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10 Must Have Decorating Books

Hello friends! How are you doing? We moved last week! Yep, I’m two weeks from my due date and we’ve moved. I know, nuts right!? I’ve been very busy with packing, unpacking, sorting… You know how it goes – I was freaking out a bit last week but once we moved, it was all good. And then we had a big flea market this past Saturday morning where we held a private sale to only my local readers and close friends. It was so nice, my husband ran it for me so I stayed in our new place cozied up with cake and tea. Some of my friends came by over the weekend to visit and some came bearing the sweetest little presents for the baby and I which warmed my heart. Our friends can really do the best things during times when you feel a bit like having a nervous breakdown.


Now that we’re in the new space, THANK GOD, I’ve been obsessed with how I will plan everything out and decorate it though I’m trying to hold back a little and rest – but man, it’s HARD to rest when you are surrounded by boxes, am I right? It’s fun to visualize how you’ll live and then to see if you can create that vision in real life – which is really what decorating is all about, isn’t it? But first you need the vision and sometimes we just lack that, even the best of us. I thought that I’d show you where I’m collecting inspiration lately and some general great books that I think you should have in your library just because they’re so good… And I’d LOVE for you to add to this post with decorating book suggestions of your own that you own and refer to for inspiration, too. Ready to get started? Drool fest to follow…


1. Gypsy by Sibella Court – This book is so visual and perfect for times when you’re in a creative rut or feel a tinge of wanderlust. In this special creation, you’ll find Sibella’s latest inspirations as part travel / part decor book, where she takes us to the Galapagos islands and Ecuador, Indochine, Transylvania, Scotland and Turkey. Out of those destinations, I’ve only been to Turkey (and loved it!) so it was fun to travel with Sibella to see the more uncharted places, like Transylvania, through the eyes of a stylist. I appreciate how she didn’t go to the typical destinations – Paris, London, New York, Sydney… But her approach was to comb destinations a bit out of the ordinary to shed more light on exactly what each offer to the world of design from patterns to colors, that are so often overlooked. A mix of photography shot by herself and her brother, Chris Court, it’s jam-packed with beauty. Aside from the gorgeous full-page photography, she gives us glimpses into her process – how she approaches her work – and shows a color board for each of her destinations which is becoming more and more popular in decorating (and wedding) books these days – color palettes and mood boards – they are all the rage because most of us genuinely want to see how collections of things can be organized into a definite palette that can later inspire an interior. Sibella’s palettes are very earthy and rustic, deep and intoxicating. You won’t find that many pastels or primary colors in this book, Sibella just isn’t a pastel kind of girl. My favorite palette is Scotland where I fell completely in love with all of the green tones. Buy Here.


2. A Life Less Ordinary by Alex Legendre and Zoe Ellison – Authors Alex and Zoe are the shop owners behind i gigi in Brighton, England and do a brilliant job translating their shop aesthetic directly onto the pages of this gorgeous book. Known in England for their covetable style, I really like the restful muted tones and the rustic, vintage recycled vibe in this book along with their styling – so many gorgeous arrangements to look at and try at home. Their design philosophy boils down to this, “The most important thing for us is to create a space that is practical and can be lived in, as well as looking beautiful and feeling relaxed”, which is completely in line with how I feel about decorating… Living in a non-fussy space that is still lovely, organized and practical is the ultimate goal for me, always. The pages are so stunning, I’d like to turn them into prints to hang on my wall! In addition to decorating, this book also discusses their friendship and business, which I found interesting but honestly it is the photography that tickled my heart strings the most. Stunning! Buy Here.


3. Creative Spaces by Geraldine James – Author Geraldine James, a home buying manager at one of the most gorgeous department stores in the world, Selfridges, travels extensively to source products for the store and so her vision is crystal clear and extremely trained. With a background in fashion and design, her passion for collecting and finding gorgeous things shows through each page of this book – her eye is nothing short of inspiring. When her first two books released, Creative Walls and Creative Display, I immediately bought and read them cover to cover which was quite easy as they’re mostly visual with her interesting thoughts seasoning the overall feast but never covering the delicious presentation. In Creative Spaces, she takes you on 20 very personal home tours of those whom she knows personally, people whom she thinks we should know and be inspired by, too. She takes us from Italy to London to New York to share the way her creative pals live in spaces of all shapes and sizes. I definitely recommend this book along with her two others. All are a perfect addition to the library of any decorating lover. Buy Here.


