COLIN & JUSTIN’S HOME HEIST STYLE GUIDE by Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, $32, Penguin Canada, softcover, 224 pages.
According to our favourite Scottish imports, Colin and Justin (of HGTV Canada’s Home Heist and How Not To Decorate fame), the biggest problem Canadian homeowners face is that they don’t know their own style. With help from Colin and Justin, discover who you are (at least in the design department!) and how to create a home that reflects your good taste. Plus, personalize rooms using mood boards, and get advice on kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as budget-savvy ideas for storage, flooring, lighting and accessories.
MICHAEL S. SMITH HOUSES by Michael S. Smith with Christine Pittell, $58, Rizzoli, hardcover, 208 pages.
In his book, the American interior designer extraordinaire says, "Everything we love in life -- fragrance, food, fashion, art -- is about contrast and tension between elements. It’s the medley of flavours that makes a dish taste good." Smith applies the same philosophy to his stunning designs, which combine unusual patterns, colours and styles, like multiple florals or eclectic groupings of accessories, new and old. Here, he shares the thought process and inspirations behind his designs, such as movies, childhood memories, magazines and hotels. Smith also invites readers inside his Los Angeles home (which he completely rebuilt over a four-year period, taking it from Regency style to English country) and the houses of some of his clients. Once you’ve seen his designs, which have a welcoming, unpretentious layered feel, you’ll want to enrich your space with personality and elegant simplicity, too.
THE LUXURY BATHROOM by Samantha Nestor, $69, Potter, hardcover, 224 pages.
This collection of gorgeous bathrooms in homes across the United States offers an intimate look at how the other half bathes. The 35 spaces, created by top designers like Jamie Drake and David Adler, feature luxe details like leather tiles, floor-to-ceiling marble and red onyx, Lalique and crystal chandeliers, and one-of-a-kind custom bathtubs. Many feel more like living rooms or art galleries than loos because they’re so spacious and comfortably designed.
KITCHENS: A SUNSET DESIGN GUIDE by Karen Templer, $26 (includes DVD), Sunset, softcover, 224 pages. BATHROOMS: A SUNSET DESIGN GUIDE by Bridget Biscotti Bradley, $26 (includes DVD), Sunset, softcover, 224 pages.
Before you even step into a design centre, rush out and buy these books. Created by a panel of American designers, architects and home builders, Kitchens will help you build a room you love. From setting your budget to choosing the shape of your kitchen to deciding on materials, you’ll handle your reno like a pro. In Bathrooms, learn how to design a half, shared, master or kids' bathroom that suits your family's needs (with a good lock so you can linger in the tub). This well-illustrated and organized book will ensure you make informed decisions about flooring, cabinetry, countertops and fixtures (like environmentally friendly toilets). Both books contain inspirational photos and an interactive Mac- and PC-compatible DVD, so you can design your new rooms on your home computer.
Jasmine Baker, director of special events at the Drake Hotel in Toronto, shares her picks for planning soirees, small and large.
PERFECT PARTIES: THE ULTIMATE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Alison Price, $25, Whitecap, 2003, softcover, 176 pages.
"I love Perfect Parties because it inspires me with gorgeous images of really lavish events at home, all the while reminding you to keep things simple. It breaks down the event-planning process: sending out invitations (from when to include a map to allowing time for refusals), planning menus, setting tables, choosing tableware and linens, booking help and deciding on lighting. There are also smart little reminders, such as avoiding scented candles that are too fragrant if you're hosting a dinner party."
WILLIAMS-SONOMA ENTERTAINING: COCKTAIL PARTIES by Georgeanne Brennan, $32, Free Press, 2006, hardcover, 144 pages.
"People often think they can't have a cocktail party for 30 at home because they don't have enough chairs, but in fact, the fewer seats you have, the more your guests will mingle. You'll find great tips and suggestions on issues like room flow, the number of pieces of finger food to serve per person per hour, seating arrangements and setting up a bar. Also included: menus and recipes, plus timelines for different types of stylish parties, depending on the season. These are simple events anyone can host, and with the easy explanations provided, you'll enjoy your parties as much as your guests do."