Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Book Review: Perfect English by Ros Byam Shaw

April 3, 2009


Perfect English by Ros Byam Shaw is one of those books: one for which you’ll want to set aside a whole afternoon, turn off your phone, brew a big pot of tea, and spend hours immersed in the engaging text and delectable photos. Like that other great English institution Mary Poppins, it is practically perfect in every way.**


It has everything you’d expect from a book about English interiors: plump tufted chesterfields, sumptuous chinoiserie wallcoverings, and antiques galore! I’m pretty much convinced that every house in the British Isles has a hidden attic filled with glorious remnants from times passed…


But there’s so much more to this book than manor houses and country estates. An entire chapter is devoted to that weathered, spare aesthetic that the English do so well. Modern furnishings mix with rustic architecture to create rooms that seem to stand still in time.


When it comes to interiors, ‘shaggy’ isn’t usually a desirable adjective. However, this bright and cozy living room takes shaggy to unseen heights of splendour!


Perhaps I’ve read one too many Regency-era romance novels, but I picture all English children playing with charming and wholesome toys like rolling hoops and spinning tops. This vignette is proof of that, right? Right? (Please don’t burst my bubble on this one, folks!)


Apparently the owner of this home wanted her living room to ‘look like Biba‘. Hence the
madcap mix of ethnic textiles, boho granny florals, and riotous color. As Austin Powers would
say, ‘Very grrrr, baby!’


Where do I even begin with this spectacular dining room? The marble floor, the classic lines of the chairs paired with the playful farmhouse linens, the botanical folding screen? Oh, and shouldn’t every home worth its salt should have a giant framed butterfly collection?


Of course if minimalism is more your scene, there’s nothing like a pure white room with
some carefully edited vintage tableware. Don’t you love the unexpected presence of those
red leather chairs?

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Reason No. 459 to start a teacup collection? To have a breakfast nook as sunny and cheerful as this one! (Better not ask me what the other 458 reasons are; I’m sure I could come up with them, and that would just be frightening for us all.)


And speaking of collections, Eddie Ross eat your heart out! Have you ever seen so many
ironstone vessels in once place? I have a feeling that woman above the mantel has heard the rumours about my propensity for breaking delicate objects. The expression on her face screams, ‘Look but don’t touch, Anne!’


All images courtesy of Perfect English by Ros Byam Shaw, photography by Chris Tubbs. A huge thanks to Chelsea from Frolic for the find—she too is ‘practically perfect in every way’. Have a beautiful weekend everyone!

**With most sincere apologies for dredging up every British stereotype under the sun!

Book Review: Simple Style by Julia Bird

March 11, 2009

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I think you should sit down for this. Honestly, these images from ‘Simple Style: Relaxed Interiors for the Contempory Home‘ by Julia Bird are so stunning–I don’t want anyone to faint from the breathtaking beauty of it all.

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These shots are a perfect example of a style that I have dubbed ‘Glamorganic‘–that blend of feminine vintage and weathered modern pieces so characteristic of many British interiors. Not surprising really, as author Julia Bird was an editor at Homes and Gardens magazine and has worked as a stylist for such venerable English institutions as Laura Ashley and Marks and Spencer.

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The images in this book are like a warm hug from your mom. I really want to burrow down into them, bask in the dreamy lighting and layered textures. They’re full of all our favourite details: bleached plank floors, clean, spare furniture arrangements, gentle pops of color against neutral foundations.


Would you believe me if I told you this wrought iron bed is nearly identical to the one in my parents’ bedroom? When I was little we lived in Georgia, and I remember my mom dragging me through the countryside to every hole-in-the-wall antique store in search of pieces like this. As a kid I hated it, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to do that with her now!

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I had to include these two shots for my girls out there who love a punch of red. Whether your scene is stripes, florals, or all of the above, there’s no denying the power of this color!

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And speaking of power, can we talk about this leopard print sofa? I dream of having a little study just like this one–the walls lined with books, the sun streaming through tall windows, and a decadent couch for lounging and eating bonbons. Purr…

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This table setting practically begs for a generous spread of waffles, cinnamon buns, and freshly squeezed O.J. The soft citrus color palette, from the striped curtains in the background to the dahlias in the pitcher, makes this such a cheerful and invigorating breakfast nook!

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I’ve explored the merits of chalkboards as decor before, but this one takes it to a whole other level! I love the oversized scale of it, especially in contrast to those teeny weeny chairs. And the rustic wood frame is the icing on the cake.

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My inner clean freak (the one who laments my pigsty of a house but can’t quite summon the energy to do anything about it) is having heart palpitations at the sight of this tidy column of linens. Of course maybe if I had such a charming collection of vintage sheets and bedspreads, I’d keep them this neatly folded too!


I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the shockingly gorgeous images from this book. So get thee to Amazon post haste and snap up a copy of ‘Simple Style: Relaxed Interiors for the Contempory Home‘ by Julia Bird. And when you flip through it for the first time, keep a paper bag handy in case you start to hyperventilate.

All images courtesy of ‘Simple Style: Relaxed Interiors for the Contempory Home‘ by Julia Bird.