Of the two sleek, coffee-table books put out by ELLE DÉCOR, Style And Substance and So Chic, the latter contains many photos of people who are famous or look as though they should be. Yet, both of these hefty, art and décor guides offer a welcome and thoroughly pleasurable experience in gleaning an insightful trove of decorating ideas.
What Is Chic?
In the earlier published book, So Chic, the Editor in Chief and creative wizard, Margaret Russell, goes so far as to consult Webster’s dictionary to find the exact meaning of the word Chic:
“cleverly stylish; smart; a woman who adapts fashion to her own personality”.
Within the ensuing 237 pages, cleverly stylish rooms burst forth framing the kinds of beautiful spaces in which almost anyone would feel comfortable: plush pillows and velvety sofas, sparkling chandeliers and warm antiques; unusual objet d’art and flowers everywhere!
Russell shares her personal credo for chic by quoting Vietnamese-born, Manhattan fashion designer Zang Toi. Of his Paris in New York decorated apartment, he says,
“When I come home after a long day, this place puts me in a good mood.”
And this is precisely the effect of So Chic upon turning its slick, heavy pages: one’s mood shifts down into a relaxed, fascinated and enchanted happiness.
As with entrepreneurial jewelry designer, Temple St. Clair Carr, who has traveled the world to find the creations that furnish her home, here the personal décor of the celebrated conjures a familial ring of the every-day.
From her grandmother’s 19th-century tea table and an antique, Moroccan bird cage, to European vintage china and Pakistani rugs in the children’s room, Carr has a gift for finding items that evoke a history, a childhood, the itinerant wanderings of a romantic traveler.
The book inspires ideas and the notion that we can all make our own chic living spaces. The pages are hyphenated with helpful tips from featured notables by way of brief columns called inside information. So that even though we do not garner the income of the rich and famous, such as Park Avenue designer, Kenneth Jay Lane, his decorating expertise and panache speak directly to the comfort-loving spirit in us all.
“Why do people talk about hanging art? It’s hanging pictures. My drawing room is decorated with Orientalist paintings. They are hung salon-style, like in an old-fashioned gallery, so some are displayed quite high. You don’t have to have everything right in front of your nose.” - Lane
“This is the first place we’ve done together; this is our married house. Rande is edgy and Armani-esque … and I prefer rooms that are cozy. We each had to step out of our safety zones and find something we both liked.”
“We had our home feng shui’d, and it turned out that the good that came in flowed right out the other side, so we placed a large round table in the center of the hall.” – Cindy Crawford
“We didn’t want anything stuffy or showy… when it’s filled with people, they become pieces of art that make it even more beautiful.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
“I have a high tolerance for chips and scratches and stains. I think there’s too much emphasis on perfection – not a spot of wear, looking mint condition.” – writer and art historian, Amy Fine Colllins
“I respect le style Rothschild, but that wasn’t the way I wanted to live… it’s not about topiaries or Staffordshire bull terriers. It’s deeply personal…” – Lynn de Rothschild
“The house is very much a self-portrait.” – artist, David Salle
“I wanted to start over. But you can’t avoid your past entirely; there were things I just couldn’t part with.” - jewelry designer, Carlos Souza
“I mix all my own paint colors. I don’t believe in using paint straight from a can; I can get the results I want directly on the wall.” - Manhattan interior decorator, Muriel Brandolini’
Style And Substance
For the twentieth-anniversary of ELLE DÉCOR, Editor, Margaret Russell and her team put together another book, Style And Substance; encompassing the evolution of ELLE DÉCOR, the large, coffee table-sized book spans a twenty-year history, which started with Russell, and elucidates the publication’s original, French-influenced American style.
With more pictures than text, and some inventive repeats of So Chic, this book contains a rich melange of photographs and a “room by room” guide as well as “style-guides”: excerpts which give personal tips using the easy, intimate tone that your decorator-friend might use while passing along some insider knowledge of the exclusive designer world over tea.
“Bedrooms & Boudoirs”
Of bedrooms, designer Billy Baldwin is quoted as saying,
“The bedroom ought to be the most personal room in the house. Everything should contribute to an atmosphere of peace.”
ELLE DÉCOR adds practical advice on such items as top-quality mattresses and tidy storage for clothing, but also exerts its elegant, whimsical prose throughout:
“Choose a palette as colorless as a spring cloud, or lavish the walls with a pattern so dramatic – like an overscale ikat – that the room requires few if any ornaments.”
Bright, colorful blankets and quilts that look as though they were lovingly sewn or handpicked in some exotic, foreign land, making a simple draping for the bed, stand out as the most artistically designed bedrooms.
Kitchens & Dining Rooms
The kitchens and dining rooms are particularly gorgeous. Found antiques mix with shining chrome and painted red cabinetry, or unusual fabrics for wall and cabinet coverings.
