Tag Archives: interior design

Home Is Where the Hearth Is

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The Making of Home: The 500-Year Story of How Houses Became Our Homes by Judith Flanders (Thomas Dunne Books, $26.99, 368 pages)

Display had become the essence of the house. This public display of the private was considered to have a moral dimension, too. Immanuel Kant thought that “No one in complete solitude will decorate or clean his house… but only for strangers, to show himself to advantage.”

Judith Flanders presents her survey of the evolution of the house into a home in an unmistakable textbook format with glossy color illustrations, notes, bibliography and index. The writing is a bit stilted; however, Ms. Flanders is British. This may just be her natural style. She takes a close look at what we believe to represent past times and daily practices and brings a logical scene to her reader.

Apparently, those of us who are inclined to study interiors from the distant past have done so only at a superficial level. There’s more to what was meant in those historic paintings of rooms such as Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding Portrait (1434). Social mores, values and fantasy are often present in the form of innocuous fabrics, colors and subtly placed items.

The evolution of relationships (men, women and children), geography and personal values are all determining factors in what was the place for sleeping, cooking and keeping animals – a house, and what we now call a home.

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The cadence of the narrative evens out once the reader is past the first few chapters and becomes more of a lecture rather than a heavily laden introduction to the concept of a dwelling.

Well recommended.

new small house

The New Small House by Katie Hutchison (The Taunton Press, $32.00, 217 pages)

On the heels of the recession there was a resurgence of interest in small houses, and even smaller retreats.

Residential architect and small dwelling advocate Katie Hutchison follows in the illustrious footsteps of Sarah Susanka, author of the Not So Big House series. Both women are experts in the use of materials, site and scale. Taunton Press has added to their coverage of housing possibilities with The New Small House.

Smaller is better for a certain segment of the house-buying public. Ms. Hutchison focuses on dwellings that are not just small (at 1700 square feet or less) but also smartly laid out, sited and built with carefully selected materials. Her 10 small house strategies are defined up front and eloquently illustrated through a series of in-depth reviews of homes and retreats across the United States.

961 square feet

The book is a guide to what makes for a successful new small house. Hutchison goes into specific details about each of the beautiful and unique dwellings. The icons that alert the reader to the strategies employed are posted with each selection. Several of the owners are fellow architects who are clearly kindred spirits of hers.

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The New Small House is meant to prompt thoughtful consideration of how we can live with less and make better choices. It also gives the reader plenty of ideas for downsizing or building a personal retreat.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Love the Place You’re In

At Home With Laurie Ann – A Decorator’s Guide:  Turn the Place You Live Into A Home You Love

Hardcover, 224 pages, $29.95 (Laurie Ann Publishing Inc.)

At a very early age, professional Interior Designer Laurie Ann McMillin Ray developed her skill for analyzing personal style and combining it with a winning selection of design elements.   Her father was a home builder in southern California.   Laurie Ann realized that her ideas for decorating his subdivision model homes surpassed those of the seasoned professionals in the business.   To her dad’s credit, Laurie Ann was turned loose to express her ideas which enhanced the quality of the product he was selling.

Fast forward more than a few years and we encounter a businesswoman who truly knows her stuff.   Laurie Ann’s book is part expert advice, part girlfriend sharing and a whole lot of warm comfort that the reader will want to adapt to his or her own house in order to make it a home.   As Laurie Ann sees it, a home is a gathering place where every day is ideally celebrated in an environment conductive to fostering calm, joy and/or energetic sharing among friends and family.

This reviewer was most appreciative of the luscious color schemes and the thoughtful use of fabrics that create cohesive settings.   Don’t be misled by the amount of detail within each photograph.   The idea is to come away with a sense of what you like and how it might enhance your own design creativity.   By the way, Laurie Ann operates several retail establishments in southern California that are sure to spark a reader’s nesting instinct.

Most enjoyable.   Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Author Marketing Experts (AME).

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About Our Reviewers

Ruta Arellano – Ruta received her B.A. from the University of California, the one in Berkeley.   She served as the Associate Director of the California Self-Esteem Task Force and later worked as a research specialist with multiple state agencies.   She tends to read and review crime mysteries, popular fiction, survey books, books on art and interior design, business books and those books that are hard to classify.   Ruta also writes reviews for the New York Journal of Books, Sacramento Book Review and San Francisco Book Review.

Joseph Arellano – Joseph received his B.A. in Communication Arts from the University of the Pacific, where he wrote music and entertainment reviews for The Pacifican and the campus radio station, KUOP-FM.   He then received his J.D. (law degree) from the University of Southern California, which is why he’s pretty good at writing legal disclaimers.   He has served as a Public Information Officer for a state agency, which involved a lot of writing and editing work under heavy pressure and deadlines, and he was an adjunct professor at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS).   Joseph has done pre-publication editing and review work for a publisher based in England.   He also writes – or has written – reviews for New York Journal of Books, Sacramento Book Review, San Francisco Book Review, Portland Book Review and Tulsa Book Review.

Munchy – Munchy is a senior Norwegian Forest Cat of the brown tabby variety.   He only writes reviews of children’s books and only when he absolutely feels like it.   (His children’s book reviews have appeared in San Francisco Book Review and Sacramento Book Review.)   He intends to become the furry Publisher and Chief Feline Officer (CFO) of Brown Cat Books.

Dave Moyer – Dave is the author of the novel Life and Life Only and of several published short stories and essays.   He regularly reviews books for this site and for the New York Journal of Books.   Moyer is a former college baseball coach.   A music lover and Bob Dylan junkie, Moyer has played drums in various ensembles over the years (but not with the Rolling Stones).   He majored in English at the University of Wisconsin and earned a doctorate from Northern Illinois University.   Moyer is a school superintendent in Southeastern Wisconsin and is an instructor for Aurora University.   He currently resides in the greater Chicago area.

Kimberly Caldwell – Kimberly is a freelance writer and editor in Connecticut.   She earned a B.A. in Journalism and Business at Lehigh University, and earned her chops as a reporter and copy editor at a daily newspaper, an editor of electronic display industry news, neurology studies and romance novels, and as the general manager of an independent fine-dining restaurant.

Kelly Monson – Kelly is a former school principal and special education teacher who earned her Doctorate, Educational Specialist Degree, Master’s Degree and Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Illinois University and a second Master’s in Educational Leadership from Aurora University.   She is an avid reader and writer and travels extensively (with and without her three children).   She currently resides in the greater Chicago area.

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