The first clue that this book is a bit different is the jet black cover. Abigail Ahern, designer and retailer is best known for her wildly successful collaboration with Debenhams of cheerfully demented animals statuary and colourful flocked table pieces.
It’s a real pleasure to get to know her better in this wonderfully easy read (her third book), heaving with fantastically beautiful pictures, many in her beloved bottom-of-the-lake shades of inky blue and luxurious matt black.
Ahern charts her own taste in colour from her artist mother who (as she determines we all should), found her domestic colour schemes by following her internal feel, rather than the classic rules that so often paralyse creativity.
She worked with the Terence Conran team, and having lived in politely all-white interiors in a state of acute boredom, Abigail charts her joyous return to colour — in her case a passion unleashed for the treacle darks on which to suspend pops of delicious accent.
Her tips are energising bites such as ‘the punctuation of pattern’ and ‘figuring out your style DNA’. It’s a relief to fight free of the meticulous science of colour present in books such as Kevin McCloud’s signature works nailed firmly to Pantone index numbers.
The saturated edgy colour combinations in Chapter 2 are worth the price of the book on their own. Sumptuous.
Fans of Downton Abbey will relish the paperback reissue of this book, which looks at the daily preoccupations of the Carew family who once lived in Ireland’s largest private residence, the splendid Palladian mansion, Castletown House (c1722) in Co Kildare.
Together with the expected stories of fabulous balls and aristocratic country pursuits, recreated in creaky television dramas, the more human struggles and joys of the family through the mid-20th century is highly interesting in a genre of book which so often kills the tale in the heady 20s.
Stories of the cultivation of fruit in the hot-houses for sale, and the tender 18th century etiquette and dress at formal dinner parties are a treat. For anyone who loves horses and hunting, the stories from the field are laugh-out-loud and full of fascinating detail.
The genuine fun the Carew brood experienced in this gilded world tended by 30 house servants in the early 30s, dances out of every chapter. And the affection and bonds with their staff and workers, many of whom had served the family for generations, is clear.
Coming out, and hunter trials, royal pals, the legendary horses that took the siblings to international and world level competition, and the final poignant loss of the house in 1965 — this is a plummy, page-turner told with elegance and heart. Thehistorypress.ie
Blogs to books and beyond — it’s becoming a real and sometimes controversial story for a number of talented youngsters, including self -taught cook and student nutritionist Ella Woodward.
Now head of a considerable food empire, Ella studied art history not home economics, but suffered from the rare condition Postural tachycardia syndrome. She bravely fought her way to health by using plant-based recipes, and giving up the conventional base to most of our diets — meat, gluten, dairy and sugar.
Her recipes, beloved from her celebrity blog, are so easy to tackle, you’ll be tripping to the fridge to run something up the same afternoon. Her cucumber and avocado rolls are already a staple in chez deLongchamps. This is an ideal gift for the intimidated, younger cook with a healthy bent.
For more complex, hearty offerings and less exclusions I would choose Everyday Super Food by the veteran cook and passionate foodie, Jamie Oliver (companion to the C4 series), Random House, €29.99.
I love fearless, budget invention, and this girl has a terrific eye for shaking something original from the store-bought banal, the drearily antique or the forgotten off-cut and remnant.
This book goes beyond slapping on the milk-paint to more dashing re-imaginings for textiles, furniture and ornaments that require a little courage.
Hester often uses cheap IKEA pieces in her work, and some were so clever, IKEA magazine has even published a few. For instance, two period dining chairs become a charming bench; a stack of magazines are set on a castor base and topped in glass to make a bohemian coffee table.
Lacking wall art? Hester takes you step by step through turning that gorgeous swatch of wallpaper into a fully stretched graphic masterpiece. Her driftwood door handles on a bog-standard kitchen cabinet are gifted and shower curtain canopy for the garden — who could resist?
The flair will appeal to a wide range of readers not too fussed about silken finishes, and younger homemakers and student flat-dwellers will get a huge kick from her coffee-sack curtains, and dish-cloth runners. hestershandmadehome.com.
In the last few years, and it’s only been a few, the Co Wexford born Eileen Gray has finally received the attention and recognition her ground-breaking work deserves.
A famously private character, her modernist designs in lacquer-work, furnishings and accessories had been celebrated in private and museum collections for decades, most particularly in France, where she’s revered.
Gray’s architectural masterpiece E1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in France, opened to the public at last this summer. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Mies Van der Rohe and Marcel Bruer, Ireland has finally found pride in this avant garde genius.
In this new Irish book, Gray’s internal and external world is presented through images and rarely seen archival material from the collection at the National Museum of Ireland, including a look at her lesser known works in fabric and sculpture.
Jennifer Goff is curator of furniture, silver and the Eileen Gray collection at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks and took 10 years over this masterly work. It will appeal to lovers of biographies and art history.
* Collectors limited edition hardback in slipcase available, individually numbered and signed by Jennifer Goff — only 200 copies available. www.Iap.ie