Friday, February 26, 2010

Review: Classic Design Styles

In an effort to familiarise myself with basic interior design periods, I picked up Henrietta Spencer-Churchill's book, Classic Design Styles. It's a beautifully illustrated volume, filled with lush photographs (I freely confess that I'm all about glossy picture books).

At the beginning of the book, each section examines an historical period in English and American interior design, covering the basics, such as furniture, art, moulding and window design. The latter half focuses on "The House Today" and is considerably weaker, in my view. The author's commentary can also get a bit ponderous at times. Regarding the contemporary tendency to reserve the formal dining room for special occasions, she writes, "[o]ur hectic lifestyles and the lack of inexpensive and easily obtained domestic help have led us to adopt the originally American style of one room living." Ah, for the good old days, when we could rely on indentured servants to do the work for us. Perhaps Ms. Spencer-Churchill can look with fondness on the days of yesteryear, when the supply of desperate domestic workers exceeded the demand; however, since I probably have been stuck working for her, I can't be quite so wistful.

This book would be useful for anyone looking for a basic introduction to period design. But don't read it too carefully...unless you find the author's troglodytic tone amusing (which I did). As the dust jacket proudly proclaims, she is "the daughter of the 11th Duke of Marlborough, whose family home is Blenheim Palace", so one can forgive her for thinking that her readers may have likewise grown up in palaces. I shan't burst her bubble by confessing that I picked up her book in the public library. Oops, too late!


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This lovely book has a proud place in my library. I can always picture myself curled up with a good book in the photograph on page 121.

Hels said...

You don't have to "confess" a weakness for glossy books. It is not a sign of moral decay or intellectual sloppiness :)

I have been reading about Lady Diana Spencer (1734-1808) and found she was under-estimated in the art world. You are examining the work of Henrietta Spencer-Churchill and suggest that she is perhaps over-estimated.

If I was a member of the nobility, I think I would publish under my mother's maiden name, and have my work judged on its own merits.

Margaret said...

Thank you for the comments! It's a good enough book, just a bit basic. Perhaps Ms. Spencer-Churchill's publisher didn't want anything that went into too much depth. And the photographs are lovely, so I can see why you enjoy it so much, Pamela.

In all honesty and fairness to the author, I don't think the book would have been published at all if Spencer-Churchill had written under a less recognizable name. Not because the book is not good enough to stand on its own, but because no publisher would want to miss out on the chance to publish a book by a member of the nobility. Such is life!