Snuggle up with 2018's best interior design, gardening books

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
HGTV star Joanna Gaines has a new book out, "Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave" (Harper Design, $40).

I keep a stack of home decor magazines in my car and scattered throughout my house so when a rare moment presents itself to unwind amid the daily hustle and bustle, I can quickly grab one. It's just the fix I need to relax.

For many design fans, a home decor or gardening book does the same thing. Does it get any better than flipping through a lovely book with beautifully decorated homes or gardens to make you feel soothed or at ease? For me, add a comfy seat, a hot cup of tea and sleeping children to the mix and I've found heaven on Earth.

Joanna Gaines' "Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave" (Harper Design, $40) is her home design book. It hit shelves in early November.

In fact, the idea of being at peace and loving your own home is a central theme of Joanna Gaines' new book, "Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave" (Harper Design, $40)," which was released in early November. A self-described "homebody," Gaines said her goal with the book is to give others the tips, tools and freedom to tell the story of their own lives in their homes.

Don't be afraid to try and fail when it comes to design, she writes.

"There's enough truly hard stuff in life, and creating your home should not be one of them," she writes. "I believe that intentionality with a dose of creativity goes much further than money and flawless taste when it comes to making a house a home."

Gaines' book is just one of several of my favorites from 2018 that would make great gift for any design or gardening fan (or you). Actress Reese Witherspoon also has a book out, "Whiskey in a Teacup." While it's primarily a cookbook with many recipes passed down from her grandmother Dorothea, the Southern beauty also offers tips on entertaining, decorating and gardening. 

Another one of my favorites focuses on Michigan's role in modern design, "Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy." Written by Michigan's State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway and photographed by Jim Haefner, it profiles 34 examples of incredible modern architecture across the state, again making the case that Michigan was a "cradle for modernism," writes Conway.

Some of my other favorites this year delve into two big design trends these days, she sheds (little structures just for women) and  macramé. "Junk Beautiful: She Sheds" (Taunton Press, $24.95), by Sue Whitney, offers a range of idea for giving using salvaged goods or vintage items to create a one-of-a-kind she shed.

"Modern Macramé" (Ten Speed Press, $25), meanwhile, is all about teaching others how to create their own macrame creations.  Macramé artist Emily Katz offers step-by-step directions to create 33 different projects for your home.

So whether you're looking for a good book for yourself or doing a little holiday shopping, consider these options. And amid the constant holiday hustle and bustle from now until New Year's Day, wouldn't we all like to follow Joanna Gaines' direction and be a homebody for a little bit? Count me in.

The entrance to this estate features a table, which isn't typical for an entryway, writes Joanna Gaines, but "it helps define the entry so it doesn't fade into the larger context of the room."

"Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave"

Using homes she has designed along with a few designed by others, Magnolia co-founder Joanna Gaines walks readers through how to not only define their style but ways to approach nearly every room of the house, from entryways to kid spaces. It's beautifully photographed and each chapter ends with a "Troubleshooting" portion for that particular space (such as not enough storage in an entryway or dingy tile in the bathroom). At the end is a pull-out "Design template" section for readers to start designing and troubleshooting areas in their own homes.

"Whiskey in a Teacup" (Touchstone, $35) by Reese Witherspoon features recipes, personal stories and decorating and entertaining tips.

"Whiskey in a Teacup"

Reese Witherspoon's first book, "Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me about Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits" (Touchstone, $35) is a lot like the actress and producer herself: fun and charming. Raised in Nashville, Witherspoon shares stories about her Southern upbringing and how it's influenced everything from how she cooks to entertains. While it's primarily a cookbook, there are chapters where she delves into decorating including "Wicker & Wallpaper" and "Why Southern Ladies Love Holidays." Witherspoon is a huge fan of wicker furniture and wallpaper. She says her style is a mix of her grandmother's love for antiques and her mom's more practical approach. "Whenever I see lifestyle magazines where everything's so clean, I wonder 'Where's all the junk?' The first thing I figure out when furnishing a room is where to put the junk. Two words: secret storage."

Brian Conway's "Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy."

"Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy"

Written by Michigan's State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway and photographed by Jim Haefner, "Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy" (Visual Profile Books, $60) beautifully explores our state's role in the modernism movement. Conway and Haefner spent two summers photographing some of the state's most iconic modern homes, churches and businesses. Nearly one-third of the 34 featured buildings are in southeast Michigan, designed by some of the biggest names in the design world including Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alden B. Dow. 

"Modern Macrame" by Emily Katz.

"Modern Macramé"

Visit any artisan market these days and you'll quickly realize that macramé is back and in a big way. For those interested in learning this ancient craft, Emily Katz's book, "Modern Macramé" (Ten Speed Press) offers step-by-step instructions for creating your own macramé. Katz, who stopped by Detroit's Pot + Box earlier this year as part of her book tour and to lead a plant hanger workshop, believes there's a reason macramé has resurfaced. "More and more of us are seeking a bit of warmth, craft and adornment in the midst of modern life," she writes. "And macramé — in its clean-yet-dreamy, updated incarnation — is a perfect point of entry into creating a unique, one of a kind, handmade lifestyle, one that is literally at your fingertips."

“Junk Beautiful She Sheds”

If you are a serious she shed fan — she sheds are small structures in which women can garden, paint, create or do whatever they’d like — this book is for you. In her “Junk Beautiful She Sheds” (Taunton Press, $24.95), author and junk aficionado Sue Whitney traveled across the country to find what calls “like minded ‘shes of the shed.’” The book details 23 sheds in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and California, all with a fun, vintage-chic style. Whitney offers fun she shed tutorials and specifically focuses on some of the unique vintage “junk” in each shed with tips on how to bring certain pieces to life.

Blogger and lifestyle designer Nora Murphy culls her tips for creating your own country house style in "Nora Murphy's Country House Style" (Vendome Press, $35).

“Nora Murphy’s Country House Style”

Country house style isn’t just interior designer Nora Murphy’s specialty. It’s her life. Murphy has a blog, e-magazine and website all devoted to country house style, all of which she distilled for her new book, “Nora Murphy’s Country House Style: Making Your Home a Country House” (Vendome Press, $35). The book showcases not just her own home in Connecticut, but five others. When it comes to creating your own country house style, Murphy suggests following these guidelines: Comfort is always in style; there’s always room for your favorite things; country house style blends the lines between indoors and outdoors; and there’s always a reason to celebrate. “There’s no room for fussy here,” she writes. “Country house style is simple, honest, and livable.” 

Morgan Doane and Erin Harding share their tips on "How to Raise a Plant and Make It Love You Back" (Laurence King Publishing, $16.99)

“How to Raise a Plant and Make it Love You Back”

This book had me at the title. For anyone who is green-thumb challenged, nurturing a plant can be a one-sided relationship that often ends badly. “How to Raise a Plant and Make it Love You Back” (Laurence King Publishing, $16.99) is written by Morgan Doane and Erin Harding, who share a popular Instagram account (@houseplantclub) with 460,000 followers that’s all about houseplants. Their book is written as a guide for novice plant lovers with tips on how to select houseplants, care, maintenance, potting and more. They also offer great tips on what plants work well as stand alone plants and what works well grouped together. It would be a great gift idea for a loved one just getting started with plants. And even better, get a new plant to go with it!