4. Couture Prairie: And Flea Market Treasures by Rachel Ashwell – If you’ve ever longed to live in whimsical prettiness right to the heart of cowboy country, complete with cowgirl boots and ruffles, this book is for you. What I found so inspirational about this book is that I’ve met the author a few times, I even visited her at home a few years ago in LA for tea and a chat, and her book is completely in line with who she is without any “fluff”. This lady is the real deal and doesn’t care if you love ruffles and lace, she loves it and has a massive following of fans who do as well. Rachel has been authentic from the start, way back when I used to watch her flea marketing shows on television in the 1990s. This book shows her gorgeous ranch in Texas and the homes on it, where she teaches and allows others to teach as well as host retreats and fun flea marketing excursions. It’s all so interesting as I’ve often dreamed of having a big house in the middle of nowhere where I host retreats and vacations, too. A sort of blogger retreat. This book is big, gorgeous and completely perfect for dreaming those home on the range dreams, whether Shabby Chic is your style or not, there are so many elements of it that have been brought to other design styles, so much cross-over, that you’re bound to find elements that you could easily work into your home no matter what the style. Buy Here.


5. Remix by Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason – I had the pleasure of meeting both authors at my own book signing in Philly a few years ago and felt such an immediate connection with them because they radiant warmth and enthusiasm. Remix is all about decorating with cultural objects and soul (some refer to this style as Ethnic Chic). As the bloggers behind AphroChic and the designers under the same name, Jeanine and Bryan share only homes where cultural, global style (they term this soulful), is key as they show you how to decorate with bold colors and patterns from around the globe to create cozy and stylish rooms. I like this book because I adore the authors and find their approachable decorating sensibility a nice break from the usual titles floating around that talk at you more than with you. This book is like sitting down with friends, and I love that personal flair. It was also such a nice bonus to see their own home towards the end. Great job, you guys! Buy Here.


6. A Place Called Home by Jason Grant – Most of my friends don’t know who interior stylist Jason Grant is, which is a bit of a shame because he is SO GOOD. He hasn’t had much exposure yet in the states or Europe, he is however a styling rock star in Australia and is one to definitely watch elsewhere, too. He has a bright, happy design approach with loads of clear, fresh color in mostly yellows, reds and blues which you can see more on his website and blog. He also has his own paint line with Australian company Murobond, and now this glorious book which just became available in the UK (here) and in the US (here) so definitely grab a copy and check him out. If you like interiors with a casual, joyful spirit and aren’t big on reading a lot of text (perhaps you’re more visual like me), then this book is one to pick up and cherish. It covers everything from inspiration to styling and storage and Jason’s personal approach along with photos from his travels and quick tips throughout that are just great. Bravo, Jason! Buy Here.


7. Decorating With Style by Abigail Ahearn – Far from minimalistic and cheery, Abigail has a unique sensibility that is all her own which is often described as edgy, dark, moody, eclectic and quite quirky. This lady definitely has an unexpected, yet refreshing, voice in the design world. Based in London, Abigail also owns a shop (which I visited), blogs, and teaches out of her home when she’s not doing client work. I was so pleased when I met her and she spoke at my book party at Anthropologie not too long ago – she brought her mood boards and explained her process and style. I have a soft spot for any designer who blogs, especially with the passion – and she clearly has passion in her posts about decorating. It’s not the typical designer fluff blogs that are out there which are constantly pushing the next product. Her blog is intimate and funny and completely not textbook designer. This is my favorite of her two books, because it feels much more in tune with her voice and style, and because it’s full of interesting perspectives on decorating, styling and her overall philosophy. Buy Here.


