Back with a new series of the podcast and this week we are reviewing three of the newest interiors books, two of which are published today. Elsewhere in the show, which for this series is sponsored by Harlequin, we discuss scented candles – expect strong opinions there and whether you should unconservatory your conservatory. Do listen there and for more about the books read on…
Kyle Books £20
Many interiors books are very self -reverential but this is very approachable and accessible. Lisa talks about living near the pine shop and buying everything from there because it was easy and affordable and then realising she had gone off pine but knowing that she couldn’t just chuck it out and would have to repurpose it. Her honesty on this (and the lime green paint that turned her children into baby Shreks) has given rise to really good advice about decorating and buying well. Lisa repurposed her pine – moved it to another room, painted it, changed its purpose. One of her key pieces of advice is if you are buying something think of three ways/rooms you can use it so you can really justify the cost of it.
Fashion bloggers often talk about not buying a new top or pair of shoes unless you can make at least three outfits from that and what is already in your wardrobe and Lisa applies the same principle to furniture.
She is straight-talking but friendly and the book is full of information, tips and advice including mood boards and checklists so you can read through or dip in an out.
There is lots you can learn but it’s also fun to read with solid advice. When it comes to trends she points out, before one of her checklists: “we seek the opinions of others because we don’t trust our own. Then we make choices that reflect others not us.”
Wise words and ones we can often forget in the heat of the Instagram scroll.
(check for stock levels)
Beata worked for Nicky Haslam before setting up her own studio. She is undoubtedly a high-end designer but her style has remained playful and fun. She creates rooms you can imagine living in – unlike many designers where you would be too frightened to sit down in case you messed up the cushions.
I love the way she writes about nostalgia being a key starting point for her work – go back to your childhood and think of how that shaped your idea of what home is and make sure you bring elements of that into your decor.
One example is the mural for her daughters’ bedroom wall (above) with martini-drinking, cigar smoking rabbits which some might find shocking but is meant as fun. For Beata a house is like a living thing that should transport you somewhere – back to your childhood or to a happy place.
Walking into a room should heighten your emotions, she says but she also talks about having something unexpected, possibly even a bit weird. She doesn’t like a uniform style where each room is like a work of art and you feel that if you sit down you will ruin the aesthetic. There is, she writes, often a disconnect between a home and the personality who lives there and her work is dedicated to marrying the two.
She also talks eloquently about the importance of space planning and mess. So often we see interior design books that are full of beautiful rooms but you are left to assume that they don’t have a vacuum cleaner or that, more likely, the person who can afford to decorate like this has no need to concern themselves with such mundane matters.
But Beata talks about space planning and upkeep. The joy of having the underfloor heating on a timer, a well-cared for space that you have cleaned and a well-stocked fridge. Even, she says, mess can be chic and wear and tear adds character. She even talks about mending things and how that will increase your connection to the space, which is not something we are used to reading in a posh coffee table book.
And all of which we may know in our own hearts but it feels refreshing to hear one of the most in demand designers of the moment say it too. It’s not about perfection it’s about the connection to your home.
Elsewhere she shares her design tips – the importance of contrast – light and dark, new and old, bespoke furniture and ikea (she is Swedish don’t forget). She’s also very good on storage and doesn’t shy away from discussing small spaces (another element that is often overlooked in the fancier coffee table books).
Finally, she cites the importance of vintage furniture and quotes the inimitable Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous: “One should never be the oldest thing in one’s house.”
Laurence King £14.99
Beautifully written and it’s not all woo hoo -lots of science and research – it’s an off-putting title – for me at least, but over the last year we have spent a lot of time at home and we have all started to make the connection between our homes and our mental health and this book capitalises on what we have been thinking, explains it in more detail and then helps us to take it further.
We are now beginning what colours work for us or whether we can cope with mess or not. Why are you feeling this way and how can you improve it? The effects of colour on our mood and room layouts that function for what we need to happen in a space. There is a common perception that living mindfully means it must be all beige and minimal (which was very much Sophie’s concern about this book) but Jo directly addresses that.
A mindful home, she says, is about warmth (in whatever shade that means to you) and about pieces being in the space for what they bring, so it is about your own feelings and reactions and there are even references to personality tests you can do to help find the right interior for you.
For example, open-plan living has been fashionable for some years now, perhaps in reaction to the narrow, small rooms of many period properties but Jo writes about how open-plan living can be really stressful for some people because while you are sitting watching the television, you might have the whole open kitchen behind you and you can’t see what is going on which might make you feel uncomfortable. Sophie would prefer a small cosy nook, her husband likes open plan – so we’ll have to see how that pans out when they finally are able to build their extension.
Jo also echoes Lisa’s comments about trends in what she calls The Anxiety Economy – being pushed to buy things all the time to be fashionable. But, she urges us all to stop and think if it’s right for us. She writes about the importance of creating order in your home and and building good habits – tidying the kitchen before bed and starting rituals to make you feel secure and ready to face the day. Audit your home to get rid of clutter, bring in some plants and watch out for toxic cleaning products.
This book makes everything feel doable and sensible and not remotely, as Sophie would say, woffy woffy woo wa. On on that note it remains only for me to thank Harlequin for sponsoring this, the 11th, series of the podcast. As part of the Sanderson group, they were also one of the first to sign the Design for Diversity pledge and I’m so happy they’re on board with us for the next three months.
Great to see the new series of the podcast back. I have been listening to it while I paint the hall walls and skirting boards (dull, you say, but I’m scrubbing up to welcome the artwork that I’ve finally been able to frame properly now that the shop I use has reopened) and strip the wallpaper in the sitting room. The latter now looks like Wilton’s Music Hall, and is likely to remain that way for a while until I can organise an electrician and a decorator to do the jobs I can’t. But, as you remind us here, it’s not about perfection, it’s about connection to your home. And I would rather look at our own work-in-progress, no matter how rough and far off completion, than spend one more day looking at our predecessors’ magnolia choices. I’ll be back there today, listening to you and Sophie.
Ha! My mother is considering hiring a rather expensive plaster expert to make her bathroom look exactly like Wilton’s Music Hall/your unfinished lounge 🙂
Meanwhile I’ve now spent 18 months in our magnolia box of dull doom while we wait for works to start. The only way I can explain to my foodie, non-interiors-y husband how this has made me feel is to ask him to imagine being fed tapioca every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bland struggle is real. So I’m team Beata Heumann.
18 months – I’ve been looking at this for 8 years. I am ashamed. We have done a lot of other things in the house (and educated a child, and gone on quite a few very nice holidays), and are actually tackling some stuff for the second time around. It’s the fatal lure of magnolia isn’t it? It just saps your spirits, without being so horribly terrible that you must do something about it NOW. I’ve stripped two-thirds of the room, and it already feels more ours.
I like the sound of your mother’s shabby bathroom. Our bathrooms are big tiles, toughest grout we could find, frameless screens, regular dousings in white vinegar. Combination of daily family pressures (including dog cleaning) and limescale.
Sitting on my (not very nice, will be replaced this year) sofa, I’m looking at the reflection of the shelves behind me in the looking glass above the fireplace opposite me. This is an opportunity! I can paint the wall above the shelving a more exciting colour and put some gorgeous things on those shelves that I can see! Until this moment, I had only thought of these shelves in the most utilitarian way, and kept them for dull books that we rarely consult because, you know, high up. But these shelves have a second life in their reflection opposite. Oooh.