Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

Kya deLonchamps reviews a selection of interior and how-to books that have the potential to revolutionise your home style.

Yes, yes, of course you should know your reader when gifting books, but dropping an unexpected subject in their lap can be an invitation to explore beyond the expected.

Put a sly little push into new territory with our choice of DIY- and interiors-related reading this Christmas.

Rooms: Create the Home you want for your life Declan O’Donnell Publisher: Hachette Books (Ireland) eBook €9.67, hardback €24.99 (Easons)

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

What I love about this new book by Irish architect O’Donnell, creative director at ODKM Architects in Dublin and judge on House of the Year (RTÉ), is its attempt to positively and immediately motivate our decisionmaking.

Feeling stuck with what we have already, leaves owners of even showpiece houses and apartments stressed, uncomfortable and in a daily, muttering rut of poorly-performing spaces, stalled by unresolved design questions.

However, this is often just that, a feeling, paralysed thought, not reality. We can be fully involved in changing up each room and even adding additional space to, as Declan puts it to ‘live better’. 

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a relatively simple change, not a behemoth of an extension. A tight budget can be an actual blessing, honing choices. 

Going room to room, O’Donnell flips atrophying problems into opportunities.

The impact of engaging an architect or interior design specialist and their skill at problem-solving and finding out what you want and how to get there, is at the heart of this refreshing, easy read centred on flow, space, light and usability.

His opening chapter of developing a design-brief based on his experience with his own clients’ rings with clarity and purpose and is worth the price of the book alone. 

A superb gift to help anyone to finally recognise the freeing ‘power of design’ over flabby square metres.

Life Unstyled by Emily Henson Publisher: Ryland Peters and Small, €28.00

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

There are now hundreds of books out in the home and garden centre spawned by online blogs by qualified specialist we might otherwise have never known. 

Life Unstyled is a statement of outright rebellion by industry stylist Emily Henson, who knows that the coiffed interiors in magazines, books and on television are simply not practical for just about anyone.

In her third work, she argues, for embracing a ‘natural flux’ and content at home, throwing off the weight of perfectionism implied by these tightly-curated photo shoots. Revel in the ‘lumps, bumps and unfinished jobs’ of your house, it’s a work in progress, a layering of accumulated experiences and workaday things. 

So what? She takes what Declan O’Donnell has at the heart of his book, proactive achievable design, another step further — accepting what we have, playing to strengths and instigating impromptu easy solutions and creative bravery — ideal not just for owners, but tenants too. 

The photography of real homes illustrates this argument, and it’s a luxuriant showcasing of relaxed rooms knocked about by real-life challenges.

Small Parisian and London apartments thrilling with rich family life feature front and centre. 

The potential chaos of random stuff ‘good clutter’ can be contained by her underpinning ideas — circulating collections on display into intimate ‘visual stories’, and unexpected storage ideas.

An engaging dare-to-defy convention, enjoy the journey rather than a projected arrival and throw off stifling annual trends.

Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, Phaidon Editors Publisher: Phaidon Press, best price €50.57,

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

Coffee-table books rely above all on gorgeous imagery, something to flick through to delight the eye and stir the mind. 

Botanical art is something we all understand and respond to, and with 18th century engravings littered through our wallpapers and fabrics, beautifully recorded flowers and plants have a universal, surviving appeal.

This is a meltingly beautiful compendium by renowned specialists of 300 botanically related images, revealed by artists, and not in any chronological order. 

Enjoy sumptuous recording, dissection, classifying and illustration and photography of natural science and horticulture down the centuries. 

Many now familiar garden plants were discovered by scientific champions during the settlement of the colonies, drawn, painted and brought back to the palatial grounds of the aristocracy.

Napoleon, the Chinese emperors and Dutch colonists were murderous in their pursuits of rare bulbs from the Cape and the Spice Islands. 

The rarely-seen manuscripts and plates in this book have lost nothing of their wonder even on foxed, hand-made paper, with colours from the 1700s and 1800s preserved in bound folios, scrolls, letters and journals as fresh as the day they were engraved and colour-washed.

 Dense with history, photographs and cutting-edge micrograph scans of living plants, it will keep anyone with an interest in horticulture, decoration, history or art, feet up, sipping the cha and amused for years.

A Woman’s Huts and Hideaways by Gill Heriz Publisher: Ryland Peters and Small, €19.99

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

Say the word ‘shed’, and one automatically thinks of a man grasping a cup of tea, floated on a deckchair, guarding the entryway to his primeval cave. 

Well, it turns out that women have as much if not more of a need to claim a space distinct and separate from the principal house.

