One of my grubbiest, guiltiest pleasures is 'You' magazine, which comes free with [shameface] the 'Mail on Sunday'. Even if you don't share my unhealthy interest in the shiny hair and vast wardrobes of minor celebrities, you'd have to agree that the visuals which accompany the magazine's articles are regularly gorgeous.
Over the last couple of weeks, 'You' has been serialising 'Making a House Your Home', the new book by its Lifestyle Editor, Clare Nolan. Although I loved the excerpts, I was hesitating over buying - it's Christmas, I'm skint, and I really don't need another interiors book, as you can see from my other reviews.
Then I discovered it was almost half price on Amazon, and I'd hit the lethal One-Click button before I knew it.
Very often, I'm disappointed with these media-led purchases; magazines invariably select the best pictures and content, so the actual book never lives up to the initial marketing hype. Surprisingly, 'Making a House Your Home' is even better than the extracts used in the press.
This book is very unusual in that it isn't about a famous interior designer's signature look, and doesn't only feature the homes of the plainly loaded. There's no encouragement to knock down walls, build ambitious new extensions, or call in professionals. As the title suggests, the emphasis is on styling: working with wallpapers and paints, furniture, fabrics and possessions to decorate, organise and personalise your own house.
Okay, there's no denying that most of the rooms photographed are big and airy, have proper architectural features, and contain a lot of expensive, lovely props. If you enjoy a bit of property porn, you'll recognise the three-figure designer cushions, the four-figure rugs, and the furniture that comes with its own surname. I did a fair amount of eye-rolling at all these design hipster clichés, but also found some great makeover inspiration for my Ikea and hand-me-downs.
Many of the ideas here are temporary or portable, and therefore relevant even if renting or pre-renovation. I loved the ubiquitous Expedit bookcase, plywood storage boxes and cheap chest of pine drawers covered in wallpaper samples, and the garden shed transformed by painting it a chic shade of grey. On page 11 is the cutest photo-collage, which anyone could knock up in front of the telly over a couple of rainy afternoons. I've already stacked my outsize books next to a chair so they can be used as a side-table, stored my necklaces in pretty junkshop teacups, and sewn a ribbon around my boring white tablecloth (well, actually, I used iron-on hemming. You can have that tip for free, Clare).
The lovely pictures aren't the only attraction. I have literally hundreds of interiors books and magazines, and the text of this one is easily amongst the most useful. Nolan gives her professional guidance on topics such as zoning, colour shading, and sightlines, and good practical advice on everything from floral arrangement frogs to buying mattresses and getting rid of pet smells. There are clear 'how to' instructions, and many of the rooms are deconstructed to show just how and why they work. Most design books are quickly forgotten, but this one was an excellent buy and I can see myself referring back to it often.
Of course there are some very minor annoyances with the book, which I should mention if only to prove this is a genuine review. The numerous pictures of the author looking winsome - in classic Daily Mail girlie-airhead poses - are naff and unnecessary. They trivialise her as a writer and design professional, and I hope they'll be removed in subsequent editions, along with the many spelling and punctuation errors. If we're being told to shop around, I'd prefer it if the shops photographed weren't all on Chelsea's King's Road. Like a lot of interiors books at the moment, the featured homes mostly favour a very eclectic, colourful, and crafted look, and those who like elegance, minimalism and the "wow factor" in their rooms will find these ones hokey and cluttered. I'd venture most men won't like them at all.
But if you're a fan of boot sales and flea markets, old-fashioned upholstery, Etsy, the Anthropologie stores, the 'Domino' magazine compilation book and Holly Becker's Decor 8 blog, you'll absolutely adore 'Making a House Your Home'. Its origins may lie with the most embarrassing newspaper in Britain, but I was absolutely delighted with it, and would recommend it highly, especially as a present for friends and family setting up home for the very first time.