In another magazine-not-content-to-be-just-a-magazine move, House Beautiful recently released House Beautiful Window Workshop, by Tessa Evelegh. This isn’t a bad thing. Branding, such as House Beautiful lending its impeccable credentials to a product, has become commonplace. Indeed, says Regis McKenna, chairman of The McKenna Group, Mountain View, CA, “Branding has become a religion in most corporations and it's very hard to dislodge it, because people believe that the brand itself is something that changes consumer behavior.”
So, would you choose this book because House Beautiful very
clearly has anointed it, or would you choose this book because it’s
exactly what you’re looking for? Let’s compare.
Since 1896, House Beautiful’s mission statement has
remained constant: it is “The magazine of style to inspire
your own.” Each month, House Beautiful brings reports on interior
design trends, product design, how-to and home maintenance tips
and information on where to find clearly unique products for a home’s
interior. While some issues are stronger than others, this magazine
has clearly found its niche in the market and maintained a strong,
With an introduction and description of the book from the current
editor, Mark Mayfield, offering encouraging words on how well the
Window Workshop will suit the reader’s needs, the book
then sets the scene with information on window architecture, fabric
choices and the context of windows to a room.
The information is to the point, not overly flowery, and doesn’t
go into so much detail that one’s head will rotate. Novice
window designers and the experimenting homeowner will learn much
from these short, two-page sections.
A discussion of window styles follows. Again, well done and to the
point. Text flows well across the page and harmonizes with the accompanying
photography. Informational captions, complete with directional lines
to highlight details within the photo, are helpful.
A Workshop Reference at the back of the book shows how to measure
for a treatment and how to estimate fabric, and offers line illustrations
of various hooks, tracks and notions. In my opinion, the reference
guide at the back is a weak area in the book. There isn’t enough
information to make it useful; and most people (if we’re sticking
with the idea that this book is an offshoot of the magazine “brand”)
wouldn’t be interested in learning how to sew their own treatments
The book offers no glossary, which is fine but probably would have
been a more appropriate use of space than the Workshop Reference.
Some areas fall short in matching beauty of book to beauty of magazine.
One of those areas is the Trims & Tiebacks section. While there
is some lovely close-up photography, there is also some substandard
photography (such as a photograph being run to exhibit contrast
tassels, and yet . . . all the tassels are out of focus), and also
plenty of watercolor illustrations that look sadly one-dimensional.
Indeed, throughout the book, all of the watercolor illustrations
(and believe me, there are many) are really not all that well done.
They do exhibit what needs to be shown, but could have been done
much better. These areas remind me of a rip-off version of Charles
T. Randall’s Encyclopedia of Window Fashions. If you
want nicely detailed color drawings, that’s the book to choose.
And yet, I can’t take my eyes off the yummy photographs that
pepper the book throughout. Truly, the soft, pretty interiors, showcasing
a variety of fabric treatments, are inspiring and well chosen. Beautiful
pastel sidebars coordinate well with the chosen photography, offering
a graceful, easy, welcoming look.
In general, this is a well-put-together book, and befitting of the
branding moniker it received from Hearst Books. For the average
homeowner, this book will offer a variety of ideas for reworking
and/or specifying window treatments in the home. For the designer,
there are a few photographs that could be used to illustrate design
styles to a customer. All in all, this is a nice book, and while
it may not be exactly the book that will solve all of your window
treatment problems or answer all of your questions, the brand recognition
that House Beautiful offers makes it all the more tempting
Kathleen Stoehr is president of Chemistry Creative, based in
Minneapolis, MN. She is a former editor-in-chief of Window Fashions
magazine and is the author of the recently published Dream Floors,
Hundreds of Ideas for Every Type of Floor, available from Randall
International. Stoehr can be contacted for comments, queries and
trend information at firstname.lastname@example.org.