From Remodelista to HGTV’s Sarah’s House | RA Crossroads

As Lewis Carroll’s Alice so aptly points out, “What is the use of a book…without pictures or conversations?” Welcome to RA Crossroads, where books, movies, music, and other media converge and whole-collection readers’ advisory service goes where it may. In this column, design books and blogs lead me down a winding path.


Carlson, Julie with Remodelista Eds. Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home. Artisan. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781579655365. $37.50. INTERIOR DESIGN
Based on the highly successful website, this household design and remolding guide promotes a clean, hip, and modern aesthetic (more often than not involving a muted palette). Broken up into seven sections, the book begins with 12 example houses that model good design before focusing attention on kitchens and bathrooms. Following the case studies is a long section highlighting ideas and objects that have become editor go-to’s (the Remodelista 100), complete with suggested uses and sources. The volume concludes with a short guide on managing (and finishing) a renovation while staying sane and happy. Photo rich, rather than text heavy, the book’s most notable feature is its ordered layout of striking images keyed to numbered captions. Also critical to its overall feel is the authorial tone: competent, thoughtful reflection and flair infuse the text with a strong point of view. Many readers will appreciate the guide’s eclectic outfitting models. When working with nonfiction that lacks a strong narrative, titles must be matched on appeal terms. In this case, it’s the style of the images, the content, tone, and overall approach that will lead readers from one design book to the next. [LJ 11/1/13]


Bonney, Grace. Design*Sponge at Home. Artisan. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9781579654313. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781579654948. INTERIOR DESIGN
Based on her beloved blog by the same name, Bonney’s book offers a stylish and accessible guide to decorating and DIY projects. It includes 70 home examples and two lengthy project sections: “before and after” undertakings and fairly easy DIY ideas. A strong, if highly edited, sources section is another highlight. Bonney’s work shares with Remodelista the same focus on image rich pages and a similar layout—large room shots and small details discussed almost completely through captions. It also shares the central focus of a collection of various example homes that offer endless inspiration. While the styles are more wide ranging in Bonney’s offering, and many are more colorful, the sense of flair and commitment shines through both titles. Readers who liked the mix of can-do and aspiration in Remodelista will find the same attitude and approach here. [LJ 8/1/11]

Becker, Holly & Joanna Copestick. Decorate: 1,000 Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home. Chronicle. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780811877893. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781452108650. INTERIOR DESIGN
Just as Remodelista is a book of suggestions, so too is Becker and Copestick’s volume, which is a lovely collection of design ideas with explanations of how they are achieved. Arranged in chunky sections, the book offers a two-part approach to decorating: first inventory the space and then find a personal style. Following these sections is a range of case studies focused on key types of rooms. The authors conclude with a chapter devoted to accessorizing and furniture. It shares a similar organizational aesthetic as Remodelista, full of crisp and interesting photographs—both overviews and detail shots—surrounded by quotes, captions, and sidebars. The result is an image-heavy book that is highly informative and invites the reader to linger over the page. Becker’s Decorate Workshop: Design and Style Your Space in 8 Creative Steps is a good companion suggestion as is her blog Decor8.

Novogratz, Robert & Cortney. Home by Novogratz. Artisan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781579654993. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781579655235. INTERIOR DESIGN
The Novogratzes, perhaps best known for their HGTV series by the same name, first gained popular notice with their 2009 book Downtown Chic and their BRAVO program, 9 By Design. Here they focus on 20 design renovations, detailing their process, choices, and budgets. As with Remodelista, the book’s design rests upon crisp and plentiful photographs, some of which have comment boxes placed over the images. Overall, there is more text in this work, including “ask the expert” inserts that seek the opinions of those in the know—for example, renowned chef Mario Batali gives advice about kitchens. The Novogratzes have a different aesthetic than that featured in Remodelista; it is quirkier, more colorful, and edgy. Yet both titles share the mix of high/low and offer practical and inspirational design. They also share a duty to the design process and a strong point of view. [LJ 9/15/12]


McGrath, Suzanne & Lauren. Good Bones, Great Pieces: The Seven Essential Pieces That Will Carry You Through a Lifetime. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781584799573. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613124758. INTERIOR DESIGN
For fans of the Remodelista 100 concept, consider suggesting the McGrath’s take on that idea as applied to furniture. The mother/daughter design team chooses seven key pieces for every home and detail why and how they work in various design styles. The seven pieces are love seats, demilunes, dressers, benches, slipper chairs, side tables, and occasional chairs. Each piece is showcased in multiple room examples, illustrating a range of styles, designs, and uses. Also incorporated into each chapter are specific decorating topics that relate back to the central piece—such as how to organize a tabletop in the side-table chapter and how to select and arrange pillows in the love-seat chapter. A glossary of example pieces identified by either designer or shop is also included for each furniture type. It is a considered and thoughtful approach and one that should please Remodelista fans looking to invest in pieces of furniture central to any home’s interior design. [LJ 9/1/12]

