In this post I’m going to share five of my favorite books on decorating. These are also the interior design books I’ve had on my bookshelf the longest. I bought most of these decorating books long before I made the decision to become a designer. In all honesty, I believe that it’s these books that first inspired me to eventually become a designer.
They are a great starting point for any beginner and I consider them to be classics.
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How decorating can lead to design
Home decor lovers, DIY enthusiasts and designers can agree: An interest in interior design can start off casually and then quickly grow into something bigger. In fact, many renowned interior designers look back on their early introduction to the topic and see its earliest roots stem from an interest in furniture, decor or even home improvement and DIY.
Martyn Lawrence Bullard, it is rumored, worked in a London antique furniture store before starting on his design career, and Vicente Wolfe swept floors in showrooms before launching his own interior design studio.
Both renowned designers were completely self-taught.
My early design journey
My interest in interior design stemmed from my early exposure to woodworking and cabinet-fitting (my dad used to fit out boats) and my grandfather’s architectural models. Then I ended up going down a very different path before injuring my arm in the accident which started my design journey. If you’re curious, you can read the full story here.
In the years before I discovered interior design, I had been busy setting up house. One day, on a trip to Costco with my little girls in the cart, I tossed in a decorating book. Every few months I would see another book that I had to have, and it became something of an addiction after that.
I’ve always loved books, and I’m also a very visual person, so coffee table books and glossy art books hold endless appeal for me. Maybe you can relate.
Why I recommend these decorating books
The decorating books I’m sharing today were more than just pictures, though. They clearly laid out the theory and thought process behind decorating. After reading a few of these books I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do with my home on our limited budget. Even though since then I’ve learned how to design entire buildings, nonetheless, I kept those first decorating books, and I still refer to them today.
I’ve think of these five decorating books as my ultimate “keepers”; an essential part of my reference library. So, without further ado, the five books that were my gateway to interior design:
1. Domino – The Book of Decorating
Authors: Deborah Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello, Dara Caponigro
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
“Domino: The Book of Decorating” is a treasure trove of inspiration and guidance for anyone passionate about interior design and home decor. Written by three experts in the field, Deborah Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello, and Dara Caponigro, this book brings to life the essence of the beloved “Domino” magazine, offering a comprehensive guide to creating stylish, functional, and personalized living spaces.
- Beautiful Visuals: One of the standout features of this book is its stunning visuals. The pages are filled with captivating photographs of impeccably designed interiors that provide endless inspiration. The visual storytelling is not only informative, but also a feast for the eyes.
- Practical Advice: Beyond its aesthetic appeal, “Domino” excels in delivering practical advice. It covers a wide range of topics, from choosing color palettes and furniture arrangements to tackling common design challenges. The book’s step-by-step approach makes it accessible even to beginners.
- Personalization: What sets this book apart is its emphasis on personalization. It encourages readers to infuse their own style and personality into their spaces. It provides the tools and ideas needed to create homes that truly reflect individual tastes and preferences.
Design Baddie Review
I fell in love with this book from the moment I laid eyes on it and when I’ve seen it in bookstores since, it still turns my head. The cover is gorgeous, and if you were going to judge a book by its cover, you’d be right on the money with this one. I love how the book is laid out. It goes through each area of the home, giving plenty of inspiration, but never sticking to any one particular look or style.
Once you’ve read through this book once you’d be on the right path to finding your own style, or making what you already have work for you. There’s just so much practical advice and it is so easy to understand. This is likely the reason that this book has been in print for so long. Domino’s Book of Decorating gets a full five out of five stars from me!
“Domino: The Book of Decorating” is not just a book; it’s really a decorating companion that empowers readers to turn their living spaces into expressions of their unique style. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or just embarking on your decor journey, this book is an invaluable resource that will continue to inspire and guide you.
