The Creative Home by Geraldine James is written in five simple chapter divisions, based around different parts of the house and their functions in family life – where you cook and eat; relax and socialise; work and create; sleep and bathe; and store things.
The book is chiefly about finding ways to reflect your personal style in your living space. James’ suggestions are simple and sensible in their approach – for example, she suggests you group trinkets, like ornaments or jewellery, by theme or colour for greater display effect, or set crockery on open shelving to extend its use beyond the functional to something decorative also.
James also suggests creating new focal points in a space, such as creating a home gallery of sorts with floor-to-ceiling artwork and photos, or hanging an assortment of bright-coloured plates on a wall as an unconventional way to decorate an outdoor eating space.
The Creative Home includes examples of how people have matched vintage and industrial looks, or used a mixture of glass, ceramics, mirrors and various cultural references to personalise their spaces.
A beautiful example of a home that incorporates old with new is the featured house in West London, with its modern retro feel. Standout furniture and lighting include gorgeous 1960s-style armchairs and a stunning slatted wood lamp by Finnish company Secto Design.
James also strongly promotes recycling and upcycling. Examples include repurposing an old discarded door as a coffee table, using vintage filing cabinets for bedroom storage, or converting a 1930s stool for use as a bedside table.
Other clever upcycling examples include using an office organiser to hold toiletries or an antique luggage rack to hold towels in the bathroom. There are also some wonderful examples of how to decorate children’s bedrooms — including ideas for younger children to teenagers.
The book has a beautiful finish, with nice imagery throughout. In all, the decorating is modest. There are elements within each chapter that would appeal to most tastes, in particular those whose preferences are for white or neutral tones, for monochrome, and clutter-free spaces.
The Creative Home by Geraldine James, published by CICO Books. Photography by Andrew Wood © CICO Books
Modern Living Scandinavian Style by interiors journalist Claire Bingham is about the “unpretentious approach to design” found in the Nordic countries. It takes you through Scandi chic, room-by-room, including decor and styling tips from Scandinavian-born and -based creatives. Each chapter also includes some DIY suggestions.
The style notes from Bingham and the creatives she features, such as Thommy Bindefeld of Svenskt Tenn, are very much about minimalist, functional, quality design, the idea that less is more.
Bingham places a strong focus on materials like bare wood, slate and stone. Her colour scheme is very much around whites, greys and neutrals, with occasional splashes of colour – in cushions or seating – to offset them. The designs featured are of comfortable and relaxed settings, where the furniture can be moved around according to the use of space.
The book nicely showcases design brands from Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The tips from the various professionals draw on points of decorating or styling that are important to them — for example, Christina Schmidt of Skandium in London emphasises the importance of spending the money on good lighting to create atmosphere and shape a space. For Anders Färdig of Design House Stockholm, functionality and ergonomics are key factors in his design choices.
The featured rooms are aesthetically beautiful with a strong focus on textures to enhance spaces – for example, the use of sheepskin throws and rugs on chairs and flooring to make a room warm and comfortable.
They include smart home accessories such as Nina Tolstrup’s own bedroom standing mirror which can rotate to become an ironing board. A designer in London, working at Studiomama, Tolstrup advises that you “get rid of everything that is not special to you, does not tell a story, or has no practical use”. Her advice echoes throughout the book — none of the spaces are cluttered with lots of furniture.
Bingham’s use of the Top Tips from Scandi Creatives at the end of each chapter is a clever way to break up the information and to introduce other voices into the book. The creatives themselves bust the myths around Scandi style – or as Toni Kay of Skandivis Design Shop puts it, the assumption that it is “whitewashed wooden floorboards combined with all white walls”. That in itself allows for a fresh representation in the book of the diversity of Scandinavian design.
Modern Living – Scandinavian Style, by Claire Bingham , published by teNeues, www.teneues.com, Photo © Elisabeth Aarhus/Mainstream
In the Mood for Colour by Hans Blomquist looks at the importance of colour and its effect on your mood. He suggests you take note of the colours that appeal to you most or catch your eye, as they speak to you for a reason, and might be worth considering for your home space. Even using your smartphone as a way to record these colours will allow you to amass a gallery of examples when it comes to your home decor.
Blomquist has divided the book into five colour schemes – Dark, Pale, Natural, Soft and Bold colours. The images are largely of his travels around the world, and are predominantly based on what he sees in nature, such as plants and flowers and food. These natural colour schemes inspire the colours and textures he uses in his own design work.
A lovely example from early in the book, where Blomquist focuses on dark colours, is his reference to the autumnal colour scheme which is more muted and relaxing on the eye. He also stresses the relationship between light and colour – he gives the example of dark thunderous rain clouds and the pop of green colour in spring leaves which juxtaposition them so well. As with all examples like this, Blomquist is simply asking: why can’t we replicate these colours in our homes to create new exciting colour schemes for ourselves?
Blomquist also looks at textiles and textures. He gives examples of using a range of shades from the same colour scheme – for example white – and layering colour throughout the room between furniture and accessories. He suggests mixing up vintage and new materials, shiny with matt colours, and rough with smooth finishes. He also suggests hanging textiles on your wall, instead of the permanency of a painting, or using accessories such as baskets or plants to create colour contrasts (hazelnut or green in these examples).
This book is a beautiful dictionary of palettes and textures. It’s a book that will make you want to step outside into the light and take in the world of colour we live
In the Mood for Colour by Hans Blomquist, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Photography by Debi Treleoar & Hans Blomquist © Ryland Peters & Small
In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney should be on every creative businesswoman’s reading list. Featuring 100 female entrepreneurs who are based in the US, UK, Mexico, Europe and Australia, it follows the same simple format for each interview – Bonney puts the same questions to them all about how they got onto their chosen career path.
Featuring interior designers, furniture or textile designers, ceramicists, writers and artists to name but a few, Bonney asks each interviewee about their experiences in business.
In turn, they offer honest and sage advice about their difficulties in starting up on their own; the mistakes they made; what they would do differently; and the anxieties they feel now, even in success, about running a business.
Each interview includes the personal mottos and inspirations that these creative women, all highly successful in their own fields, use to motivate them in their work. They also include practical advice on what resources a person would need to set up a creative business, and what key factors they need to consider when preparing to take that step.
Presented in an easy-to-read format, each interview runs over one to two pages and includes beautiful photography of the interviewees in their home or work spaces.
The women featured are all of different ages, from different backgrounds and at different stages in their careers, which makes for interesting and non-repetitive reading, despite the fact that they are all answering more or less the same questions.
In the Company of Women offers an interesting insight into the tensions of balancing your creativity and artistry with running a viable business. This is a book that you will return to again and again for guidance and for that motivation that reading it gives.
In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney (Artisan Books) Photographs by Sasha Israel.
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