8. Paper to Petal by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell – Okay so this isn’t a decorating book but I’m going to review it anyway on this list because you can decorate with these projects in your home, so it sorta fits here. It’s more crafty and entertaining-related, just so you know… Anyway, the talented Rebecca Thuss has long been an inspiration to me, ever since her days at Martha Stewart, who happened to write the foreword. This gorgeous, huge book is LOADED with 75 paper flower projects so you can make your own by hand for crafting, decorating, events and beyond. I grew up with a mom who was trained as a floral designer and so you can imagine how much influence flowers have had over my life. My mother was a flower whiz but not just with the real ones. She also made tons of paper flowers too – she found them to be a nice complement to her fresh arrangements. I remember when I was little and she taught me how to make paper pom pom flowers out of tissue paper and how she loved making tiny blooms using crepe papers and fabric, too. Years later, when I worked in a millinery shop in Boston making headpieces for brides, I was trained to sew and create fabric flowers. Several of the projects in this book took me back a bit to crafting with my mother, and to my days in the millinery shop, which brought a smile to my face. Today, I’m still a lover of blooms – both fresh and paper (I’m not opposed to great looking silk ones too, if used in a quirky untraditional way). This book is a must-have for anyone who crafts and loves flowers. You will seriously eat it up. In addition to the step-by-step projects, there are gorgeous photos showing how to use your paper creations as well as a hearty section of templates in the back. Stunning, really. Buy Here.


9. Bring The Outdoors In by Shane Powers – This book has been out for a bit, but I find myself flipping through it whenever I need garden project ideas for indoors. I have to admit, that unlike my mother and husband, I’m not a big collector of plants indoors with the exception of succulents (which I adore). In fact, I own only a few, including an aloe that I proudly raised from infancy when blogger Iro gave me a single stem that she brought back to Germany from Greece. Now it’s a big, happy aloe on my windowsill and I feel like a bad ass because I haven’t managed to kill it yet. Plants add so much beauty to a home and are so good for the air quality, but are also trending at the moment – have you noticed? More and more designers, stylists and bloggers are getting into plants which before, were mostly seen in very contemporary, minimalistic spaces or those with a more boho, hippie vibe. Plants are great in all homes, all styles, it’s just a matter of finding those that you click with and can maintain since plants do require regular care just like kids and dogs. This book is a delight because American stylist Shane Powers gives you a briefing into to plants before showing 22 simple yet stylish projects that will enable you to work plant magic into your decor without turning your space in creative ways. Buy Here.


10. Creative Family Home by Ashlyn Gibson – I’m going to have a baby in two weeks, have you heard? ha ha. Anyway, he’ll be my first child, so you can only imagine what I have running through my head at the moment… Topics ranging from breast feeding to sleep schedules and the best way to decorate his nursery and child proof the house, to name a few of the fifty thousand thoughts I’ve had about this whole mommy hood thing. There is so much to think about, good grief, yet I do love exploring this new world. All of this exploration brought me to this book by Ashlyn Gibson which covers a slew of delightful spaces for creative families with a focus on kids’ spaces. My husband and I consider ourselves a creative family (we love neat and orderly but not minimalistic by any means), so the eclectic mix of homes shown really speak to me. Ashlyn takes you home-by-home by theme from the Urban Hub (a personal favorite) to Ship Shape and Mediterranean Heights. I like the intros to each family throughout along with the home tours. What a pleasure. Great read. Buy Here.

SO IT IS YOUR TURN! What book do you currently own (not upcoming titles please!) and refer to often for decorating inspiration? Please comment below and share! :)

(images linked to their sources above. Also, I’m an Amazon affiliate so I may earn a big fat 5% if you buy a book. Woo hoo.)

Posted in Books + Magazines on January 15, 2014

The Importance of a Great Team

Oh the importance of a great team. You really can’t underestimate the beauty in finding people that you can trust, respect and work well with who are also super talented, fair and “get it” when it comes to your ideas and vision. It’s rare for me to find team members that I really click with. I’m picky. While I am by nature a total people-person and enjoy the company of everyone (even difficult personalities are cool with me), it’s not the same when it comes to working with them. It has to click, you know? It’s either right or it’s wrong. So today I want to shout out two very special women – one I’ve known since March 2009 and the other I’ve never met in person in my life and just “met” online a few weeks ago. Both are seriously great women and you should know them and know why.

The Importance of a Great Team

Leslie (standing) and Laure (seated) in Emily Henderson’s home – so happy Emily is part of the book!

