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7 Must-Read Decorating Books

As anyone who has tried to take an inexperienced (or even an experienced) hand to it will attest, decorating is an endeavour that’s not always simple or straightforward. A little guidance and know-how can be immensely helpful, which is why we’ve put together a list of seven excellent decorating books for you to consider.

1. Elements of Style: Designing a Home and a Life – Erin Gates

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life – Erin Gates

Erin Gates’s blog – also named Elements of Style – was and still is a huge hit. Her book is accessible, easy-to-read, humourous, practical, a great mixture of the personal and professional, and filled with lots of interesting pictures – a must-read for any designer, be they beginner or expert.

2. The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well – Deborah Needleman

The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well – Deborah Needleman

As with Erin Gates above, Deborah Needleman is a writer for The New York Times Style Magazine (only Needleman is the editor as well). This is a good sign, as The NYT’s style magazine is an excellent source of practical, useful information. The book’s emphasis is not on creating the ‘perfect’ living space, but one that is at-ease, relaxed, stylish, and comfortable. The Perfectly Imperfect Home, alongside Needleman’s other book, Domino: the Book of Decorating, is another great option for beginners.

3. Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More – Annie Sloan

3. Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More – Annie Sloan

Annie Sloan has her own store in Oxford, and she has written over twenty-five books on colour, paint, and decorating. Sloan is also quite the artisan, and world-renowned for her decorative painting skills. With the aide of this book, you can learn how to spruce-up even the most tired of furniture using a wide variety of techniques. Her Quick and Easy Paint Transformations is equally as good a book to read.

4. One Man’s Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood – Julia Reed et al.

One Man’s Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood – Julia Reed et al.

Yes, this is a book that focuses on a particular style of house, namely Southern US vernacular architecture. Look beyond this, though, and you will see a man who has meticulously and lovingly rescued and restored his family’s carriage house and outbuildings. Various architectural traditions are used, from mid-nineteenth-century Gothic to Palladian, and Gatewood collaborated with local craftsmen in order to get the house up to his high standards.

5. Design*Sponge at Home: A Guide to Inspiring Homes – and All the Tools You Need to Create Your Own – Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge at Home: A Guide to Inspiring Homes – and All the Tools You Need to Create Your Own – Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge is a hugely popular lifestyle blog, attracting 75,000 visitors every day. Its creator Grace Bonney brought out her book Design*Sponge at Home in 2011, which includes various decorating tips and tutorials from the blog as well as plenty of new material. The book’s philosophy is that a home can be as unique as you are.

6. English Decoration – Ben Pentreath

English Decoration – Ben Pentreath

Some of the books on this list are written from an American perspective, so it’s good to see that there’s a book focusing more on English styles. English Decoration is arranged room-by-room, with entrance halls, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms all given their own section. Eighteen homes have been photographed for the book, including Ben Pentreath’s own homes in London and West Dorset, as well as the homes of Earls, writers, artists, architects, and gardeners.

7. Perfect English Cottage – Ros Byam Shaw

Perfect English Cottage – Ros Byam Shaw

As with Pentreath’s book above, Perfect English Cottage pictures eighteen different homes, this time depicting (and celebrating) the style of the English country cottage. The book is separated into five different chapters: Character, Holiday, Romance, Simplicity, and Elegance. A wide range of cottage styles are shown, each with their own charm, and all proving why the English cottage style is so endearing and popular the world over.

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