Book Review: Decorate Workshop: Design and Style Your Space in 8 Creative Steps (Holly Becker)

Decorate Workshop, cover

The rooms shown here are mainly in a kind of rustic modern style: eclectic rugs on worn hardwood floors, classic modern chairs around a thrift store table, an artful blend of vintage and homemade knick knacks. Becker’s taste in rugs and lamps is divine. The usual hipster trends make an appearance – chalkboard paint, fauxidermy, etc – but they don’t overwhelm. (And at least Becker, bless her heart, doesn’t spray paint all her picture frames the same color, so points for that.) At a glance, the rooms have a lively homey look that seems achievable – but take a closer look and there are quite a few expensive pieces in the mix. Not saying one couldn’t do it on a budget, but Becker clearly has more resources at her disposal than, well, me: ‘Maybe your project is small, you simply want to replace your current bathroom sink, add a new shower curtain and paint the walls.’ I can manage the shower curtain but the rest would take me quite a while. But if you’re wanting to tackle projects beyond arranging furniture and hanging art, this book will help you.

The format includes some lined pages with questions that you’re meant to answer in the book itself. For example, the page for ‘What do you enjoy doing in these rooms?’ has fill-in options for the bedroom, the bathroom, etc. It also includes unsexy questions meant to keep you on budget and avoid potential pitfalls. Normally I loathe books that include the dreaded words, ‘make a list’ – but I might actually give these a try, because they do seem useful and geared towards a practical outcome.

Decorate Workshop, questions

As for the rest of the text, I’m pretty sure Captain Obvious was the uncredited ghost writer. There are a lot of clich├ęs along the lines of ‘you won’t know unless you try’ and ‘the more you do something… the better you will get at it.’ And just in case you’ve spent the last twenty years in a coma: ‘a blog is a web log, or an online journal…’ The resources section is meagre, but will serve well for those readers who can’t find their own way towards West Elm or Crate and Barrel. It’s all fine really and certainly nothing I’d disagree with, I was just hoping for a little more.

However, this book is worth buying for the lovely big photos. I picked it up with the intention of a quick thumb-through, and ended up turning the pages slowly, absorbed in all the little details of the rooms. This is what you buy BOOKS for, what you don’t get in a blog. It’s similar to her other book, Decorate, but it’s more about a structure and process rather than a collection of ideas. Get both if you can.

Decorate Workshop, cover

This is a nicely printed paperback book with a neat dustjacket that folds open to reveal a photo collage on the inside. The paperback format reinforces the idea of a workbook that can be written in, but the professional layouts and Debi Treloar’s excellent photography make it so pretty that I hesitate to do so. The quality is higher than most of the hardback decor books I’ve received lately. It’s not for the coffee table, but it would definitely make a nice gift for someone thinking about decoration, or moving into a first apartment.

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