Style for the real you – New Year New You

Style for the real you – New Year New You – Bibliography

Tonya Leslie

We all want to have beautiful homes that reflect our personal style and sensibility. But money, time and design-phobia can stall even the best intentions. Often, we dismiss our own sense of style and seek professional design advice believing that when it comes to successful interior decorating, some people have it and some people don’t.

Three new books help debunk the myth that interior design is a craft best left in the hands of an ASID-certified (American Society of Interior Designers) professional. Instead, these books insist that style is innate and all that’s needed to turn a so-so-looking room into a stunning space is an under standing of your own unique style. Translating that knowledge into reality is what turns a house into a home that is uniquely, comfortably and completely yours.

Defining your style

White walls, milk crates and an Ikea catalogue might be a winning combination in the play-it-safe school of interior decor, but Sheila Bridges hopes to challenge the design-by-the-numbers school of thought in her first book, Furnishing Forward: A Practical Guide to Furnishing for a Lifetime.

Furnishing Forward (Bulfinch Press) helps readers define their personal style and buy quality pieces that represent who they are–all on a realistic budget.

“Since so many people are intimidated by the mere notion of decorating, I was inspired to write a book that would take some of the mystery out of interior design and put some of the humor back in,” Bridges writes in her book. And she succeeds.

Bridges’ Furnishing Forward reads like sage advice from a good friend. Chocked full of practical design wisdom, amusing anecdotes and even a witty do’s and don’t list: “Don’t buy cheap, contemporary black lacquer or black leather furniture … these items seem to be very popular among bachelors in their twenties and thirties.” Bridges demystifies the experience of interior decorating, making it seem affordable, accessible and fun.

The strength of Furnishing Forward is its ability to understand some of the roadblocks that thwart successful decorating. For many people, chic living is finding a peaceful partnership between Grandma’s old dresser, a college futon and a brand-new computer desk. Bridges doesn’t ask that you scrap what you have and buy into a new design philosophy, rather she asks you to create your own style–and then work visually to define it.

“Those who try to masquerade their style sensibilities often end up with homes that may look nice on the surface but have no substance or depth,” Bridges explains. “Style has a lot less to do with money and a lot more to do with confidence.”

Named “America’s Best Interior Designer” by CNN and Time magazine, it’s no wonder that Bridges has a rooster of celebrity clients. She recently designed the Harlem offices of former President Bill Clinton and his staff in New York.

Furnishing Forward allows Bridges to take her high-end design expertise and translate it into advice that will certainly challenge your ideas about personal style. But it won’t challenge your bank account. “All of the advice is practical and pretty basic, and it doesn’t matter what your budget is–the book is for everyone,” Bridges says. “Spending $40.00 on my design book is a lot less money than it would cost to hire me to decorate your home!”

Finding inspiration

Once you’ve defined the look and feel you are going for, it’s time to find a little inspiration. So why not journey to Harlem, a harbinger of style. Luckily the writers of Harlem Style: Designing for the New Urban Aesthetic (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) have done it for you. They explore some of the historical themes of this revered neighborhood and delve into the past to show how Harlem has always defined and pushed the elements of style.

“Harlem is symbolic of the national trend across the country of people moving back into urban centers,” explains interior designer Roderick Shade. “There is a definite style associated with this movement–part contemporary, global, ethnic and flea market find.” It is this combination of style that Shade calls the new urban aesthetic.

Once a thriving center for the arts and political discourse, the Harlem of the 1920s was hip and cutting-edge. Shade documents this with period pictures of local hotspots and residences. As time passed, stores closed

down and many residents fled to the suburbs. After years of decline, Harlem is back in what some are calling a second renaissance.

Shade partnered with Essence writer and lifestyle editor Jorge Arango to define this new movement–visually–in Harlem Style. Flipping through the book, it’s easy to agree with Arango, who says, “The new urban aesthetic is less a design movement than a way of thinking about the space you live in.”

Today’s urban dwellers often carve out space in unique settings that bring their own challenges and charms. However, rather than hiding the aesthetics of older buildings, modern urbanites are emphasizing the virtues of character. Whether it is the shoe-scuffed floors of a classroom turned loft, or the industrial windows of a former warehouse, Harlem Style has documented these nontraditional spaces and the mix of eclectic styles that decorate them.

“Harlem represents that movement toward re-urbanization. It represents a worldliness that you don’t get in more suburban areas,” Mango explains. “It has to do with fashion and music. It is more hip, more knowing. It mixes high art with original cultures. Basically, it is a much more adventurous way to design your home.”

The adventure is found in the elaborately conceived rooms that leap out from the pages of Harlem Style and offer a mix of colors and textures. There’s a harmonic blend of ethnicity in these homes. African masks hang above Chinese dressers that sit atop Victorian rugs. Thrift-store chic meets the global village and the combinations are stunning and provide a uniquely urban flair.

