Two Decorating Books By ELLE DÉCOR
Of the two sleek, coffee-table books put out by ELLE DÉCOR, Style And Substance and So Chic, the latter contains many photos of people who are famous or look as though they should be. Yet, both of these hefty, art and décor guides offer a welcome and thoroughly pleasurable experience in gleaning an insightful trove of decorating ideas.
What Is Chic?
In the earlier published book, So Chic, the Editor in Chief and creative wizard, Margaret Russell, goes so far as to consult Webster’s dictionary to find the exact meaning of the word Chic:
“cleverly stylish; smart; a woman who adapts fashion to her own personality”.
Within the ensuing 237 pages, cleverly stylish rooms burst forth framing the kinds of beautiful spaces in which almost anyone would feel comfortable: plush pillows and velvety sofas, sparkling chandeliers and warm antiques; unusual objet d’art and flowers everywhere!
Russell shares her personal credo for chic by quoting Vietnamese-born, Manhattan fashion designer Zang Toi. Of his Paris in New York decorated apartment, he says,
“When I come home after a long day, this place puts me in a good mood.”
And this is precisely the effect of So Chic upon turning its slick, heavy pages: one’s mood shifts down into a relaxed, fascinated and enchanted happiness.
As with entrepreneurial jewelry designer, Temple St. Clair Carr, who has traveled the world to find the creations that furnish her home, here the personal décor of the celebrated conjures a familial ring of the every-day.
From her grandmother’s 19th-century tea table and an antique, Moroccan bird cage, to European vintage china and Pakistani rugs in the children’s room, Carr has a gift for finding items that evoke a history, a childhood, the itinerant wanderings of a romantic traveler.
The book inspires ideas and the notion that we can all make our own chic living spaces. The pages are hyphenated with helpful tips from featured notables by way of brief columns called inside information. So that even though we do not garner the income of the rich and famous, such as Park Avenue designer, Kenneth Jay Lane, his decorating expertise and panache speak directly to the comfort-loving spirit in us all.
“Why do people talk about hanging art? It’s hanging pictures. My drawing room is decorated with Orientalist paintings. They are hung salon-style, like in an old-fashioned gallery, so some are displayed quite high. You don’t have to have everything right in front of your nose.” - Lane
“This is the first place we’ve done together; this is our married house. Rande is edgy and Armani-esque … and I prefer rooms that are cozy. We each had to step out of our safety zones and find something we both liked.”
“We had our home feng shui’d, and it turned out that the good that came in flowed right out the other side, so we placed a large round table in the center of the hall.” – Cindy Crawford
“We didn’t want anything stuffy or showy… when it’s filled with people, they become pieces of art that make it even more beautiful.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
“I have a high tolerance for chips and scratches and stains. I think there’s too much emphasis on perfection – not a spot of wear, looking mint condition.” – writer and art historian, Amy Fine Colllins
“I respect le style Rothschild, but that wasn’t the way I wanted to live… it’s not about topiaries or Staffordshire bull terriers. It’s deeply personal…” – Lynn de Rothschild
“The house is very much a self-portrait.” – artist, David Salle
“I wanted to start over. But you can’t avoid your past entirely; there were things I just couldn’t part with.” - jewelry designer, Carlos Souza
“I mix all my own paint colors. I don’t believe in using paint straight from a can; I can get the results I want directly on the wall.” - Manhattan interior decorator, Muriel Brandolini’
Style And Substance
For the twentieth-anniversary of ELLE DÉCOR, Editor, Margaret Russell and her team put together another book, Style And Substance; encompassing the evolution of ELLE DÉCOR, the large, coffee table-sized book spans a twenty-year history, which started with Russell, and elucidates the publication’s original, French-influenced American style.
With more pictures than text, and some inventive repeats of So Chic, this book contains a rich melange of photographs and a “room by room” guide as well as “style-guides”: excerpts which give personal tips using the easy, intimate tone that your decorator-friend might use while passing along some insider knowledge of the exclusive designer world over tea.
“Bedrooms & Boudoirs”
Of bedrooms, designer Billy Baldwin is quoted as saying,
“The bedroom ought to be the most personal room in the house. Everything should contribute to an atmosphere of peace.”
ELLE DÉCOR adds practical advice on such items as top-quality mattresses and tidy storage for clothing, but also exerts its elegant, whimsical prose throughout:
“Choose a palette as colorless as a spring cloud, or lavish the walls with a pattern so dramatic – like an overscale ikat – that the room requires few if any ornaments.”
Bright, colorful blankets and quilts that look as though they were lovingly sewn or handpicked in some exotic, foreign land, making a simple draping for the bed, stand out as the most artistically designed bedrooms.
Kitchens & Dining Rooms
The kitchens and dining rooms are particularly gorgeous. Found antiques mix with shining chrome and painted red cabinetry, or unusual fabrics for wall and cabinet coverings.
The Kitchen of Glen Senk, president of Anthroplogie, has an eclectic array of larger than life furnishings: a bucolic head and horns, a rustic, oversized chandelier, and a French grape-collecting basket as big as a tea table.
The faces of the famous are not as predominant in the second book; however, their intriguing homes conjure the ephemeral spirit of celebrity, from Madonna’s Beverly Hills, rustic-European, patio dining table to Ricky and Ralph Lauren’s Montauk Point, pond-shaped swimming pool, to Lindsey Buckingham’s Los Angeles kitchen.
The viewer is drawn in by a sense of place, whether at a weekend cottage in rural England, or a Venezuelan retreat, or inside a Marrakech living room.
Most importantly, the book encourages a fearless, even “gutsy”, approach to personal expression through interior decorating. As Margaret Russell states in her Forward:
“We believe that luxury needn’t be expensive, great design can be had at little cost, and there’s no reason affordable furnishings shouldn’t be chic.”
photos: elle decor