An Interior Design Lover’s Essential Summer Reading List

Even though I have just returned from walking the dog in my PUFFY COAT (aka body bag) and its April 21st for crying out loud, supposedly summer is just around the corner. And I guess on the slim chance that The Secret is real (which I’ve been assured of by the very wise and trustworthy sisters of iconic reality TV show Pretty Wild) I’ll put it out to the universe that summer is coming and begin making preparations. Every year I promise myself that when summer comes I’ll spend lazy sunny afternoons sprawled on a shibori tapestry in the park or on the beach, sipping frosé and finally reading all the books stacked by my bed that I’ve started and then abandoned, mostly because when I try to read at night I pass out from exhaustion pretty much the moment my body is horizontal to the floor.

The truth is I do get more reading done in the summer, but never as much as I say I’m going to, which is why I really appreciate a well-edited list. So today I am bringing you a tightly edited (read: short and sweet) list of must-reads for interior design lovers. And because regular lists are a missed opportunity to have some fun, this list is in high school superlative format! Remember those?? My high school didn’t actually have them, but at my eighth grade graduation we had to write speeches about each other and Will S. dubbed me “most likely to be the next Oprah.” And sure, you might think I’m insane for holding on to this nugget from yesteryear, but hello, it’s OPRAH. A girl can dream, OK? OK. Moving on and without further ado, I bring you, The Great Interior Design Book Superlatives! (all photos courtesy of

P.S. If you’re like me and have to immediately google things that strike you as off, I saved you the effort because I already googled it, and it’s “without further ado” not “without further adieu.” OK now to the list for real tho →

1) Best Shelfie-Styling Advice:

Emily Henderson, Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves

This book is my go-to for tips on room styling. Henderson’s voice is friendly and casual, and she offers practical, easy-to-follow tips for selecting color schemes, arranging furniture, and styling every manner of surface. And every strategy is accompanied by beautifully photographed examples making it incredibly user-friendly. I keep this book in my living room bookcase and reference it often.

2) Best Overall Guide for Designing Your Own Home:

Donna Garlough, Your Home, Your Style: How to Find Your Look & Create Rooms You Love

It’s impossible to overstate how much I like this book and it has nothing to do with the pretty pictures. Garlough, who is by the way the style director for home decor site Joss & Main, takes a totally different approach to interior design and it is goshdarn refreshing. The premise of the book is that you would do best to focus on your personality and how that informs the way you approach decorating rather than trying to identify your decor style. And don’t worry- there’s a fun quiz in the first chapter to help you identify yours! (I’m a tinkerer with a little bit of self-expressionist in the mix.) This personality framework makes total sense when you stop to think about it, because Garlough’s approach actually addresses questions like what room should I start with? What items should I spend more money on? What kind of timeline is right for me? Do I do everything at once or go slowly? Her refusal of a one size fits all approach (the opposite of design style quizzes that have variously declared me to be “classic” “happy modern” “eclectic chic” among others) makes this book incredibly relevant to anyone who reads it and her practical advice empowers her readers. She’s also not afraid to point out what you shouldn’t do, based on your personality type. If you’re a self- expressionist for example, beware the impulse purchase! Garlough delivers her tough love decorating advice in the wise tone of a kind friend. It’s what I imagine it would feel like if Ina Garten came over to my apartment and gave me cooking tips. It’s no wonder my copy lives on my bedside table and is filled with post-its.

3) Most likely to bring out your inner DIYer / be found next to an incense holder:

Justina Blakeney, The New Bohemians Handbook: Come Home to Good Vibes

If you are a homebody, this is the book for you. It’s got advice on making your own organic cleaning products, creating zones in your home that mesh with your daily routines, and even guides on what plants to choose based on the directions your windows face. It also has lots of fun features like a horoscope guide that tells you which colors and materials you should incorporate into your home based on your sign, and a section on decorating spirit animals and even a quiz to identify your “spirit environment” (Mine’s beach – no surprise there!). It’s a great mix of practical advice (furniture layouts for better room flow, a guide for identifying various textiles from around the world) and impractical fun (the aforementioned decorating spirit animals). I liked that it included activities for me to try out in my own space and the maximalist boho interiors featured in the book make epic eye candy.

4) Most attractive on a coffee table (& most likely to impress your guests):

Miles Redd, The Big Book of Chic

OK, so unlike the rest of the list, this book is truly coffee-table size and it’s really all about the pictures. This book is mostly images and I’ll be honest, I’ve got this book on my coffee table as I type this and I’ve barely skimmed the actually text. Miles Redd was the creative director of Oscar de la Renta Home before opening his own design firm and he’s decorated the homes of many elite members from the fashion world. His designs are both sophisticated and whimsical simultaneously. You know the vibe I’m talking about- that mix of classic glamour and sassy irreverence that makes you think of Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette or cardboard boxes of pizza being passed around the dancefloor as a late nite snack during a white tie ball at The Plaza Hotel.

5) Most likely to be enjoyed by all ages:

Cristina Amodeo, Dogs and Chairs: Designer Pairs Flexibound

OK, so you know how sometimes it seems like dogs and their owners totally look alike? Btw I have mixed feelings about this idea since I have a French Bulldog… Anyways this book takes that idea but replaces owners with famous chair designs. Amodeo, the author and illustrator, is a graphic designer and the book is set up as 20 sets of images – a dog and their “matching” chair. Her illustrations are clean yet offbeat and this collection of visual puns makes for a very appealing way to test your knowledge of iconic furniture design. I got this as a birthday gift and I agree that it would be an excellent gift for any design and/or dog lovers in your life. Or maybe you gift it to yourself in the “treat yo’ self” spirit (shout out to all my fellow Parks And Recreation fans).

6) BONUS: What I’m Most Excited to Read Next:

Orlando Soria, Get It Together!: An Interior Designer’s Guide to Creating Your Best Life

If you don’t already know about Orlando Soria’s blog, Hommemaker, do yourself a favor and check it out next time you find yourself mindlessly noodling around on the interwebs. He is hilarious and writes like he is speaking directly to you. Reading his blog always makes me feel like I’m at brunch with an old friend. He’s also got a laser sharp eye for styling and isn’t afraid to go for bold and playful accents. His blog posts cover topics ranging from art and decor to personal style and other aspects of regular life like the trials of online dating, what to cook for Friendsgiving, or how to be a good friend during a breakup. Soria brings relatability and humor to every topic he tackles, and for this reason I can’t wait to read his book.

I hope you enjoyed this summer reading list, and if you wanna tell me about it click that comment button BB! See you next week for post #4!



P.S. All images courtesy of Amazon except the title image which is mine. 


  1. Hi Annabelle! I love your home page with the “I like big books and I cannot lie sign!” I’ll make sure to spread the word about your blog to all my friends parents!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post! I’m always on the search for new design books–some that are eye candy and some that give me some solid techniques to improve my own home. You’ve touched on different points on this spectrum…the only advice missing is how to fund my love fo big books 🙂 !! Can’t wait till next post…

    Liked by 1 person

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