Interior Design for the Literature Lover: A Review

I review a lot of books here, but I don’t think I have ever reviewed a book on interior design. However, I was drawn to Lisa Borgnes Giramonti‘s book Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature by my love of classic novels. What keeps me reading a novel is mostly the plot and characters, but what makes me return to a novel again (or continue reading more works by the same author) is the setting, the world the author has created. Giramonti and photographer Ivan Terestchenko have delivered a gift for all literature lovers in this book, described on the back cover as “the ultimate book-lover’s guide to decorating.”

The book comes in six chapters, each of which explores a different style inspired by well-known authors. Giramonti explains them as follows in her introduction:

  • In “Shall I Put the Kettle On?” I’ll give you the decorating basics that authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Gaskell consider essential to a home that’s cozy and unpretentious. You’ll learn how to create the ultimate reading refuge, how to organize the perfect kitchen pantry, and why threadbare rugs have so much soul.
  • If you’re more drawn to the refined interiors of Edith Wharton, Evelyn Waugh, or Henry James, then start with “Remembrance of Things Past.” In it, you’ll discover the visual power of symmetry, why buying gold-rimmed china is something you’ll never regret, and how to live like you’re in a stately home even if you’re in a third-floor walk-up.
  • Maybe you favor an unvarnished approach to life like Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, and Willa Cather. In the “Living au Naturel” chapter, it’s all about handmade over man-made. You’ll learn why a pared-down room feels sacred, how to keep a neutral room from turning ten shades of blah, and how to set your table for a perfect rustic feast.
  • Perhaps you’re like F. Scott Fitzgerald, W. Somerset Maugham, and Beverley Nichols and love sleek interiors, geometric patterns, and lots of white and black. In “Oh, the Glamour of It All,” I’ll explain why reflective surfaces add sophistication to a space, what a great room has in common with a well-tailored wardrobe, and how to set up a classic cordial bar for your next cocktail party.
  • Do you embrace color, chaos, and the unconventional? You’re in good company—so do Isak Dinesen, Katherine Mansfield, and Lawrence Durrell. In the “Anything Goes” chapter, you’ll learn how to mix patterns like a pro, how to re-create some of Virginia Woolf’s favorite flower arrangements, and why floor cushions are an absolute must for your home.
  • If you appreciate drama in your interiors, chances are you have a little pleasure seeker in you. Head straight to the “Sometimes a Fantasy” chapter and take a cue from authors like Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, and Ronald Firbank. Here, you’ll discover the genius of a draped wall, how to add some theatricality to your dinner table, and ways to turn a bedroom into one that’s totally Proust-worthy. (16–19)

The book has many lovely full-color photos, as well as numerous notes on style and quotes from classic books. This is a great hardcover coffee table book for anyone who enjoys both literature and interior design. I should point out, however, that the subtitle is clear that these rooms are inspired by literature. They’re intended to evoke the style of particular works, not to be exact replicas of particular rooms from favorite books. I think, coming at this book as a literature aficionado rather than an interior design one, actual replications of rooms in classic works would have been more intriguing to me. Nevertheless, I can see this book appealing to the right audience of people who care deeply about both literature and interior design.

Note: Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program.