Home may be where the heart is, but what living space—no matter how beloved—couldn’t use a little sprucing up? From quick-fix projects to complete overhauls, these five books provide inspiration and guidance for adding style to your abode.
Sherry and John Petersik, the upbeat couple behind the popular blog younghouselove.com, cheer on DIY-ers in Young House Love. Filled with the Petersiks’ goofy humor and constant encouragement, this idea book is filled with “243 ways to paint, craft, update and show your home some love.” Even if you’ve never picked a paint color in your life—let alone undertaken a transformation of your entire house—you’ll feel bolstered to head to the nearest hardware store and get to it. Easy-to-browse, photo-filled chapters include suggestions for every part of your home, exterior included. The projects range from free (rearrange your living room); to inexpensive (make your own headboard); to pricier but worth the impact (hang wallpaper on a focal wall). Many of the projects are appropriate for apartment dwellers and renters, and decorators on a budget will appreciate the ideas for repurposing what you already have (the Petersiks are self-proclaimed cheapos). DIY newbies will gain confidence from this young couple’s advice to “embrace what makes you happy.”
HEART OF THE HOUSE
Canadian interior designer Candice Olson, host of “Divine Design” on HGTV, turns her eye toward what may be our most lived-in rooms in Candice Olson Family Spaces. Olson showcases a series of “challenges” and “solutions” to demonstrate how she took lackluster, cluttered and dated family rooms and turned them into stylish, highly functional spaces. And if you don’t happen to have a large basement lair just waiting for a makeover—or the budget to gut a room or buy custom cabinetry—Olson’s suggestions are still food for thought. (Organize a multipurpose space into zones; turn two stacked and slip-covered twin mattresses into a daybed, which can double as guest beds at night.) Some of her ideas are downright ingenious; I was stumped on how to configure a playroom/guest room/weight room until I saw the “after” picture of this particular re-do. (The clever solution involves panel doors that partition off not-kid-friendly weights.) This is a great guide if you want to organize your family room and give it some oomph.
HOMEY AND HIP
Uber-hip design team Robert and Cortney Novogratz—parents to seven children, successful house flippers, HGTV stars, proponents of a “vintage modern” aesthetic—give you the tools to capture their style in Home by Novogratz. The cheerful narration takes readers from the Pioneer Woman’s ranch in Oklahoma (where the designers redecorated an attic bedroom) to sunny Trancoso, Brazil (where they built a Swiss Family Robinson-?inspired tree house). The pages burst with color in this cool and friendly tome, which pays homage to both high-end furniture and quirky thrift store gems. One of the book’s handiest elements is the budget analysis at the end of every project; the tallies will help you know what you’re up against before you start planning your dream home. And if you’re not in the market for an updated urban pad—or beach cabana, as the case may be? You’ll still love the eye candy and the doable how-tos that would add flair to any home.
Part memoir, part encyclopedia of objects, The Things That Matter by designer Nate Berkus is a passionate exploration of the stuff that gives life meaning. From a restless childhood in Minnesota, to his first job, to the nightmare of vacationing in Sri Lanka when the 2004 tsunami hit, Berkus describes his life—and his evolving philosophy of design. He also takes readers into the beautiful homes of 12 other people (along with his own), all the while telling the stories of the possessions that add spark to these knockout spaces. Because, as Berkus writes in his introduction: “The truth is, things matter. They have to. They’re what we live with and touch each and every day. They represent what we’ve seen, who we’ve loved, and where we hope to go next. They remind us of the good times and the rough patches, and everything in between that’s made us who we are.”
Thom Filicia found fame as one of the “Fab Five” on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and in American Beauty he further showcases his decorating chops. In 2008, Filicia passed a “for sale” sign in front of a house near Skaneateles Lake in central New York. He knew it was impractical to buy a property more than four hours from Manhattan, but Filicia recognized love when he felt it. He bought the Colonial-with-potential and embarked on fixing it up. This book—an ode to the Finger Lakes region and a testament to American design—chronicles that journey, empowering readers in the midst of their own renovations. Filicia’s enthusiasm for learning the provenance of his house and using local vendors for materials and furnishings is infectious; the tips on making smart design choices are useful. His ultimate message rings true: “All the time and effort spent collecting and purchasing is just the beginning. The design is in the living.”