The first is Leslie Shewring. An intro is really not needed if you read decor8, followed her Color Me Pretty column (on hold for now until we finish our book), or know about how instrumental she was in Blogging Your Way during its early years as a teacher. Now, Leslie is co-authoring the next book that we’re currently working on and she is doing a bang up job and I’m really proud of her. When you find someone like her to work with, and you click, keep them near and dear. Leslie has been a massive support in my life – not just work stuff – especially now as I’m ill and she has flown in (literally) to Hannover to help on our book, and then flew last week to San Francisco and LA (from her home in Victoria, Canada), and is still working so hard styling and producing beautiful photos as stylist, photographer and art director on shoots. I’m blown away by her attitude throughout it all and am so happy we’re on this project together. When our book releases on March 21, 2014, I will owe so much of its beauty and wonderfulness to her. Thank you Leslie.

The Importance of a Great Team

Flower Power! Can’t shoot a home without ’em! These were for Bri’s house (yay DesignLoveFest!).

The second extraordinary female whom I’d like to celebrate is photographer Laure Joliet. This lady is a class act. She accepted a job with a few weeks notice, hopped on a plane to San Francisco to meet Leslie, and began shooting the first of four homes over the course of last week in both SF and LA. The best part, she gave me NO CRAP. I have zero tolerance for ego when I work with anyone, I don’t care how great you are. Laure listened to me as I rambled on about this and that, which could have offended some photographers (please shoot tethered, please use a tripod, only natural light, blah blah blah) but she had no problem accepting my direction and didn’t once let ego take over doing great work. I directed them both remotely to the best of my ability on shots we needed, angles, ideas but ultimately they had the bulk of the work and ran with it and blew me away as a result – as the photos came in each day, I looked through them, supplied feedback and we moved on to the next shoot and continued this process and in the end, as a team, we really accomplished a lot. I mean a lot. I owe the success of last week to them, not me. To put Leslie and Laure together without any knowledge of how the other works (or even who the other is – they were strangers when they met) and watch them nail all four homes shows the power of women who are talented and professional and how they just GET STUFF DONE.

Leslie gave me the full scoop after the shoot week and had NOTHING but positive things to say about Laure – she sang her praises and would gladly work with her again, and this alone made me absolutely the happiest person ever because I wanted them to click, work well together and do great work and they accomplished that and so much more. You’ll see some of Laure’s gorgeous work in our book that releases in March. I can’t wait to show you! This book is now much bigger than Leslie and I with the addition of gorgeous homes and the wonderful Laure, so Leslie and I are even more excited to share it with you soon!

The Importance of a Great Team

The home of SFGirlByBay will be in our book, yay!

So! To begin a shiny new week on a positive note, I want to celebrate the beauty and importance of a great team of amazing women. These girls, the homeowners, Leslie’s amazing sister Diane who accompanied them in LA to work hard on shoots too… All of them. I’m worked with some women who sadly, left me uninspired, burnt out and wondering how in the world they ever got to where they are with such abrasive personalities. These women were just the opposite – and they made magic as a result. I know first hand what the definition of a great team, mediocre team and team SUCK can be! And these ladies were team awesome all the way. Thanks, LJ and LS and THANK YOU to Emily, Bri, Rachel and Victoria for being such a lovely team of homeowners, too!

(images: emily henderson, bri emery, laure joliet)

Posted in Books + Magazines, inspiration on August 12, 2013

Book Review: Well-Read Women

I was so happy when my copy of Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines, arrived today. Written and illustrated by my friend Samantha Hahn for Chronicle Books, it’s exquisite in every way.

Book Review: Well-Read Women

Samantha is a fabulous illustrator whom I’ve commissioned for both illos on my blog and in my second book, so I know how skilled she is first hand. Samantha has worked for some of the best clients out there, including a slew of gorgeous magazines and also Daily Candy. Her gorgeous debut book is now available for pre-order, so grab a copy now because it will make for the most lovely gift for yourself or a good friend. It’s crazy beautiful and so unique.

Book Review: Well-Read Women

In fact, it happens to be one of those books that really is perfect to give to a friend because it’s not only gorgeous but full of girl power (she illustrated 50 legendary female characters and hand lettered quotes from them) so you can’t help you feel so proud to be a modern female. I love what Samantha said about it recently on her blog, “Meet these heroines, befriend them, and in the process, perhaps learn about yourself. Whether you’ve read some or all of these stories, I hope you enjoy gazing into the eyes of all of the powerful, damaged, beautiful, and incandescent women in my book. I hope you follow them back to their original stories and come to see them in your own way, too.” Such a fine statement!

