Sunday, 17 March 2013

bedtime reading - Decorating With Style

Decorating With Style - Abigail Ahern
Quadrille publishing £16.99
Published 28th March 2013

Abigail Ahern is an internationally renowned designer, writer, TV presenter and owner of an eponymous interiors shop in Islington with something of a cult status. Her first book 'A Girls Guide To Decorating' came out in paperback last year. You can visit her site here and her blog here.

The Promise
"Forget perfection. Decorating with Style is a fabulous, hands-on decorating guide that gives you the confidence to bend the rules, embrace what you love and create interiors that ooze style - all on a shoestring budget.

Alongside stunning photographs of inspiring spaces, world famous interior designer Abigail Ahern offers her expertise on all aspects of home style, shares her inside sources and delivers sound practical tips for how to take every room in your pad to the next level.

Packed with clever tips, speedy updates and easy DIY projects - from creating a cool letter light to zizzing up your stair risers - Decorating With Style delivers the know-how of a successful and original designer in brilliant bite-size chunks. For style aficionados on a budget, interior design just got fun!"

What works
The book is broken down into sections to help you plan and build up your room, from assessing your space, to choosing colours and adding the finishing details that really make a room look stunning.

The sumptuous images are a total delight and I defy all but the most committed minimalists to feel inspired. Aside from a few irritating repetitions (see below) the text is casual and easy to read, offering advice and ideas without being too complicated. It reads very much like her blog in fact, drawing the reader in and making you feel like she's imparting secret advice, dispensed only to you. The continuous encouragement to make bold choices, even in small steps is surely one of the books best assets. How many of us have lived in 'safe' bland rooms because we were too afraid to be bold and make a mistake? She advises to make your space personal and experiment to let your style evolve.

Abigails advice on lighting, introducing textures, patterns and layers to a room and on colour choices are all spot on and it's these core themes that really help define her style and the rooms she creates. The room analysis sketches are really useful for seeing how all the elements are pulled together to make a cohesive look and offer a visual break from the photographs as well.

For those just starting out the 'practical stuff' section at the back will be useful, but for anyone else the advice may be a bit basic. The 'little black book' section might be short but it's stuffed with useful places to buy, on-line resources and blogs for further reading.

What doesn't
While the deliberately casual and upbeat tone of the book suits Abigails style, certain phrases started to really grate by the time I was near finishing it. I don't know anyone who calls their home a 'pad' and every time the text insisted you 'plonk' somehting somewhere I wanted to scream. This images in this book are beautifully shot and styled and I don't believe for a second that anything here was  just 'plonked'. 

Some of the 'how to' projects are also less successful than others. Any home craft project that involves hot glue gun leaves me cold and a beautiful 70s console that could have been restored to it's former glory is instead covered in blackboard paint and chalk stars. They cheapen the overall message here I think, and look so much less sophisticated than the other projects. 

I also found it odd that while praising the art of eclecticism on one hand the book starts off with a section called 'what's your style?' advising readers to identify with either 'classic, ' glamorous', 'boho', 'rock n roll' and 'eclectic' styles, when in fact most people will find elements from each that they like and given the advice in the book on combining all of these things I hardly think it's necessary to separate each style out in that way. It's probably just me being picky though.

What's in it for the renter?
Some of the projects, like painting floor boards or cladding a wall are certainly out of the question for many renters, but many of the smaller furniture projects are entirely do-able. The main strength of this book though is the styling. Anyone can be inspired to style their home in a similar fashion and be encouraged to completely re-think any room, the tips on furniture arrangements and the room analysis sketches are especially useful. 

In addition, Abigail's assertion that "Style has absolutely nothing to do with money..." is both true and comforting in the face of a recession and the designer price tags that anyone interested in interiors sees on a daily basis. The encouragement here is for the reader to be inspired to find their own style using lots of different sources and she again hits the nail on the head when she says "You can't get this look from one store, whether that's a chain like Ikea or a designer like Ralph Lauren". Which leads me to the final point I want to make. Abigails style is full on eclecticism, which actually suits renters quite well. You may have accumulated many different bits and pieces as you've moved from home to home and there's a good chance at some point you'll have to incorporate furniture or other elements that you otherwise wouldn't have chosen. This book goes a long way to showing you how to bring all those disparate elements together while adding your own touches in order to make your home one you want to celebrate.

Worth buying?
Yes! If you like her style, you'll love the book and even if you don't like everything in it, you'll find yourself inspired and refering back to it. It's a great price too so you can either treat yourself to it, or buy as a gift. I for one am completely re-thinking how to dispaly all our prints and accessories and I'm longing to paint something in Abigails signature inky hues...

You can see some preview pages from the book from Amazon here.

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