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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

What I Finished Reading Today:

Living in Style (Without Losing Your Mind) by Marco Pasanella

I saw this on a friend's bookshelf a few months ago and, being hopelessly addicted to looking at living spaces, thinking about living spaces and tinkering with my own living space, decided to give it a read.

As you'd expect from almost any interior design book worth its salt, this one is beautifully photographed, and contains lush full color plates of a wide variety of eclectic living spaces (note: also as with many interior design books worth their salt, such lushness doesn't come cheap -- this fairly slim volume retails for $30.00...but I picked up a like-new copy for less than $5.00 on Half.com - yay, Internet!).

The most interesting thing about this book is that it's probably the only interior decorating text - ever - based primarily on Strunk and White's famous literary style guide, The Elements of Style. Like Strunk and White's philosophy of writing, Pasanella's main admonishment to people designing and decorating their own private retreats is to keep it simple: just as artists should never use an unnecessary line, and writers should never use an unnecessary word, Pasanella says decorators should never use an unnecessary piece of furniture or accessory.

Beyond this basic pragmatic advice, Pasanella gives a few other common sense tips, some of which may be most welcome to people trying to decorate on less than a decorator's budget. First and foremost, he urges folks to figure out what they like, no matter where it comes from (he even OKs moderately priced chain stores such as Ikea or Pottery Barn) and go from there. The key, he notes, is to use mass-produced furnishings sparingly and in combination with more personal touches, to prevent rooms from becoming soulless catalog pages. Personality and comfort come not from furnishings pre-matched by a manufacturer, retailer or designer, he maintains...but from unique combinations of items that accurately reflect the owner's own sensibilities.

Further into his common-sense theory, Pasanella also advises using all five senses when decorating, and including furnishings that are naturally pleasing to the touch, to the ear and to the sense of smell whenever possible. And this doesn't mean stocking up on drugstore-sale potpourri, but perhaps placing a collection of potted herbs on a windowsill, a goldfish in a bowl next to the bed, or some extremely soft pillows on the couch.

For the most part, it's all very logical advice -- perhaps just a bit too logical, since much of it has probably already occured to people who have a passion for their own environments. I'm one of them, and I will admit there weren't any big "a ha!" moments here for me. Still, I did enjoy Pasanella's low-key, everyone-can-do-this style, and I loved looking through the beautiful photos of thoroughly personal domiciles that fill the book. It was a very quick read, but definitely got me thinking anew about possibilities for my own home...which is the most fun - and definitely dangerous - aspect of books like this.

posted by Elizabeth 7:27 PM

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All material © 2002-2004 by Elizabeth Fuller. Please do not reproduce anything you find here without the author's permission.

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