Sure, you can take a novel with you on summer vacation — or you can enjoy the leisurely reading of a new home-decorating book.
Here are a few suggestions:
Essential Kitchens: The Back to Basics Guide to Home Design, Decoration & Furnishing (Conran, $20)
Well-known designer Terence Conran takes the complicated subject of kitchens and boils it down to planning and layout, fixtures and fittings, decor and detail. Whether you're starting from scratch or sprucing up outdated space, this pint-size book is practical (just as your kitchen can be).
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I like that he recognizes the evolution of the kitchen, which is not only the heart of the home but also often is where busy households communicate, play, shop, socialize and refuel. Conran urges readers to stay on budget and consider their needs (Do you buy in bulk?).
Usually, I find myself just flipping through kitchen design books to stare at the pictures and dream, but this 112-page guide offers concise, useful points to help you determine whether you need sliding doors, a "quick chill" function in the fridge or LED lighting.
Best piece of advice: "Opt for simplicity when you are choosing kitchen cabinetry. Smooth flush doors and drawer fronts create a cleaner and more streamlined appearance than those with textured moldings."
Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small Cool Spaces (Clarkson Potter, $30)
If you have a house, don't let the title of Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan's book keep you from discovering the contents. This 304-page source of inspiration shows and tells the opportunities, not the constraints, of small spaces.
Explore colorful pages that take you from quick entrances to cozy kitchens and dining rooms, compact living rooms, miniature bedrooms, smart home offices and petite children's rooms.
Inspired by the Small Cool Contest at www.apartmenttherapy.com, Gillingham-Ryan gathered creative ideas from 40 small homes. The resources section in the back of the book helps you track down everything featured.
Some of the design solutions include vertical storage, open shelving, the walk-in closet office and soothing colors.
Best piece of advice: "Keep large televisions low so they don't overwhelm the room."
Restore. Recycle. Repurpose: Create a Beautiful Home (Hearst Books, $24.95)
Country Living magazine contributing editor Randy Florke's sustainable-living concepts can be achieved by reusing what you have and without spending a bundle. If you want to go green with your decor but don't know how, this 192-page book is brimming with handy shopping tips, pointers for recycling and insight on revamping.
Here are some of his room-by-room ideas: Cover beat-up cabinets with wainscoting. Refresh sturdy vintage beds (paint wood or metal, cover a paneled frame with wallpaper). Decorate with used mirrors, which are easily found and less expensive than original art.
Best piece of advice: "Who says kitchens have to have built-in cabinets? Any flea market, or even a well-stocked thrift store, will have multiple choices when it comes to china cabinets, credenzas, solid bookcases, and even old secretaries."