- An Evelyn Waugh-inspired interior, photographed by Ivan Terestchenko, from Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature
- A horticultural spin on the traditional checkerboard floor, as seen in Henry Green’s Loving, photographed by Ivan Terestchenko, from Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature
- A tented pavilion inspired by the Bedouin encampments in Lesley Blanch’s The Wilder Shores of Love, photographed by Ivan Terestchenko, from Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature
Ever wanted to step inside the mansion in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited? Or recreate your own version of Thoreau’s Walden cabin? Or perhaps throw a party to rival F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most decadent fetes? You can, with a little help from Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, the brains behind the lifestyle blog A Bloomsbury Life. Her upcoming book Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature, out later this year, details how you can take design cues from classic novels, whether your style veers more Waugh, Woolf or Wilde. Here, she gives us a preview.
I’m a life-long reader and, having read so many books, I may not remember the plots or characters, but I always remember the rooms. So I’ve built up this treasure trove of environments in my head. And I realized that there are design books on Morocco or Paris style or time periods, like Art Deco, but no one has ever used the incredibly rich world of literature.
My first book love…
Pippi Longstocking. Her house was called Villa Villekulla, and she decorated it on her own terms — it was totally totally bohemian and colorful. I thought, that’s the way you do it — you do what you want and neighbors, be damned.
Books to read for literary style…
It depends on what you’re drawn to. If you have a Remodelista sensibility, read D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather and Thomas Hardy. If you’re more The Selby, Katherine Mansfield. Want something decadent? Start with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Traditional — Edith Wharton. F. Scott Fitzgerald is an easy intro to sleek and glamorous. For the cozy, cheery and charming thing, Sense and Sensibility and Cranford are great.
1. Dim the lights, from Out of Africa, where Isak Dineson writes, “I remember the things I have seen by the light of a hurricane lamp better than others.” Because sexy lighting creates an unforgettable mood.
2. Don’t karate chop your pillows. There’s this great quote from Katherine Mansfield’s Bliss: “Picking up the cushions… that Mary had disposed so carefully, she threw them back on to the chairs and the couches. That made all the difference; the room came alive at once.” People love coming into your house and seeing signs of life. A little messiness makes people feel so much more welcome.
3. Virginia Woolf has some great tips on flower arrangements. In The Years she talks about planing little wildflowers into a cushion of wet green moss. It’s so easy.
Favorite literary quote…
“Properly managed, nothing need ever clash,” from Vainglory by Ronald Firbank. I totally agree — everything goes with everything, but you just have to wield it with a careful hand.
F. Scott Fitzgerald. In Tender is the Night, he gives a master list on how to throw a perfect outdoor party — down to the lanterns in the trees, votive candles and garden paths edged with myrtle (whose scent comes out at night). He creates this whole twilight universe. And then, of course, there are all the parties in Great Gatsby…
Favorite place to read at home…
I have deep cozy armchairs in my dining room, living and bedroom. And I have books in every single room of my house so whenever the moment takes me, there is a great place to sit. But let’s face it, my favorite place to read is probably in bed.
Interior I’d love to live in for a day…
It would be from Joris-Karl Huysmans’ Against Nature. It’s basically 16 chapters about the way this anonymous nobleman decorated his house. He hermetically seals every room so no scent escapes into another. He bought a pet tortoise that he encrusted with jewels to match his oriental rug. In one living room he created different alcoves — each painted and decorated differently — so that whenever he picks a book, he can match the mood of the book to the proper alcove. He believed that nothing was as beautiful as artifice.
More to explore in Culture
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- Culture To Do: Peter Lindbergh at Gagosian Gallery Sun, Sep 14, 2014
- Culture Book of the Week: Claiborne Swanson Frank’s Young Hollywood Mon, Sep 1, 2014
- Culture Word of Mouth: Nancy Meyers’ The Intern Sun, Aug 24, 2014
- Culture Mentorship: Every Mother Counts’ Clancy McCarty Wed, Aug 20, 2014