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Starting from scratch: fresh ideas for the home
Spring is in full swing, as the blossoming flowers and green leaves prove. But nature isn't the only one turning over a new leaf in this season of change; warmer weather and crisp breezes often inspire homeowners (and renters) to rethink their own spaces through home decoration, organization and design. Whether you're a dedicated renovator or simply on the lookout for ideas, these books will spur even the most reluctant housekeeper to new heights of home improvement.
From the ground up
Architect and interior designer Sarah Susanka's best-selling The Not So Big House was a revelation for homebuyers and builders. Susanka advocated well-designed, smaller homes as alternatives to the bigger-is-better, McMansion craze sweeping the country, and her suggestions caused a revolution in the way people think about design. Now, with Home by Design: Transforming a House into Your Home, Susanka lists 30 design concepts that are guaranteed to give homes character and beauty. These two characteristics, Susanka argues, don't have to come at the expense of functionality. She believes homeowners should question their preconceived notions about how rooms in their homes are used, and determine exactly why they need the space before planning renovations. Her expert advice and design examples from well-known architects are thought-provoking, and may lead you to consider making changes of your own.
A clean start
Even Susanka admits that a thorough housecleaning can often supercede the need for a home renovation. If you're longing to clear the clutter from crowded rooms, these two titles should provide ample ideas and inspiration. The Home Organizing Workbook: Clearing Your Clutter, Step-by-Step (Chronicle, $24.95, 192 pages, ISBN 0811837327), by professional home organizer Meryl Starr, will start you off on the right track. Perfect for the time-pressed, Starr's spiral-bound book is divided with sturdy tabs to lead you straight to the room where you need the most help. Each chapter begins with a brief questionnaire that helps you identify the specific organizational problem you're having, and lists the page with the solution. The chapters also include do-it-yourself projects to improve the room in question. Color photos by Wendi Nordeck show the beauty of an organized home, and Starr's matter-of-fact advice makes clearing clutter seem easy and fun.
Pottery Barn Storage and Display (Oxmoor, $24.95, 192 pages, ISBN 0848727622) is more an ideas book than how-to manual, but its full-color photos present lovely options for creating innovative storage and displays. Creative notions include stacking vintage suitcases to use as a bedside table (useful storage and an original accessory). Baskets, hatboxes, even plastic specimen dishes are all put to use to get your rooms, drawers and closets in order. Chapters on closet design and organization and bathroom ideas are handy references, and a "Room Resource" section at the back lists the items and paint colors used in each photo spread to make ideas even easier to apply.
The power of color
Color can transform a room completely. British designer Kevin McCloud knows the power of color, and his vibrant new book, Choosing Colors: An Expert Choice of the Best Colors to Use in Your Home (Watson Guptill, $35, 192 pages, ISBN 0823006468), is an exhaustive tour around the color wheel. The introduction chronicles how color is used in design and art, and explains printing methods and ink choices in detail. Those interested only in which colors look good together can skip the explanations and head straight to the carefully chosen palettes that follow. Arranged by themechronologically ("1950s colors"), geographically ("the colors of the Kalahari") or simply whimsically ("seen through a fine gauze")McCloud's palettes are fascinating and will open your eyes to new ways of using color. The book is printed with six color plates to present the colors as accurately as possible, and a handy index lists paint manufacturers who can reproduce them for your walls.