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Mad About . . .

New Interiors Books Review

2nd December 2021
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I promised you that I would get going on Christmas present ideas over the next couple of weeks – which is all we have left I know – and I thought it would be good to start with these three which we review on the podcast today. In addition to this we also dive into the Big Light Debate and our Style Surgery looks at how to paint a room with a sloping ceiling when you’re not sure what’s wall and what’s ceiling and where should you stop and start. Do have a listen here but, in short, I would say stop trying to work out what is ceiling (traditionally horizontal) and what is wall (usually vertical) and view them instead as surfaces that you want to colour and think about the zones of the room and paint them that way. So sleeping or sitting, or resting or chatting. Shall I wrap that corner or highlight the architectural features?

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

Now onto these books and first up is this delight A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd, co-founder of The Modern House. Regular readers will know we have interviewed Matt for the podcast (series 7 episode 6 0n 25 June 2020) and, of course, his estate agency regularly graces these pages.

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

The book is divided into five principles: Space, Light, Materials, Nature and Decoration and works methodically through all five. There’s a lot to absorb so I think it’s a book to read in stages, which also makes it a great present and it’s not something you flick through and cast aside but you might come back to again and again.

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

In addition to all the details, the book is filled with examples and anecdotes from all the houses he has visited over the years which gives you pictures that you haven’t seen before as well as encyclopaedic knowledge. The pictures are small – this is a book of words but it’s very readable.

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

My copy was bristling with post-it notes after the first section but one lovely example that I have carried with me is the chef Gill Mellor’s house. He has, apparently, a large kitchen table and everyone who eats at the table signs it so it has become both a place of memory and history but it’s also a modern take on the traditional visitors’ book – perfect for a book by The Modern House and something I wish I had done with my large table. I guess it’s never too late to start.

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

A Modern Way To Live by Matt Gibberd of The Modern House

Next is Hill House Living, the art of creating a joyful life, by Paula Sutton,  of the hugely popular and successful Instagram account Hill House Vintage. This book is a sort of printed version of her instagram account – it’s a celebration of what makes her happy and her passion for the good life.

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

I met Paula when we shared a stage at the recent Cheltenham Literary Festival (what a sentence to write!) and I can confirm that she is just as warm and lovely as her account would suggest.

Simple, practical home-styling tips and cosy recipes created in and around her house in Norfolk with vintage styling and seasonal tips and recipes. It’s nostalgic and warm and she talks about how she got there from a job as a fashion magazine stylist in the city.

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

Paula didn’t grow up in the country and she talks about how she got there and how even she was initially surprised by where she ended up. The daughter of West Indian immigrants who settled in south London in the early 60s she worked in fashion and then swapped her stilettos for wellies.

She was, as she writes, a “a high heel-loving disco-dancing Vogue-buying Londoner who has become obsessed with old buildings, period architecture, vintage treasure and all things floral and antique”.

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

This is a sort of old-fashioned compendium of a book – it’s not interiors or recipes or fashion but a mix of all of that. So you can follow her recipe for a leek and chestnut tart on one page and then turn over to learn some tips on buying vintage china or how to style flowers on another. It’s a proper lifestyle book – a bit memoir, a bit manual.

For example, she suggests an autumn picnic with a mug of hot soup and a blanket. Could be a group of friends on a park bench or a gathering on a city balcony, so you don’t have to be in the country to take inspiration from her ideas. Her top tip? Cover everything in the basket with warm tea towels or a hot water bottle.

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage published by Penguin

Last up is this lovely book Calm: Interiors to nuture, relax and restore by the brilliant stylist Sally Denning with photographs by Polly Wreford and I have to say I just adored this.

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

I always say I want words, but this is so lovely I just wanted to look at it and drink in the pictures. Perhaps a result of the last two years spent largely at home without much new to see. Many coffee table books are so aspirational that what they show is out of reach, but this is a mix of ideas that you adopt and bring into your own homes.

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

There is dark and light and colour and monochrome. Sally styles for both Neptune and The Little Greene Paint Company so if you like that look you’ll love this book.

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

Calm by Sally Denning, photographed by Polly Wreford

So three recommendations there for you whether you’re Christmas shopping or not and of course there’s always My Planner, which if you buy my course, comes free until 23 December or you can buy the book on its own.

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  • Pia 2nd December 2021 at 3:43 pm

    I think I need to remove my bare bottom, big light in the middle of my bedroom ceiling…
    In the WHITE sloping ceiling.
    Wallpaper around the walls but the background color is white so I might only get a half check on that?
    Too small rug? Check.
    Different fabric on skirt and headboard? Check.
    Too strong lamps without dimmer? Check.
    Beautiful brown bedside tables painted white? Check. (Did that like 10 years ago and still regret it)
    YES! I am all over the design crimes in there 🙂
    The wrap around dark green sounded lovely. Green smoke or Calki green by F&B… Or something mid tone like Boringdon Green from Little Green.
    It might be time for a bedroom refresh.
    Thanks for your lovely podcast! Brightens my day!

  • Catherine 2nd December 2021 at 11:23 am

    Great podcast! Many thanks Kate and Sophie.
    In terms of the big light debate, I do think it’s a particularly British issue. Totally summed up by Sophie’s comparing a bare light bulb to a bare bottom! That is SO British!! And very funny.
    I hate the big light being switched on but I’m fine with it as a piece of design in a room which is actually lit by lamps. I have oversized paper lanterns (inspired by Lisa Dawson’s sitting room) in both front rooms of my house. But I do go mad if I come home to discover them on!

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