For those of you in my book club, this may come as a shock, but I actually read a book this week, and finished all 315 pages of it in less than 24 hours! My Choate professors would be rolling their eyes right now to hear that this is a rare accomplishment in my life these days. Ok, to be honest, the book had loads and loads of stunning images mixed in with the text, but I even read ALL of the captions to those images (Is it wrong to pat myself on the back for that?). What was the book? Elements of Style: Designing A Home & A Life by Boston-based blogger and designer Erin Gates.
Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging for five years this month (Wait, I just realized that yesterday was my five year blogiversary!!! I’m going to blame not realizing that on my children.), I don’t actually read blogs all that often because life tends to get in the way. When I started this blog in October of 2009, it was a means to get my daily dose of pretty and keep my head in the game after being laid off from my job and spending my days wrangling a three year-old and six month-old at home. At the time, someone suggested I check out Erin’s blog, Elements of Style, and for the past five years, it has been the only blog that I regularly look at.
What draws me to her blog is not only her great style, but the fact that she has built her career as a designer and now, book author, by staying committed to writing blog posts every single week day since she started it back in 2006. For non-bloggers this may seem impressive, but as a blogger, I can tell you that this is beyond amazing. I am so grateful that my blog lead me to a full-time career as a blogger for many years (and when I needed it most), but after pumping out as many as ten blog posts a week when I was writing for TLC’s web sites, plus trying to keep up with my own blog and the other freelance writing I was doing, I can tell you that in the past year since I’ve stepped back a bit from writing to open the shop I’ve realized that I’ve had major blogger burnout. And I’m not the only one. The fabulous folks over at Young House Love have been making headlines after essentially quitting blogging about their home renovations after eight years despite their great success. Erin’s dedication to her blog and what she has built from it are truly inspiring, and I often hop over to her blog when I need a little kick in the pants to get back at it. Her persistence with it has been a huge part of her success.
To be honest, I’m not the type of person who rushed to pre-order the book the second it became available on Amazon, and I hadn’t even really planned on rushing out to buy it when it was released this past Tuesday (as I mentioned above, it’s not often I get through a book these days), but I happened to be running errands in the local Barnes & Noble shopping plaza that day so I decided to pop in and see if they had it. And even though I’d seen pictures of the black and white striped binding with gold lettering and leopard inside covers (three of her trademarks), once I saw them in person, I knew there was no way that the book wasn’t coming home with me to add to my bookshelves.
I know, enough with the back story already! What did I think of the book? I was sure I would like it, but I didn’t realize that it would stand so far apart from all the other design books I’ve read. Well see, that’s a lie, because I don’t really read design books (other than when I was studying at RISD), I only look at the pretty pictures for inspiration.
But this book is not just great design advice. It also reads as a biography of sorts as Erin intertwines personal stories ranging from her days as a child poking through the racks at her family’s clothing store to her struggle with anorexia, the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant, the design mistakes she’s made in the past, and how so many things went wrong on the self-proclaimed perfectionist’s wedding day, and yet it was all so right in the end. She’s also very candid about how things aren’t always as they seem in pictures. A lot goes into styling a room for a photo shoot.
While that all makes it much easier and more intriguing to read than most design books, it also serves as an excellent reference guide for those looking for tried and true design advice. The book goes through a home room by room with beautiful examples of her work, along with a breakdown of how to create a great space whether your style is modern, traditional, glamorous, eclectic, or new country.
And in addition to designing a space, she also offers lots of recommendations on how to stock the spaces, whether it be the kitchen or your closet, with adorably chic and preppy sketches done by Anne Harwell McElhaney. She also includes some favorite recipes from her family, tips on how to set a table, her favorite hostess gifts, how many pillows you really need on each size bed, and her favorite design sources.
Another thing I love about the book is that Erin is unapologetic about featuring repeats of the same items which reinforces my mantra that great design is great design. In her case, you can never have too much grasscloth, Greek key, tulip tables, or brass accents. I’d have to agree. And what makes that all the more important is that this book doesn’t feature the latest design trends, but instead guides you to create a design for your home that will stand the test of time, and that’s really what we should all be doing. Taking this approach allows us to invest in pieces that will last decades and surround ourselves with quality over quantity, but she’s not afraid to throw a great piece from IKEA in there too.
After really not wanting to put the book down until I got all the way through it (and even then, wishing there was more), I have to say that if you only buy one design book that you’re actually going to use to design your space, this should be the one. And if you only buy books to up your shelfie style, this is worth getting for that reason too.
If you happen to live in one of the major metro areas that Erin will be visiting on her book tour which kicked off this week, it’s worth making the effort to try to attend.
And while I’ve never met Erin, I’d like to offer her a huge congratulations on all her success. If you’re ever in Newport, I’d love to meet for a glass of wine.
I don’t have the books in shop yet, but I hope to get them in soon. It would be amazing to try and get Erin down here for a book signing since we’re not too far away so Erin, if you happen to see this, please have your people call my people (oh wait, I don’t have people…yet).