Reading Maze For Book Reviews

Reading for the Young & Old

Reclaiming Style

OK. Here’s another cracker that fits well on the shelf beside Ilse Crawford’s Home that I reviewed below. Although actually, and this says a lot about both books, neither have actually made it to the shelves as both have become regular reference material and favourites with any guests.

It’s called Reclaiming Style, using Salvaged Materials to create an elegant home, and that rather long title does sum it up very well. It’s also an unashamedly blatant advertisement for one of the better salvage yards in the country, where less is left to the customer’s imagination, with a good web site and great imagery to help you see the potential of the product.

You pay, of course, you pay handsomely, but so what if you end up with something amazing and still pay less than a new equivalent.

The business is run by Maria Speaka and Adam Hills and they’re credited with the book too which is a case study on a few of their bigger design and restore projects. It includes their own place, designed and built by Adam’s dad in the 70s and sporting some amazing graphic tiles and carpets. There are London houses, barns and more.

I might sound critical in the way that the book is so much a promotional tool for the business, but how clever is that? And of course if the business wasn’t good enough it wouldn’t work as a book either. I love it. I couldn’t wait for it to come once I’d ordered it, and I can’t wait now to plan our next project. The copy is better than many books of this genre, the photography is excellent – I’d like to see a few of the places in the raw, but I do believe the photography too, it’s not like an issue of Elle Deco where everything seems so perfect it’s hard to believe.51IP7jFI27L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_

If you love the book home, then get this as its natural shelf mate. Just don’t except it to sit long on any shelf.



I was on holiday for a long weekend in Britain’s finest city (in my humble opinion at least), Edinburgh.

I love the place and happily wander around it in a dream like state.

I spend hours looking at things I have no intention of buying in the shops, just because of the state of mind the clam of Edinburgh induces in me.

It was in that state that I wandered into a shop I’d not seen before, called Anthropology.

It’s like a grown up version of Urban outfitters, which itself would be my favourite if I were in my teens, or early twenties. The fact that I’m way past its target age doesn’t stop me from popping in whenever I see a good one even now.

And in Anthropology I discovered Kinfolk.

Kinfolk is a magazine.

Kinfolk vol 8

Of sorts.

It’s that slightly bigger than A4 size of many mags.

It’s published regularly, albeit only four times a year.

But above every other point.

Kinfolk is beautiful.

It was with Kinfolk in mind that I started writing the last post about whether or not the book is dead.

And in fact I could just about cope without my regular and expensive deliveries of fine volumes, if I could just secure the flow of great magazines like this.

It’s simple.

It’s not a weighty and informative tome such as my also much loved Monocle.

But it’s about real life, with a sprinkling of fairy dust and the adept avoidance of the mundane.

I am going to write more about it in a few days as I can’t do it justice in a short post like this.


The Harry Pearce Monogram

Often an artist’s monogram is a weighty tome, even if they have done little work. Just pictures of that work taken from a hundred angles to save you feeling too ripped off when you pay a hefty sum to buy it.

Fans of clean, near perfect graphic design will be aware of the work of Harry Pearce who about six or seven years ago finally joined the design polymath Pentagram. Harry’s monogram is so subtle it barely whispers on the shelf, but how noticeable that whisper is.

Pentagram books are always worth searching out, both as interesting case studies of the company’s work, and as pieces of industrial art in their own right.

Harry’s book is small. Very small. Yet it covers the major areas of his work with no words to get in the way. His work for Halfords makes you want to go to your nearest store and see how true they have remained to the pristine look and feel he gave the brand. I’m particularly interested in his work with 26, the guild of copy writers who seek to raise the art of writing for business to a higher plain.

It’s enough to make you seek out the man, but there’s nothing in it that shouts. It’s rather like the man himself, subtle, quiet, modest, genius.


Shed Men -Gareth Jones

Although the economy is shot to hell, the market in unnecessary books that are just a bit of a laugh, or stocking fillers, has grown tremendously over the past ten years.

Shed Men is not a book that anyone needs. But it’s a lovely book to have, especially for a shed man!

