29 Nov Design Driven Column: “This is the most important design book of the year!” Review of Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home.

A Version of this review ran in the Saturday’s Arts Section, Salon, of the Telegraph Journal on November 30th, 2013
Last week, a day I’d been anticipating for months arrived: the newly-published Remodelista – A Manual for the Considered Home landed in my mailbox. Rita Konig, reviewing it for The New York Times, says it’s “Full of sharp, easy ideas and great decorating intel.” I couldn’t agree more, especially with the emphasis on “easy.”

Many of you may know “Remodelista,” the brainchild of four design savvy women who created the content-heavy blog and website.   If so, some part of your morning is likely taken up reading their daily posts. Rarely, if ever, is there anything in Remodista’s posts that doesn’t change, in some small but significant way, my thinking about design.

Rumblings were heard about six months ago that this team of tasteful entrepreneurs were working on a book, a comprehensive ‘taste guide,’ that would address every relevant aspect of decorating or designing space; they would do the product research so you don’t have to.

If, prior to actually reading the book, I had any reservations, it was that it would be little more than a compendium of material I’d already read on their blog. Even if it were, mind you, it would still be worth the price. Happily, it turns out this 400-page, full-colour tome is 95% new content and photographs. It’s beautifully organized into sections like ‘ A User’s Guide to Kitchens’, ‘New Uses for Familiar Things’, ‘Twelve houses the editors love (and why they work!)’, ‘What to buy at IKEA and what not to buy at IKEA,’ to ‘Resources we swear by’. Best of all, even if you never read a thoughtfully written sentence in the book, the photography alone constitutes an education in design. The strength of the photography is a natural extension and expression of the approach the editors take to design. “We’re a group of far-flung friends who share a pared-down aesthetic – what we like to think of as a collective design DNA – and a near-obsessive interest in the details.” In my view – simply because of this ‘near-obsessive interest in the details’ – this is the most important design book of the year. It’s consistently accessible, comprehensive, and thought provoking.

Let me leave you with just a sampling of what the book has on offer. The very first feature is “The Remodelista Manifesto: 10 Rules to live by.” As the editors point out, however, these are not so much rules as “firmly held beliefs”: “We prefer the personal to the perfect, and when it comes to design, we’re broad-minded, antirules, pro-improving, and all about mixing things up.” Music to my ears.

Here, then, are the three ‘firmly held beliefs’ that most resonated with me:

03. Clutter is the enemy. For a sense of well-being, edit out the extraneous.

04. Thoughtfully designed and produced goods made with sustainable materials are a far better investment than big-box bargains.

08. Beauty needn’t come at the cost of comfort or utility. Steer clear of unwelcoming furniture and fixtures that don’t do their job.

Remodelista is now available in Canada: Retailers include Amazon Canada, Indigo (Canada), McNally Robinson, independent bookstores, and specialty stores. Hardback, 400 pages, Artisan Press. By Carlson, Julie.

Here is a gallery of Sneak Peeks.  Enjoy!


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