Poring over the best new decorating books, we found the best design ideas to steal for your own home.
With so many must-read home design books available, it can be tricky choosing just one. So we took the guesswork out and compiled a list of eight great books, all available this fall, that will help you find your personal decorating style—and explain how to achieve it.
Interior design journalist and consultant Amy Moorea Wong showcases 20 homes to demonstrate how to add color in a way that’s sophisticated yet accessible.
Buy It: Kaleidoscope: Modern Homes in Every Colour by Amy Moorea Wong, $50, Hardie Grant
Lesson 1: Vary Shades of Color
Mixing darker and lighter shades of the same color family unites a room without looking too matchy. It lets you introduce a fun color like purple without it being overwhelming. In this room designed by Nicole Dohmen, the pale pink table feels like a neutral that anchors the space.
“For me, interiors have always been about self-expression and creativity—the place where we live offering a blank canvas, a chance to do something interesting and reflect who we are.”
Amy Moorea Wong
Lesson 2: Balance Lines and Curves
A room with all angles can be too rigid, while nothing but rounded shapes can be too soft. The oval table, arched dining chairs, and orbs in the chandelier balance the long lines of the drapes, windows, and ceiling panels.
Celebrating the timelessness of traditional styles, this guide from experts at Schumacher, the iconic fabric company founded in 1889, shows you how to make chintz, toile, and needlepoint look totally fresh today.
Buy It: Charm School: The Schumacher Guide to Traditional Decorating for Today by Emma Bazilian and Stephanie Diaz, $55, Phaidon
Lesson 3: Let Pattern be the Main Event
Wrapping a room in botanical paper doesn’t have to overwhelm, especially if the background is neutral and the pattern delicate. It can be cozy and enveloping, lending old-world chic to this living room by Ashley Whittaker. The solid color sofas are grounding, as is the light rug; a butterfly design on pillows and the ottoman adds playfulness.
Lesson 4: Put It in Unexpected Places
In the foyer of designer Ariel Okin, a scallop-edge runner, checkerboard bench seat, and floral lampshades add visual texture and a bit of whimsy to the traditional millwork and striped wallpaper. Natural elements (here, various kinds of rattan and straw) help keep things from getting too formal.
Buy It: Arranging Things by Colin King, $50, Rizzoli
Lesson 5: Commit to a Color
For his own loft in NYC’s Tribeca, King used a palette of beige, cream, and pale wood tones. To get just the right shade, he had a custom color created (this can be done at most hardware or paint stores). Having elements of nearly the same value allowed him to mix curvy and straight shapes and traditional with modern objects and still have it all feel cohesive.
Lesson 6: Get Down Low
Keeping everything closer to the floor can accomplish several things. It makes a smaller room feel larger and doesn’t block windows for maximum light and airiness. It also brings a low-key and relaxed, somewhat slouchy mood, no matter how formal the space.
Old Brand New
All-around decor maestro Dabito uses highly personal anecdotes about how he finds solace in his own creativity to help you unleash yours.
Buy It: Old Brand New: Colorful Homes for Maximal Living by Dabito, $35, Penguin Random House
Lesson 7: Mix Materials
One of Dabito’s strengths is mixing disparate elements to create spaces with big personality. Start with plain pieces like cabinetry, make some medium-impact additions (the deep green island, wood floors, and rattan stools), then add wow moments like the tile and wallpaper.
Lesson 8: Create Depth with Color
Repeating a rich hue, such as the emerald green here in the foreground (island) and background (backsplash tile), makes the room seem deeper. It also unifies the two elements and makes each swath of color feel less jarring.
Designing Rooms with Joie de Vivre
Interior designer and decor shop owner Amanda Reynal breaks down the art of mixing elegant and playful.
Buy It: Designing Rooms with Joie de Vivre: A Fresh Take on Classic Style by Amanda Reynal, $40, Abrams
Lesson 9: Hit the Mute Button
Using subtle patterns lets you layer without clashing—while having a lot of fun. Too many small prints can look busy, so mix scale, as here with a large floral on the sofa, a medium geometric in the rug, and a small check on throw pillows.
“Classic pieces can be on trend without being trendy. The best part is that even if a classic wanes in popularity, it will still mingle beautifully in your home. With a little imagination, creativity, and an open mind, a classic is always right.”
Lesson 10: Be Fabulously Practical
Don’t let the fact that it’s an outdoor room throw you. Lots of materials can stand up to the elements. Look for fabrics made from solution-dyed acrylic (they repel liquids and stains) and rugs that can be hosed off and sun-dried or put in the washing machine.
Memories of Home
Self-taught designer Heidi Caillier illustrates her spirited style and penchant for creating spaces that are timeless and unique.
Buy It: Memories of Home: Interiors by Heidi Caillier, $60, Rizzoli
Lesson 11: Nod to the Familiar
In this bathroom, lilac Moroccan zellige tiles with irregular surfaces and black trim are an update to the retro, allover-pink-tile bathroom. Tiles on the lower half of the room suggest somewhere far away and out of the ordinary. Wrapping a room in a pattern like this one makes it feel special rather than like an afterthought.
“Discover a love of tension—a play between masculine and feminine, old and new, modern and traditional. I want my designs to feel unexpected but rooted in tradition.”
Lesson 12: Add Character
A classic vanity made from dark-stained wood and contrasting marble, instead of an all-white model, brings gravitas to the space. Similarly, the ornate, unusually shaped mirror is a bit surprising and exciting.
This celebration of projects, stories, and advice from 50 Black interior designers
is curated by June Reese, vice president of Black Interior Designers Inc.
Buy It: Iconic Home: Interiors, Advice, and Stories from 50 Amazing Black Designers by June Reese, $50, Abrams
Lesson 13: Use the Couch as an Anchor
Even in a confident color like orange, a giant sectional can have a grounding effect, drawing you in without overpowering. You can then play with solid and patterned accessories for interest, as designer Justina Blakeney did in her living room. Throw pillows and a printed ottoman supply pattern; the textured rug is another solid but one with dimension.
“Each designer in the book shares their wisdom and the design process they use to produce beautiful interiors. I hope that you can use their knowledge in your own home to create spaces that foster wellness.”
Lesson 14: Play with Shelves
Stack books flat to act as pedestals for objects. Add in favorite keepsakes of varying heights, separating heavier items for balance. Break up horizontal lines with cascading plants.
Right at Home
Bobby Berk, a star of Netflix’s Queer Eye, helps you find your style. (The secret: It’s basically anything that makes you happy.)
Buy It: Right at Home: How Good Design Is Good for the Mind by Bobby Berk, $35, Penguin Random House
Lesson 15: Take Notes from the Outdoors
When a window has a view of nature, pull those elements in. Brady Tolbert, creative director at Bobby Berk, uses an assortment of woods in this office. The pale tones of the desk, step stool, and decorative chain are coupled with deep cherry hues in the chair, ceiling, and wall, acting like a color.
“So much of what I cover in this book requires little to no money because, like happiness, good design doesn’t come from making huge purchases.”
Lesson 16: Make It Personal
Turn the wall itself into an ever-changing inspiration board: Tape up pictures, fabric swatches, dried flowers, or anything else you love. To keep it neat, make an outline on the wall with removable painters tape, add your inspo inside the lines, then remove the tape, and voilà!
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