New Book Reviews and Minimalism v Maximalism (podcast notes)

I spoke earlier in the week about how to revamp your home without spending any money (see previous post) as part of that new year feeling which is always such a big part of September. Another marker of the start of the season is the release of new interiors books. Sophie Robinson and I discussed three new publications in the latest episode of our podcast The Great Indoors.

books on bedside table via
books on bedside table by Karen Haller, Medina Grillo and Christina Strutt

First up is The Little Book of Colour, How To Use The Psychology Of Colour To Transform Your Life, by Karen Haller, who is the leading international authority in the field of colour psychology. I interviewed her for my first book Shades of Grey and she informed my second for my chapter on the subject. Finally she has put all that knowledge (and there’s a tonne of it) into her own book.

It’s fascinating and packed with information. From how we see colour to how it influences us going back to Hippocrates through the ages – colour associated with the four humours – to the Bauhaus. There are also checklists and quizzes to help you define your own colour personality as she draws on the work by Angela Wright, who has influenced Sophie’s work on the subject too. I wrote about her colour course over the summer.

Karen will help you find the right colour for your room by looking, not just at pretty colours you like, but also how you react to them (she is not a fan of grey and finds being in a grey room completely draining) as well as how to use colour to influence the behaviour you want in a given room. This means helping you work out what colours you find relaxing for a bedroom for example and, of course, it differs for each person.

the little book of colour by karen haller
the little book of colour by karen haller

Now while the information is packed and dense it is broken down into very readable chunks and bite-sized pieces and, Karen told me, as a measure of how much this book was regarded as a necessary addition to any other books on colour, it was translated into 12 languages before she had even finished writing it.

Next up, another important and useful book that I have mentioned before and that’s Medina Grillo’s Home Sweet Rented Home, transform your home without losing your deposit. And anyone who has rented has surely come up against that on more than one occasion. I know I have and I hadn’t even decorated.

This book is absolutely packed with ideas and illustrations, step by step guides from beginner to advanced, not forgetting that other key stage “pre-beginner”! That’s probably me. Medina has ideas for how to deal with horrible floors, walls and ceilings. How to cover nasty tiles and instructions on how to build more storage.

home sweet rented home by medina grillo
home sweet rented home by medina grillo

One of her first suggestions when you move into a magnolia mess is that you should always ask if you can paint it white. That’s hardly likely to offend even the strictest of landlords and will immediately bring a fresher, more modern, feel to the space. As well as not clashing with anything of your own that you might want to bring into the space and take with you to the next.

Next up, she’s a big fan of peel-off wallpaper. It seems to be more common in the US than here but you can have it shipped over and she has a clever idea for standard wallpaper. Apparently you can use liquid starch to attach it to the wall and it will come off with a damp cloth. She has also found chalkboard removable wallpaper that you can write on. She has some in her kitchen but it’s also perfect for rented kids rooms.

wallpaper floor by Medina Grillo
wallpaper floor by Medina Grillo

Finally, if you hate the laminate flooring in your rental why not wallpaper it? Medina did that two years ago thinking it would last for six months and two years later it’s still going strong. She has done this in her hall by the way so it’s not in a tiny corner that never gets walked on.

Those are just three of the ideas that I took from this book which would also work well for anyone who doesn’t rent. First time buyers and those on a budget – ie everybody – will also find plenty of inspiration in these pages.

The last book we looked at is another corker. Green Housekeeping: recipes and solutions for a cleaner, more sustainable home, by Christina Strutt, the founder of Cabbages and Roses, is perfect for anyone who is worried about the number of chemicals we use every day. It’s the antithesis of Mrs Hinch if you like although sadly I fear it won’t sell as many copies.

green housekeeping by christina strutt
green housekeeping by christina strutt

Many of the cleaning suggestions will be familiar to you – distilled white vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda but it’s really helpful to have them all written down in one place so you can refer to them when needed. I have given both dishwasher and washing machine a monthly clean with a cup of distilled vinegar for years, but Christina has another brilliant idea – replace half your washing powder dose with bicarbonate of soda for a wash that is just as, if not more, effective with fewer chemicals.

Not content with cleaning, Christina also gives beauty tips and talks about energy suppliers. Sophie has switched to Good Energy, which is 100 per cent clean power. And while I’m on that check out Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees every time you use it, which you can use instead of Google.

Which leads me to our next topic of discussion – an update of my Do Less Harm Campaign. If you missed that over the summer you can read about it HERE and see the directory, which I have just updated HEREDo please share it on your own channels so that we can get as many companies included as possible which means, in turn, you will have the information to make the most informed choices about what you are buying and, perhaps, may one day influence companies to work harder to make real sustainable practice an everyday thing.

gucci pop up store at Milan Salone 2019 image by Becky Sunshine
gucci pop up store at Milan Salone 2019 image by Becky Sunshine

Lastly we spoke about the return of maximalism as a trend and discussed if it was indeed a fashion or a lifestyle. I tend towards the latter opinion. We also pondered whether it was back as a reaction against the pared back Scandi minimalism of the last few years. I also think true minimalism is a way of life rather than a fashion. You can listen here if you like and let us know what you think of both that and the books in the comments.

the minimal home of the architectural designer John Pawson via Dezeen for Port Magazine
the minimal home of the architectural designer John Pawson via Dezeen for Port Magazine

If you do listen to the podcast do please rate and review and subscribe as it helps others to find us and persuades itunes to make us easier to locate too. We have set up a facebook page if you want to join where you can discuss all things relating to the show and your own decorating dilemmas with like-minded people so do check that out too.

Thanks so much to Topps Tiles for sponsoring the show and to Kate Taylor for producing it. I do hope you are enjoying it.

Next time we will be touring the house of tv presenter Laura Jackson.  She has collaborated with Habitat, Warehouse and Rixo, co-written a cookery book and is the lifestyle editor at Marie Claire. Her house, which she has recently finished renovating looks amazing and I can’t wait to show you round.

The Great Indoors podcast hosts Kate Watson-Smyth and Sophie Robinson review three new interior books. #bookreview #thegreatindoors #madaboutthehouse

Tags : Book reviewdo less harmmaximalismMinimalismnew interior bookspodcastThe great indoor podcastthe great indoors
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.

1 Comment

  1. I really enjoyed the latest episode and have ordered books already. I’ve been reducing our use of plastic and have used Who Gives a Crap for over a year now, it’s paper wrapped loo roll and comes delivered in a cardboard box.

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