Susanka, Sarah and Marc Vassallo. Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live. Taunton. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781600858246. pap. $24.95. INTERIOR DESIGN
Suggest this to readers interested in the remodeling aspects of Remodelista. Famously valuing quality over sprawl, the philosophy behind the “Not So Big” model is that money can be spent more wisely in making the lived in spaces of a house more pleasing and useful than in having a large number of oversize and underused rooms. Here that idea is applied to many remodeling jobs that improve existing homes. While this is doubtless a less stylish take than Remodelista (and invested in architectural rather than interior design) it gives readers inspired by those chic and hip pages and spaces a great deal of useful information to actually build the bones of the rooms they crave. Even given their differences in focus, both the “Remodelista” idea and the “Not So Big” idea share a common core: hat a few strong pieces of high quality—from a perfect extension cord to a perfectly scaled round window—can make a room.

Lemieux, Christiane & others. Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design. Clarkson Potter. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780307463159. $40. INTERIOR DESIGN
For Remodelista fans who value reading about design as much as they do looking at it in photos, suggest this text-rich work that uses photographs for supporting detail rather than as the main content. Lemieux offers an eclectic, quirky, and often studiedly haphazard approach in her personal and personable guide. She suggests that the rules of design can and should be broken and offers examples of those who have done so successfully. Standouts include rooms that focus on collections, those that are situated within their environments, and rooms that gain charm from their use (i.e. its OK to read on the floor surrounded by a spill of beloved books). Her title fills the need in readers to have a conversation about design, design choices, and why they work. [LJ 8/11]


Sarah’s House. HGTV. Schedule is various.
Sarah Richardson is not on HGTV as frequently as some other decorators but her design aesthetic is well worth seeking out both online and during marathon days when her shows run for hours on the HGTV network. She is approachable, stylish, and hip and her work reflects a clean mix of modern tastes and timeless details. Those who like the spare lines, effortless ease, and smartness of Remodelista should enjoy her appearances. She is likely best known for two series: Sarah’s House and Sarah 101. On Sarah’s House, viewers watch as she buys a house, guts it, and remodels it from top to bottom. On Sarah 101 she fixes individual rooms—from laundry rooms to dining rooms. While libraries cannot yet buy DVDs of her shows, they can point viewers to the HGTV website where full episodes are available. Her work also appears occasionally in HGTV Magazine and fans can follow her on her own site as well. Those in Canada can watch her more easily, including in her new series, Real Potential.

Cousins Undercover. HGTV. Sundays 8 p.m. EST.
Another good suggestion for those who enjoy watching design shows as much as reading books about design are the three series featuring cousins Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri. Like Remodelista, their style is modern, clean, and very space aware. It also often owes its aesthetic to European influences, at times making their work über slick and shiny. They started on TV by taking on kitchens in Kitchen Cousins—turning pretty horrible (if sadly typical) spaces into highly functional statement rooms. They moved on to doing whole houses on Cousins on Call and now collaborate with the Ellen show to remodel homes for worthy recipients on Cousins Undercover. A few runs of the early shows are available for instant download, but as is the case with Sarah Richardson, most viewers can either access Carrino and Colaneri’s work as it airs, on demand, or on the HGTV site.

Magazines and Web sites:

Domino Magazine. Quarterly print issues.
This glossy and chic guide to design, fashion, and lifestyle should please readers of Remodelista with its selections of accessories and furniture and its commitment to a stylish life. The Holiday 2013 issue features a number of home tours and a two-page spread on faux wood options for both floor (porcelain, ceramic, marble, and vinyl) and walls. Consider suggesting (or displaying) other design oriented magazines as well—everything from Dwell and Wallpaper* to HGTV Magazine and Veranda. The online/print/shopping hybrid at the heart of Domino’s venture back from the dead (it ceased publication in 2009), should be an interesting undertaking and one that fits well with readers, such as fans of Remodelista, already accustomed to reading online content that is very “magazine-like” and using sites as launch pads for shopping.

Apartment Therapy.
Before Remodelista became a book it was a Web site. Readers who want more of latter can always follow the blog but they can also follow other sites as well, such as this mainstay of design and decorating (which has also developed into a series of books). It offers tours of houses, room-by-room examples of successful design, a range of projects, before and after shoots, and a whole lot more. Advisors might also want to suggest such blog-to-book sites as Design*Sponge as well as those that have yet to make the jump to print such as Design Milk and Better Living Through Design.

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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at