I built a rather lovely shed myself last year and wrote this blog on the rental property’s site blog link, it’s easily good enough go be part of this little volume.

The book was a Christmas present, and the first thing I turned to once the furry of shredding paper had subsided and thoughts were turning to dinner.

It’s a sweet little volume of pictures, with a description of each shed featured, and covers a range from the expected potting shed, pecked husband’s retreat, gentlemen’s drinking club, pool hall (tight on the cushion shots), even a chapel!

Bryan has a huge train set in his, that goes outside as well. James does some fine metal work with children’s toys a favourite, and Dave built his on his allotment with some mates, adding a decked veranda and the vital beer fridge.

All this got me thinking about what else a shed might be used for as an alternative twist – I liked the idea of a brothel, and at the other end of the scale a place for meditation…

My favourite is George’s on Lindisfarne, part upturned boat, part shed.

You’ll see my copy is annotated with a few that I particularly liked. Go buy a copy today for the sheddy in your life.

43 Principles of Home. Kevin McCloud

We all know Kevin McCloud from his now very long running Grand Designs programme that gets us all dreaming of how a better space might change our lives.

He has also published a few books on colour usage, and then last year this mega tome 43 Principles of Home.

It’s a serious book on something that most of us just take for granted, but Kevin takes us to another level here, championing quality above everything else. For him quality isn’t necessarily expensive, it could be modern, or it could be an ancient method or design – but it has to perform its task perfectly.

He takes us through history and introduces us to some of the greats of design for homes, he talks wisely about ecology and efficiency, and all the way through you have your belief reinforced that this man really cares.

The photos and illustrations are beautiful and a testament to the work of NB Studio who design the coffee table volume for Harper Collins.

It’s not a book to flick through as are most of the genre. This one takes issues head on and offers up good advice for the conscientious home owner.

I loved his open horror at the idea of going to Bluewater, and I’d share that feeling, but then I admired his gradual realisation that the place is well designed, it works, it can change to satisfy future needs and so fits his idea of quality. He’s never going to advocate such a place, but he did accept it.

If you’re about to move I suggest you buy it quickly, rather than when you’re already in your new home. It may make you rethink your choice. Once you’re in and ready then take a look at UK Bathrooms for everything you’ll need to bring the place properly up to date. McCloud might not be a regular there, but that’s probably only because he hasn’t discovered it yet.

Deciphering the UK Building Regulations

In the UK, building regulations are amended and updated amazingly frequently, and this can be a minefield for builders and construction workers, whether amateur or professional.

Often lengthy and confusing, the extensive rules for what can and can’t be done in the UK are difficult to read, interpret and remember. So any sort of builder considering any type of building, whether it’s an extension to an existing property, a renovation of an old one or the installation of a garden home office, needs a reliable guide to the building regulations.

Author Ray Tricker (MSc IEng FIET FCIM FIQA FIRSE) is a man who can help. Noticeable by his wealth of experience and qualifications as a building surveyor, he has turned this to advantage by putting together several books aimed at professionals in the construction industry.

A recent publication entitled ‘Building Regulations in Brief’ does exactly what it says on the tin — it is a concise distillation of all those confusing and long-winded  laws that govern a builder’s workday hours.

Not only does the author explain the ins and outs of the building regulations, he outlines ways in which to conform to them in a cost-effective way, thus potentially saving users quite a lot of money when undertaking their projects. In the current economic climate which has proved particularly severe for the construction industry, this aspect of this book should make it a best-seller.

As well as being a good reference guide to the rules, Tricker goes into a little bit of detail about the evolution of them all and why they exist. This makes the whole subject easier for the reader to understand, ingest and remember and is a useful addition to the normal guidebook style. He writes about how councils and local authorities view certain issues in order that the reader can appreciate and take into account the opposing viewpoint and the official stance they will be dealing with.