“It is my hope that any reader will be able to find real affordable ways to really `claim’ their space,” explains Shade, who included photos some of the homes he designed. “Put a bit of color on the walls. The worst that could happen is that you would have to repaint. Go for it!”

Motherland style

If “chic” is the French word for style, and “safari” can be translated as “uncovering and discovering,” then Safari Chic is aptly named. The authors have designed a beautiful travelogue that uncovers the stylish and sometimes historic safari camps dotted throughout Africa. Safari Chic: Wild Exteriors and Polished Interiors of Africa (Gibbs Smith Publishers) shows you where to find inspiration, and how to bring it back home.

Historically, safari camps were places where weary hunters resigned for a cognac at the end of the day. Heavy with mosquito netting, thatched roofs, African prints and animal rugs, these camps were designed to serve some of the needs of wealthy hunters. The camps had to be comfortable and offer a certain level of elegance and sophistication. But they also had to be transportable and blend in with the scenic background.

Today’s safari camps still offer an oldworld charm. But they do so using materials that can be found anywhere. Writer Bibi Jordan traveled throughout Africa highlighting the interior decor of the modern safari camp and was surprised to find that the look was often created using products found in her own hometown.

“I was astonished that this exclusive camp was being decorated with things that anyone here in the States could buy,” Jordan says. She was asked to bring Pottery Barn products to one camp. “I looked at what they did with cots and rugs and thought, `That’s what I want to do at home.'”

This mixture of fashion and function can be seen in the bright visuals of Safari Chic. There is an element of surprise in many of the designs, as unusual items take on ordinary functions. Ostrich eggs are used for wall sconces and animal horns hold toilet paper, giving the camps a and distinctively African style.

Despite the presence of animal skins and horns, the only thing being shot on modern safaris are photos. You won’t find too many mounted lion’s heads. Though the tone of the safari has changed, the romantic mix of elegance and mobile simplicity still lingers on. “Because `safari’ is after all, temporary, continuously packed-up and recreated, it’s a great look for making a change,” says Jordan.

She partnered with designer John Tripp to recreate some of the African looks she encountered on safari–stateside. Tripp and Jordan frequented stores like Target and Home Depot to find ways to use ordinary items to create unusual looks. What does she advise others to do? “Pour over the photos and then challenge yourself to recreate a look using only the things that you already have in your home or garden,” Jordan says. “Focus on releasing your creative resources, not your financial resources.”

Together, Furnishing Forward, Harlem Style and Safari Chic offer the practicality and the inspiration for interior design. Part function, part history and part fantasy, these books give you the tools to create a dream space in your home on a modest budget.

Designing Fantasy

The challenge: Turn Oprah’s studio into a wedding wonderland. That’s just what Preston Bailey delivered using his secret weapon–flowers. In 17 hours, Bailey turned ordinary set design accessories into extraordinary flower arrangements for an extravagant wedding fantasy!

Now everyone can see more of Bailey’s exceptional design ideas in his new book, Preston Bailey’s Design for Entertaining: Inspiration for Creating the Party of Your Dreams (Bulfinch Press).

“This book is dearly about fantasy design,” says Barley. “We have tried to make it accessible for the layperson.” Design for Entertaining shows the genius of Bailey’s party-planning panache.

No detail is overlooked. Bailey uses lighting, color and unusual and interesting themes to show readers how to accent any event. And Bailey uses flowers–lots of them! Flowers are often a focal point in Bailey’s fantasy designs, and he uses them generously, creating centerpieces, wall hangings and room dividers–even creating a floral elephant to pull together a theme party for a client’s trip to India. “We are trying to inspire [people] to target ideas for their own events,” says Bailey.

In the business for more than 20 years, Bailey admits that a great deal of his design sensibility comes from his years of experience planning events. Along the way; he has come up with advice that he employs to help keep costs low and creativity high. “My floating rose bowl design takes several roses apart and reconstructs one large rose in floating water,” says Bailey, offering one of his budget-conscious suggestions. “Use one color or one species of flower and keep repeating it throughout,” he adds. Tips like this spare expense, but not style.

Though Design for Entertaining is filled with ideas that could overwhelm a novice, Bailey suggests that keeping it simple is the key to successful event planning “Take one element that is unique and special or an area that is important,” he says, “and make a certain statement.” Then follow through in the details!–Tonya Leslie

Tonya Leslie is a freelance writer in New York City. She has written several books for children. Part of BIBR’s “New Year, New You” series (page 60), in this issue, Leslie previews some of the latest books on home design and entertaining to help kick off a stylish new year.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Cox, Matthews & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group