Artist, writer and self confessed nosy-parker Gill Heriz explores bolts, hides and studios claimed by over 40 fascinating women with diverse needs determined on a tiny dwelling in which to be — not only to work and create, but to be more fully themselves.

In her second book Heriz goes beyond the expected wood-framed, apex-roofed retreat to explore floating homes on the Willamette River in Oregon, a garage conversion at the bottom of a Brighton garden, a historic pump house and an Airstream trailer.

Material invention in hemp, straw and somewhat fragile DIY mizzen assemblages, put spirit above funds, or the need to overtly show off to the neighbours.

Insanely small beach huts sit without self consciousness on busy promenades and jostle with female-built happy ‘bodges’ and summer-erected yurts in bosomy gardens, some available to rent on Airbnb. 

A book of uplifting build stories designed to release that long suppressed intrepid, inner girl.

Art Deco: Living with the Art Deco Style by Judith Miller Publisher: Conran Octopus, €9.67 eBook ( Hardback €40.50 (Waterstones)

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

In 1925, 16 million visitors attended Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, a show that crystallised changes in design happening all over western Europe.

Art Deco marks an explosive moment not only in terms of art and design but in bold innovations in music, highly charged social change, and the march of the machine-made object that promised a touch of interiorsluxury for all.

Holding a piece from the era has a tremulous excitement you won’t find in the lumpen Victorian or Edwardian thing. Judith Miller’s new book (she has penned about 100), is a superb guide to the most glorious creations from the Deco years, encompassing collectables right through to the museum quality treasure.

This dense, but easily read primer,traces the diverse inspiration for sleek contemporary expressions, be it a single visionary, ancient Egypt, or the flash of Louis XVI.

Price codes are included to consider present or future buys. An essential, comprehensive reference.

Farrow & Ball: How to Decorate bu Joa Studholme & Charlotte Cosby. Photography by James Merrell Publisher: Mitchel Beazley, €41.95.

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

It’s 70 years since paint and wallpaper brand Farrow & Ball began marketing colours derived from archives as curious as a length of crumbling wall from behind an 18th century dresser to the shade of a young girl’s blush. 

Studholme and her colleague, creative head, Charlotte Cosby, showcase the best choice and application for their feted products, known as well for their witty names as their tint. 

F&B is the go-to paint choice connected to the aesthetic nostalgias of the upper middle class of the UK and Ireland. 

This elegant book illustrates choices from their 132-card selection and wallpapers with surprising diverse results depending on the space, nuances of natural light and crucially, the colour combination. For anyone decorating a period home looking for historical accuracy, there is a crisp, intelligent guide to the main four historical eras and the advice on the painting of floors is rare and welcome. 

A solid decorating book underpinned with easily comprehended working principles rather than startling nebulous, fashion sets.

Kya’s short picks

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

Modern Folk Embroidery by Nancy Nicholson, €14.99, David & Charles. Fingers twitching for a new hobby? 

Thick, colourful folk embroidery in threads and wools takes just a couple of stitch types and can be used to decorate pieces all over the house. Nancy’s one-off pieces are worth investigating —stunning. Pop to Hickeys or any good haberdashers and gift some crafting materials too!

Modern Folk Embroidery by Nancy Nicholson, €14.99, David & Charles. (Try one of her fabulous all-in-one stitch kits from €42 plus a little P&P,

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

A crisp introduction to the history and major practitioners who made the Scandinavian look as cool at their winters since the mid-1950s. Key designers, influential furnishings and signature textiles — Arne Jacobsen, Stig Lindberg, Litala and Marimekko and many more are explored and explained. 

Thirty DIY projects are including to make Scandi-chic come alive for next to nothing.

Clean, spare, with timeless lines warmed by natural materials, the Scandinavian look is ideal for first timers and empty nesters. Give them a guide to get started with Interior Inspiration: Scandinavian by Sonia Lucano, Thames & Hudson, €16.95 (paperback with tableware by Marimekko)

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

V&A 1950s Wallpaper Calendar 2017, Flame Tree, €12.99.

Take them back to where modernity really all started. Post-war patterns from the V&A collections feature the furnishing and fabric designs of designers such as Kenneth Rowntree and Sylvia Chalmers. A great stocking filler for the mid-century fan.

Some Christmas reading to help you conceptualise your home

Junk Gypsy by Amie Sikes and Jolie Sikes-Smith, eBook, €11.68, Touchstone. 

If someone you know loves the rough-luxe fantasy of the latest trends in up-cycling, then the Texas based Thelma & Louise of design, sisters Amie Sikes and Jolie Sikes-Smith will delight. 

Combining folksy American collecting and joyous junk rehab-ing — see why they have taken the US TV and interiors world in the southern states by storm.


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