Book Review: Well-Read Women

Book Review: Well-Read Women

Book Review: Well-Read Women

Book Review: Well-Read Women

Book Review: Well-Read Women

Book Review: Well-Read Women

I can’t take my hands off of this book – I seriously love it and will definitely be buying copies to give to my friends. It’s so unique, and I love that it’s light reading because I can get lost in the quotes and paintings and let my mind wander. I also see so many pages that I’m tempted to remove and frame, but hopefully she’ll be selling them eventually as prints. My favorite portraits are of Anna Karenina, Alice, Jane Eyre, Antigone, Juliet Capulet (swooning over that close-up, would love that on my wall!), Ester Greenwood, Estella Havisham, Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova, Scarlett O’Hara and my favorite painting is of Emma Woodhouse from Emma by Jane Austen – so gorgeous! What a collection of fantastic ladies.

You can also support Samantha, in addition to buying the book of course, by liking her Facebook page. This is her first book and I’m so proud of her!

Congrats, Ms. Hahn!

(images: samantha hahn)

Posted in Books + Magazines on August 06, 2013

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

I’m so happy today to tell you about my friend Barb Blair and her gorgeous new book, Furniture Makeovers. I’ve been wanting to write about it for weeks but have been totally consumed with a project and when I write reviews, I don’t want to put together something sloppy just to review something… I really wanted this review to be from the heart since Barb is a super special lady.

Barb Blair today on decor8

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Barb and I met at my book signing in NYC back in 2012 for Decorate, she was very friendly and lovely – just as I had expected through our numerous email exchanges prior to our in-person meet up. That is us shown below cuddling in my signing chair at Anthro. :)

me and barb

We’ve known one another for years and I’ve written about her furniture restoration numerous times because I’m a big fan of her work. What this woman can do to furniture that is dying curbside is unbelievable, a book had to be born from her years of dedication and hard work as a furniture superhero.

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Furniture Makeovers, her debut title published by Chronicle Books (I wrote the foreword for this book of which I am eternally honored), is just lovely and super inspiring. In this book you will find 26 restoration techniques and 30 before-and-afters showing exactly how Barb added her magical touches. Since receiving it only two months ago, I had an idea to paint two pieces of furniture in my home and so when my friend Leslie was here recently, we got to work and painted both pieces so they now look stunning and lovely. So thanks for the inspiration Barb. I will show you these pieces in the future but I don’t want to steal Barb’s thunder – this post is for her and about her — but wow, to get a DIY book and actually be motivated enough to DO STUFF after reading it is sorta a miracle for me because I tend to flake out and not do the stuff I set out to do when it comes to furniture improvements. Barb’s book was SO good though, SO helpful, SO inspiring and most of all, SO approachable that I HAD to DO something to my furniture when I finished her book. In fact, I have a few more pieces to paint… I’m on a roll, thanks to Furniture Makeovers!

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

In this post, I’ve shared some gorgeous photos from her recent book launch at her shop (held in early May) and studio space in South Carolina called Knack Studios. All of the photos from the book party were shot by Carlton Riffel and the beautiful image of the book was shot by her book photographer J. Aaron Greene. I love parties, especially ones that feel and look like this one… Because it feels very welcoming and from the heart, just the way I like things to feel.

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

Book Review: Furniture Makeovers By Barb Blair

I am so happy to see Barb shining in her photos above because a book launch party has to be one of the greatest professional experiences every – it’s like a baby shower or wedding for your book – and it’s such a special day that an author never, ever forgets. I’ll never forget my launch parties nor do I forget those who attended them because they are just so cherished… To write a book and see it published and in books stores is huge enough but to have launch parties and book signings — my goodness, total ICING ON THE CAKE and all made possible by our wonderful online community of friends and shop owners and bloggers.

Barb deserves every shout of praise and wonderful review for her book – it’s by far a favorite on the decor8 bookcase! Congratulations Barb!

(party images: carlton riffel)

Posted in Books + Magazines on June 07, 2013


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