Gorgeous, pouting Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and reliably rugged Diarmuid Gavin return in Home Front Inside Out
, a collection, amply illustrated, of house and garden make-overs that range from the soigné to the startling. The recipe is familiar--the ambitious transformation of humdrum house and garden spaces into environments expressive of aspects of their owners' lifestyles and personalities--but the results can be extraordinary, even by the standards of this pair. Need to add a focal point to the garden of a 30s house which Diarmuid is refashioning along Art Deco lines? A giant revolving egg, mirrored like a disco ball and concealing a cocktail cabinet, is the answer. Laurence himself describes a curvaceous 50s-inspired circular kitchen, installed no doubt for very good reasons, as "part-Sputnik, part-Wonderbra". A reference to a bathroom mobile as being inspired by "Alexandra Calder" adds a suitably ambiguous note.
Gavin's gardens, with their consistent use of concrete, wood and metal as strong, defining structural elements, are more of a piece than Llewelyn-Bowen's fanciful but precisely detailed responses to rooms, but the boldness and wholeheartedness of both are refreshing to a high degree. They court mockery with their flirtations with historical and cultural kitsch, yet the finished spaces are undeniably thought provoking, and the boldness of approach is, in many ways, liberating. If they can make readers and viewers think in new ways about how they use their customary places, the authors will no doubt consider their time well spent. --Robin Davidson