2. Design with Color – A Sunset Design Guide
Author: Karen Templer and the Editors of Sunset Books
Publisher: Sunset Books
This book is a great resource for home decorators. It draws on the wisdom and experience of a panel of eight architects, interior designers and other professionals to teach the basics of the science of color and its purpose and effective use in an interior space. The book deals with the power of color and the psychology behind the use of specific colors. It also teaches the effect of light on color and the reflective qualities of various finishes. There are chapters for each color and explorations of common color combinations.
- A comprehensive discourse on everything from neutral schemes to bold ones and everything in-between. Celebrate the beauty of color in all of its varying expressions! The interiors featured are a feast for the eyes!
- Find out how to select color for your own interior and create a color scheme that works with your specific personality, temperament and architecture.
- Learn how to be more eco-friendly with your paint choices. This book gives advice on sustainable techniques and “green” paint options.
Design Baddie Review
I’ll admit that this book doesn’t ‘wow’ on first appearances. It’s not a hardcover book, and it has a generic, almost “supermarket book” vibe. I picked this one up because I came across it when I was just starting to get interested in color. When I flipped through this book it had so many examples of color used in really bold and daring ways. There are multiple examples of all of the major hues, with really interesting and stunning examples of how these colors can work in different situations. There are also many color combinations.
Probably the best thing about this book is the straight-forward explanations it gives about the pyschology of color. They also share the stories of the real people who live in these interiors and the personal reasons behind their color choices. While not a slick coffee table book, exactly, this book is a great first textbook on color in the “wild” and great for quick inspiration when working on projects. Plus, I’ve taken this with me when consulting with clients on site, and not been afraid to ruin it.
This book also represents when I first came to understand the impact of color psychology on personal preference, and how personal style can relate to our tastes in home decor.
If you’re interested, I cover this topic in more depth here.
3. Accessorize Your Home
Author: Caroline Clifton-Mogg
Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small
If ‘God is in the details‘, as renowned architect Mies van der Rohe said, then you will find Him in this book. This book focuses heavily on the finishing touches that make a house a home. Long after building and renovation, furniture and finish selections and even window treatments and textile choices are made, this is a book that teaches you how to think about the details.
From editing your personal possessions to learning how to display and create arrangements, this book teaches you everything you need to know about working with scale when it comes to decor, and creating focal points that have maximum impact. All without breaking the bank!
- Wall Art, Pictures and Mirrors: Discover the art of placing pictures and various ways of creating meaningful visual arrangements, with different approaches to the task.
- Flowers and Plants: The major lesson we can learn from this section is that flowers should not be saved for special occasions or relegated only to ‘reception’ rooms. You can also learn different compositions and planted arrangements.
- Soft Furnishings: Discover the types of soft furnishings and how to layer them, as well as select for color and pattern. Don’t forget texture!
- China and Glass: Beginning with table setting ideas and moving on to candlesticks and tableware collections, if you’d never thought about displaying your dishes, you’ll be inspired to consider it after this.
- Decorative Objects and Collections: From delightful table-scapes through to such inexpensive decorative items as personal jewelry, vintage toys and shells and other natural objects, discover the power of collections and careful curation.
Design Baddie Review
I’ve always been more drawn to architecture than decor, but this book taught me a thing or two about how to create interesting arrangements and focal points. Reading this book gave me the confidence to know how to decorate my own family home and made the decorating portion of my interior design and decoration degree so much easier when I was in design school.
It’s one of those books that teaches you something new every time you pick it up. It boasts four hundred finishing touches to inspire you, and provides a source of endless inspiration. It is also well researched, well written and illustrated. Highly recommend!
4. Farrow & Ball’s Recipes for Decorating
Author: Joa Studholme
Publisher: Mitchell Beazley
“Farrow & Ball: Recipes for Decorating” by Joa Studholme is a delightful exploration of the world of interior design and decor, centered around the exquisite paint colors and wallpapers offered by the iconic British brand, Farrow & Ball. As the brand’s color consultant, Joa Studholme brings her expertise and passion for design to life in this beautifully crafted book.
- Color Inspiration: The book serves as an abundant source of color inspiration. Studholme skillfully guides readers through the Farrow & Ball color palette, showcasing the versatility and charm of each shade. From soothing neutrals to vibrant hues, you’ll find a spectrum of ideas to enliven your living spaces.
