Interior Design Books – Are They Worth It?

I once described the theme of my Providence, RI apartment as going into a handful of the worst decorated homes from completely different eras, taking the ugliest piece of furniture from each home, and placing them together in a single room. I painted the walls a turd brown, with an accent wall of sun-dried turd brown. I wrapped a hot pink candle in foil and placed it in the decommissioned marble fireplace. I draped a 70’s lavender floral tablecloth over a circular accent table, creating the perfect hiding spot for my cat to swipe at my ankle anytime I walked by. That table was placed next to a broken tube television which sat directly on the floor.

Safe to say, I don’t have a knack for interior design, so it terrifies me when I think about embarking on this huge renovation. A renovation where everything must tie together, yet be thoughtfully different. I don’t have it in me. So I set out to read up on the art of interior design in hopes of understanding the fundamentals of it.

There are a million interior design books out there, but which ones are actually worth reading? You can really go down a rabbit hole with options, not to mention the ridiculous cost of some of them. After reviewing different books based mainly on the front cover, followed by favorable reviews and price, I purchased three interior design books, then settled in for the intimidating task of defining my design style.

Making Living Lovely: Free Your Home with Creative Design by Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe

I gotta say that I started with this one out of these three books, and I am so glad I did. At first glance, I felt we couldn’t be more different. The designer duo is based out of London, loves the color pink, and successfully operates a residential and commercial interior design firm, 2LG Studio. I live in Pittsburgh, couldn’t manifest a piece of pink clothing in my wardrobe if my life depended on it, and I’d hardly call this blog of mine a success. But within the first few pages of this book, I knew they found the right audience with me. Right from the get-go, they walk you through all the paralysis by analysis pitfalls one might face when heading into a redesign of your interior space. And I’m facing them all. Wondering if I’m choosing a design that’s about to go out of style. Taking too much feedback from well-meaning peers. Comparing my choices against others, even when the budget variance between the two is huge. This book really disarmed me, which let me open my mind to what I WANT instead of what the TREND WANTS.

What I liked about this book: So much. First off, they design within reason. They are clever in how they accomplish their design aesthetic. They know how to balance splurge moments vs. budget moments. But mainly, this is the only book I’ve come across where I was able to set the groundwork for my own project based on their process. Whitehead and Cluroe provide a clear path to your success by eliminating the potential of over-designing something. I quickly took their advice and mapped out mood boards that I felt confident in. And if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea? This book left me feeling just fine about that.

Who should read this book: First-timers to interior design or those who are interior design challenged, like myself.

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life by Erin Gates

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life, by Erin Gates, is a great interior design book if you’re trying to enjoy your read while learning something. The openings to each chapter are quite funny and helped me feel like I can relate to this lady. If she were my interior designer, I’d say she’d pass the beer test I talk about in my previous post. Erin is a Boston-based designer, so naturally, I gravitated to her from my prior New England life. She also has an Elements of Style blog, so if you like what you see and read in this book, you can continue to build upon those ideas through her blog.

What I liked about this book: Being city-based, she offered a lot of information on how to design in a small space, which I really appreciate. The book also gives great tips to save on your design costs while still keeping your home feeling refreshed and updated. Some interior design books act as if you have limitless money or limitless square footage, or both! But in reality, the majority of us can’t refinish a bathroom in floor-to-ceiling Italian marble.

Who should read this book: People who are designing on a budget but are avid lovers of refreshed home decor.

Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone

Live Beautiful, by Athena Calderone, covers different design styles, perspectives, and tips from successful creative minds. The overall appearance of this book is definitely coffee table-worthy. I’ll certainly display it when my house is finished and let my friends and family believe I could afford to live any of these people’s lifestyles, for sure. Being fully transparent, I didn’t read this book cover to cover. Some people’s design styles were so far from my own that I didn’t see the value in reading their chapter. Others were so wildly luxe that I felt I couldn’t afford to read their chapter. It’s a beautiful book, and these people certainly live beautifully. Still, as I sit here microwaving up some Eggo Chocolatey Chip Pancakes for my toddler, I’m finding that we may be at different stages in our lives. Maybe one day I’ll live beautifully, but not today.

What I liked about this book: The opening of each chapter has a Fact and Resource page outlining the profiles go-to shops for certain items. And while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to swing by their recommended antique dealer in Saint-Ouen, France, I did find a couple of online stores that I’m eager to buy from. Chairish is an online store for rare vintage, antique, and contemporary pieces that you would have a hard time finding in a local vintage store. 1stDibs is similar but also layers in local designers who may not be local to you. I’ve found so many interesting pieces on this site that I’m dying to figure out how to layer them into my home. Just look at these Tubetop Table Lamps, lOOK AT THEM! I see it. I like it. I want it. I… feverishly save for it.

Who should read this book: People who are already embedded in the interior design world.

I think there’s an interior design book out there for everyone. Scratch that; I think there are many interior design books out there for everyone to have reading material for the next decade. Unless you plan to become an interior designer, pick a couple, glean what you can from them, and start making decisions.

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