Three newly released books just came my way from a publishing house called Schiffer out of Atglen, PA, which specializes in non-fiction covering just about every area of interest from witchcraft to canoe building to lifestyle and more—over 3,100 titles to be close.
I’ll review two of them in this column. The first book is titled Inspired High-End Interior Design by Shane Reilly; the second is Showhouse Review, An Exposé of Interior Decorating Events by Tina Skinner.
Ooh, an exposé! I can hardly wait.
Before I say anything else, I want you to know that my job as a reviewer is to look at something as unbiased as I can, and try to weigh and measure the pluses and minuses of a piece of work.
Both books cover the same territory: they offer photographs from showhouses and designer installations throughout the United States over the past couple of years. One author clearly does a better job with her material than the other does. I’d like to mention: this is not a review of the actual photographs themselves or the rooms they depict. This is a review of how two authors took a bunch of photos submitted by designers and how much effort they put into their projects, and how you can benefit from the purchase of either of these two books.
I am now going to set up a little chart. I thought a visual aid would be much more effective than your having to wade through a bunch of copy. (Note: You will see that what I have just written is something one of the “authors” clearly took to heart.)
Here’s your chart:
Looking at my handy chart, you will see that one book offers a lot more photographs than the other. I’d also like to note that the Inspired book, with fewer photos, also presents, in many cases, a variety of photos from the same room, leading to a feeling of duplication on the pages. The Exposé book has a mix up of both: a couple of different shots from the same room or two different shots from the same designer.
Showhouse Review invites the reader to “travel coast to coast and witness many of the country’s premier decorator events.” And truly, a lot of terrific events are featured on the pages. But if you are looking for any information about the events, the idea behind the design—anything cohesive, you won’t find it here. This is a book devoid of information; I flipped through it and was truly shocked. Each page has a photo or two, along with the designer’s name and company represented, the name of the event (though no information on what part of the country), the year the photo was taken and who took the photo. That’s it, kids.
Then, to my confusion, the pages are backed with some kind of icky greenish brown coloration—certainly not a color that complements these photos. It’s just the color to make the whites look sallow and the browns look muted.
In any case, there’s also no exposé, which really bummed me out because, to me, anything that has the word ‘exposé’ in the title should have something juicy inside.
However (here’s the positive part of my review), if you are looking for a flipbook of images to show your client, room by room, then it may be worth finding. I wish I could say I liked this book. But if you are looking for a book to learn from, you won’t find it in this one. If you’re looking for a bunch of photos in seemingly no particular order or style or focus except that they are the same kind of room, then by all means, spend the $45 bucks.
Now Inspired High-End Interior Design takes a different approach, so despite that there are fewer photos, you will likely benefit from the accompanying text. Each designer who contributed photographs (or paid to be in the book; it’s hard to know) was interviewed and offered some information on how the room came to be. One designer mentioned that the space was designed for a client who needed to entertain large groups, but also not feel alone when the room was empty. Another designer explained that his clients were looking to update their formal living room with a younger look—and how he accomplished the task. It makes interesting reading and the text isn’t so long that you feel as if you are plodding through a bunch of unnecessary adjectives.
What is difficult about this book is that the rooms are set up into inspirations rather than by room or room style, so you may find a lush, moody bathroom followed by a bright, modern bedroom in the same chapter. Keep your post-it flags handy for those rooms you find inspiring, so you can remember where you found it.
With pages backed in white instead of the gray-green in Exposé, the photos pop well on the page.
All in all, neither book makes me really excited, but I feel that if you want to learn from others’ experience, Inspired is your book; if you want something you can have your clients flip through, perhaps Exposé should be your choice.
Kathleen Stoehr is the owner of Chemistry Creative, a design and editorial firm and is the former editor-in-chief of Window Fashions magazine, as well as a host of others, and is a member of the adjunct faculty at the School of Communication Arts. She is also the author of three books on interior design. Her latest, The Complete Home Decorating Idea Book is new from Charles Randall, Inc. in February 2008.