- Practical Guidance: What sets “Recipes for Decorating” apart is its practicality. Studholme doesn’t just showcase colors; she offers valuable insights into how to use them effectively in your home. Her tips on combining colors, choosing the right finish, and creating cohesive color schemes are invaluable for DIY decorators.
- Room-by-Room Approach: The book takes a room-by-room approach, providing tailored advice for various living spaces. Whether you’re redesigning your bedroom, kitchen, or living room, you’ll find tailored color and design suggestions to suit each area’s unique requirements.
Design Baddie Review
This book is a beautiful foray into the wonder that is paint and the subtleties of different hues and their effect in interiors. Many interior designers talk about how color is influenced by light, and the author of this book is really experienced with the ways in which paint can be used to change the mood and feel of a room. She also covers many different looks and approaches to working with color in interiors. Farrow and Ball is a really well known, high quality paint company.
An added bonus of having this book in your design library is that you have a quick reference to paint effect and the names of real paint colors. “Recipes” really is presented with the same thought and attention you’d give to preparing a fine meal. In this case, a feast for the eyes. If you’re like me you will love the high quality, glossy images in this beautiful book. This is a one I love to read over and over again.
“Farrow & Ball: Recipes for Decorating” is a must-have companion for anyone seeking to transform their living spaces with timeless elegance and style. Joa Studholme’s expertise and passion shine through in every page, making this book a valuable resource for both novice decorators and design enthusiasts. Whether you’re planning a complete home makeover or a simple room refresh, this book is your guide to creating beautiful and harmonious interiors.
5. Learning to See
Author and Publisher
Author: Vicente Wolfe
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
This book is more than just a guide to decorating; it’s a masterclass in changing the way we perceive the world around us and translating that inspiration into our living spaces. In this very special book the distinguished Cuban-American interior designer Vicente Wolf takes us on a captivating journey that transcends the traditional boundaries of design and encourages us to explore our senses.
- A Unique Perspective: Vicente Wolf’s book stands out for its emphasis on cultivating a unique perspective. He encourages his readers to develop a keen eye for the beauty and details in everyday life. To do this he shows how even the most ordinary objects, textures, and colors can serve as profound sources of inspiration.
- The Art of Balance: One of the highlights of “Learning to See” is its exploration of the delicate art of balance in interior design. Wolf demonstrates how to harmonize different elements, blending minimalism with warmth, tradition with innovation, and global influences with personal style.
- Practical Insights: What makes this book different to many other design books is that “Learning to See” offers a balance between theory and practice. Vicente Wolf shares practical advice and techniques for applying his unique perspective to real-world design projects. From selecting colors and materials to arranging furniture, his insights are immediately applicable.
- Global Inspiration: Wolf’s extensive travel experiences and appreciation for diverse cultures shine through in the book. He provides readers with a global perspective on design, showing how various influences from around the world can be integrated seamlessly into one’s home.
Vicente Wolf really does go beyond the ordinary conventions of interior design to reveal a world of creativity and inspiration. By encouraging his readers to transform the way they perceive their surroundings, this book provides a fresh, invigorating approach to decorating. Whether you’re a seasoned designer seeking new insights or a novice looking to cultivate a more discerning eye, “Learning to See” offers an enriching and transformative reading experience.
Design Baddie Review
I saved the best for last with this review. “Learning to See” is one of the first interior design books I ever read, and I’d recommend it to anyone just starting out on their design journey. Personally, I already had appreciation for Vicente Wolf as a designer from reading Architectural Digest magazine and the book, “Designers on Designers” when I came across this title.
I was also very inspired by Vicente’s design origin story. When I discovered that Vicente had written a book I was very keen to read it, and was not disappointed.
This book opened my eyes to seeing the world in a new way, quite literally. Later, this book became my inspiration for one of the first blog posts that I ever wrote, in which I tried to share with my readers how even those who don’t consider themselves to be creative can develop a “design eye”. Today, I still have a deep fondness for this book.
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