Building Regulations in Brief

Reading up on bathroom design

Spring heralds a rush of home improvement spending as the lighter evenings and warmer temperatures encourage homeowners to emerge from their winter hibernation and start – or finish – projects around the house.  Throw into the mix the Bank Holidays when people have more time to devote to shopping and working on DIY, and it’s easy to see why it’s a busy time. So the publishing world sees a rash of new releases aimed at this keen market, and one such book is “1001 Ideas for Bathrooms – the Ultimate Sourcebook” by Jerri Farris. Covering everything from layout, bathroom suites, furniture such as cabinets, showers, wet rooms and all the essential accessories, this book is a source of inspiration for anyone looking to upgrade their bathrooms. Not only is browsing such a book a bit of treat – with its glossy stylish room set photos and nice feel – but it will give the reader pause for thought with new ideas and suggestions and will also answer many common queries and dilemmas about layout and design. The author offers plenty of sound practical advice about the optimum layout for efficiency, ideas to remedy a shortage of storage space using bathroom furniture and also describes some technical considerations in a simple way that anyone can grasp. Overall, this book is a comprehensive and very useful start to any bathroom remodelling DIY project and will certainly earn its keep.

Blinds Curtains and Cushions: Design and Make Style Treatments for Your Home

I bought this book the other week and decided to have a good read through with the aim of perhaps making some of my own curtains and blinds.

It was a very interesting book, but I found some of the methods use to create blinds quite complicated and a bit fiddly, plus I found a really good online shop for purchasing made to measure blinds, a company called tuiss does them for a really good price.


I think I’ll still design some cushions – I quite like the thought of creating my own funky cushions to brighten up the room. Hopefully it won’t take me too long to learn how to make them! Anyways, I’ve got to go now, I want to go measure up my lounge windows for some roman blinds.

Eco-Refurbishment: A Practical Guide to Creating an Energy Efficient Home

If you’re worried about the energy efficiency of your home this book will help you to make small changes that will improve your carbon footprint and reduce your utility bills.  Over 30% of all CO2 emissions are down to housing and Peter Smith tells us what we can do to change this startling figure. If you’re thinking about starting any home renovations read this first, after all upgrading your property can immediately represent added capital value, so use the opportunity to install adequate insulation from the start – you’re literally throwing money away on wasted energy if you don’t. Simple changes like replacing old, outdated appliances and white goods with new A-rated ones will immediately have an impact.

With the recent introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Home Information Packs (HIPs) the responsibility of the homeowner or landlord has increased. By law you must inform potential buyers or tenants of the current energy efficiency performance of your property so that they can make intelligent and informed decisions on whether to rent or buy. It places increased pressure on owners and landlords to improve the efficiency where possible in order to positively impact the environment. With practical and affordable ideas such as underfloor heating or solar panels there’s something in here for all budgets and circumstances.

There are hundreds of books on building your own eco-home but if you’re not in a position to build your own pad, the next best thing is to refurbish what you’ve got. This book shows exactly what you can do to renovate your current home in an environmentally friendly way, with everything you need in one handy reference guide. It’s an extremely practical text with a useful case study to show us exactly how it’s done.

The Essential Housebook

First published in the 1996, The Essential Housebook is still regarded as a bible for interior design and home style. Almost 15 years after its release the advice in here is as relevant now as it was then.

For advice on decorating and furnishing your home, Terence Conran is the best man for the job. In 1964 he opened the first Habitat shop and his empire includes the Conran Shop, Benchmark Furniture and many restaurants. Heavily involved in architecture and interior design, he was instrumental in the regeneration of the Shad Thames area of London.

The photos in the book are wonderful; Conran has included in here some of the most beautiful rooms and homes in the world. Some of the ideas simply won’t equate to a 3-bed semi in Bradford though so don’t get any grand ideas. As a reference guide it’s the perfect renovation companion but don’t imagine you’ll be able to get the Conran look on a budget – it’s high-end, fat-wallet stuff.

There are five main sections in the book, which discuss major structural work or smaller design improvements. Plus, there’s advice on the best decorating and furnishing options, a checklist of maintenance tips, and an index of useful addresses including advisory bodies, architects, designers, suppliers and shops (note that older versions of this book might be a little outdated now).

If you’re after a minimalist and contemporary look for your home, this is the place to start. You have to admire Conran’s ethos – he knows home design and much of it is simply timeless. Heed his principles and mould the ideas to fit your own space and budget.