The Kitchen of Glen Senk, president of Anthroplogie, has an eclectic array of larger than life furnishings: a bucolic head and horns, a rustic, oversized chandelier, and a French grape-collecting basket as big as a tea table.
The faces of the famous are not as predominant in the second book; however, their intriguing homes conjure the ephemeral spirit of celebrity, from Madonna’s Beverly Hills, rustic-European, patio dining table to Ricky and Ralph Lauren’s Montauk Point, pond-shaped swimming pool, to Lindsey Buckingham’s Los Angeles kitchen.
The viewer is drawn in by a sense of place, whether at a weekend cottage in rural England, or a Venezuelan retreat, or inside a Marrakech living room.
Most importantly, the book encourages a fearless, even “gutsy”, approach to personal expression through interior decorating. As Margaret Russell states in her Forward:
“We believe that luxury needn’t be expensive, great design can be had at little cost, and there’s no reason affordable furnishings shouldn’t be chic.”
photos: elle decor
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on July 12, 2011:
Merci, Catherine! The supreme compliment from a Parisian:) Thank you for stopping by to read and view!
Catherine on July 12, 2011:
A beautiful article Tracy!
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on October 05, 2010:
ericosiu, As a fan of interior design, you will surely love these books!! I will check out your hub forth-with:) Thanks for stopping by.
eilander, How poetic. Yes, these concepts are stated in the El Décor books: style, and in particular chic, is about bringing out ones own personal touch - using art and color in decorating rooms, walls, furniture... And our tastes change over time. I once used only black & white - clean, simple lines; now I love color! And as you have implied, the art of decorating is very personal, and therefore, spiritual.
eilander1542011 from Everywhere on October 03, 2010:
Interior design is a very underrated tool for creating and generating various moods in one's life and home. I have recently found much pleasure in utilizing the art-from and I feel that is the coolest idea about chic - each of us is chic in our own way, because it is styling our own way. With that concept will naturally come loads of diversity and creativity in a plethora of ways.
ericosiu on October 01, 2010:
I'll be sure to check out these books! I'm a big fan of interior design. Hope you can check out my interior design hub too! :)
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on September 26, 2010:
When I saw your hubs, I thought you would probably enjoy this article but forgot to mention it to you. I'm glad you found it ~ sounds like we are both on the same page when it comes to decorating books!! Thanks for the nice comments:)
Iris Lebow on September 24, 2010:
I was vaguely familiar with these books because I subscribe to Elle Décor and read Margaret Russell's column, but reading your description along with the generous number of luscious photos "shifted MY mood into a relaxed and enchanted happiness." Thanks for this lovely piece.
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on September 13, 2010:
creamwhipper (Ha!) These make very chic, if you will, coffee table books. Also, they are really such a pleasure to glance through ~ I never tire of it. Thanks for stopping by:)
creamwhipper on September 10, 2010:
Great pictures! I've actually been looking for a coffee table book -- maybe I should check out one of these
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on August 25, 2010:
ha-ha! ~ So refreshing to have you stopping by ~ and I'm delighted that you got something out of this; they are great decorating books aren't they. Whole chandeliers go on for me! :)
billyaustindillon on August 25, 2010:
Thanks for this - some great ideas and you have great taste with what you chose here. Great reviews of the decorating books and some light bulbs have been switched on here.
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on August 22, 2010:
Linda, Thank you for the very warm compliment. The books are truly fun, so it was a real pleasure writing about them! Thanks for stopping by.
Linda Tadlock from Atlanta on August 21, 2010:
You have showcased a really nice collection of decorating books, and very nice job describing each. Thanks for the great hub.
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on August 16, 2010:
Dolores, I know what you mean about whit-caring and celebs; but some of the things they say are kind of funny, if not down-right helpful! And yet, their homes are inspiring, as you say, no matter what the decorating-taste. I'm hit with so many ideas just glancing through these books. Thanks :)
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 16, 2010:
Though I don't care one whit about celebrities, I love decorating books of any kind. Even the ones that feature rooms that are totally not me. It is just so interesting to see what people do with their homes and you can find inspiration everywhere!
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on August 14, 2010:
That is what I love about them too: they are bursting with character! Thanks for stopping by and for your nice comments.
proscourcefloors1 from United States of America on August 13, 2010:
All of these rooms are so beautiful and have so much character, great for design inspiration. Thanks for sharing :)
Tracy (author) from San Francisco on August 12, 2010:
Thank you, Lilly. I'm glad you enjoyed this. The comfortable rooms are my favorites too. And I appreciate your accolades!
Lori J Latimer from Central Oregon on August 11, 2010:
Beautiful. I liked these a lot because although everything was high quality, it wasn't stuffy. The rooms were comfortable and pleasing. Thank you for sharing.