the inspiration behind each vignette, the flowers used and what designers were trying to create. The foreword is written by Flower House creator Lisa Waud. And the book concludes with thoughts from each designer on their Flower House experience. “Flower House Detroit” is available at Nora in Detroit and the Pot & Box flower truck. See their websites for more details, including pricing.