The January 1 Netflix premiere of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, based on the decluttering guru’s 2014 blockbuster book, reignited interest in the title, which sold more than twice as many print copies in January 2019 as it did in January 2018. As new fans get acquainted with Kondo’s foundational concept—keep what sparks joy and discard the rest—forthcoming home and garden books show her ongoing influence and the evolution of her ideas.
These titles urge readers to turn their homes into personalized oases stocked with happiness-inducing objects and outline the minutia—which materials will last, and, by virtue of their longevity, spark joy—that will help a householder take control over an unruly home for years to come. They also show readers how flowers, which at first blush may seem superfluous, can be integral to creating a feeling of sanctuary in the home.
Tidiness is next to Happiness
Emma Blomfield’s Keeping House (Hardie Grant, Mar.), illustrated by Juliet Sulejmani, is divided into two sections: “Sanctuary,” which “covers all the essentials for setting up and decorating your home,” as the author’s note toward the beginning explains, and “Celebration,” which helps readers open up the home to guests. Blomfield teaches novice solo dwellers how to arrange closet shelves, choose bedding, neaten rooms on a daily and weekly basis, adapt to pets, and whip up bouquets—all with an eye toward creating, she writes, an “authentic home.”
In a similar vein, lifestyle blogger Erin Gates follows 2014’s Elements of Style (57,000 print copies sold) with Elements of Family Style (Atria, Apr.). She discusses the basics that make a child-centric household run smoothly: upgrading appliances, keeping a family calendar, storing laundry soap efficiently, and more, walking readers through DIY design projects for every room.
Trish Todd, v-p, executive editor at Atria, sees a focus on what’s going to be “pretty and personal and practical” as Gates’s central conceit. “This book is so appealing and accessible,” Todd says. “Everything looks so gorgeous and perfect, but behind the scenes, she’s telling you what’s going on in her life.” Gates and her husband, Todd says, balance the cheerful tidiness of the photos with passages on their sometimes difficult and messy experiences of parenthood.
In Vacation at Home (Running Press, Aug.), Vern Yip looks to the pampering and orderliness of hotels as a model for combatting the physical and emotional messiness of daily life. He offers suggestions for creating unique spaces in which families feel both relaxed and rejuvenated, and lays out some ground rules: how high to hang pictures, how to make an entry space that “greets you properly,” and how to resist buying a lamp you’ll hate in a month just because it’s on sale. These directives, he says, are “independent of style” and “help you get to a place where you feel surrounded by things that you love.” (For our q&a with Yip, see “Rescue from Chaos.”)
In March, Rizzoli will publish Recipes for Decorating by Joa Studholme and Charlotte Cosby, international color consultant and head of creative, respectively, at Farrow & Ball, a luxury paint and wallpaper company known for its historical restoration work. The authors bring a critical eye to the use of color in polished interiors in Europe and the U.S.; they also present readers with color recipes for individual rooms and solutions to questions such as how much paint to use and when to go dark or light. Although the authors have definite ideas about what does and doesn’t work, says Rizzoli publisher Charles Miers, they aim to appeal to a younger audience with a “DIY, informal, play-with-your-options approach.”
Home design, says Hardie Grant publishing director Kate Pollard, needn’t be a space where commandments come down from on high and must be followed to the letter. “It used to be that authors said, ‘Paint the wall this color, and buy this kind of lamp.’ But people no longer want to be told what to do.” Now, even books that lean toward the prescriptive offer room for experimentation and encourage readers to use their own knowledge of what will bring them calm and happiness.
For example, Design Thread (Hardie Grant, Mar.) by Kit Kemp (A Living Space and Every Room Tells a Story) showcases the interior designer’s eclectic projects—the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan, Kemp’s daughter’s London apartment—as touchstones for creating “a comfortable, magical space,” Pollard says, that “pushes back against that experience of going to someone’s house and recognizing the same Ikea bookshelf that you have.” In the book’s introduction, Kemp ties this to the very thing oft discussed in Kondo-land: “A [room] that’s lovingly created and beautifully detailed,” she writes, “will forever be a joy.”
Several new books connect relaxation at home to a more seamless connection to nature. With Natural Style (Creative Homeowner, Apr.), Janet Sobesky, who was the home design and lifestyle editor at Woman’s Day for two decades, incorporates eco-conscious living—her book’s householding tips address outgassing from new carpeting and pesticides in cotton sheets, for instance—and shows how bringing in fresh flowers can elevate not only rooms but moods.
Plenty of digital ink has been spilled over the current mania for houseplants, but this season, there’s a renewed focus on flowers in particular and their utility in giving a living space a homey feel. Living Floral by Margot Shaw (Mar.) is part of a continuum for Rizzoli, which “has a long tradition of publishing books on flower arrangements,” Miers says. He sees flowers as “having a moment” now, and a variety of titles from his and other houses devoted to the topic support his point.
Hardie Grant’s A Tree in the House by Annabelle Hickson (Mar.) is less about balsa and beeches and more about blooms, showing lush arrangements in interior spaces. Hickson describes how to forage for flowers and arrange stems for special occasions, and uses flowers as a link to appreciating nature. By incorporating flowers into the home, Pollard says, readers can create a pathway “to feeling good and being in a safe haven.”
In The Flower Fix (White Lion, May), Anna Potter highlights what the subtitle calls “modern arrangements for a daily dose of nature,” depicting them in a variety of aspirational settings. Organized in part by color and the moods they evoke—“romantic” pinks and reds are grouped together, for instance—the book offers the reader strategic boosts in confidence (there’s an entry called “Learning to Let Go”) and encourages artistry (“Letting Creativity Flow”).
Floral designer Ariella Chezar’s latest, Seasonal Flower Arranging (Ten Speed, Feb.), offers best-practices advice on raising a cutting garden, as well as how to sustainably pick blossoms in the wild. Eye-popping arrangements of autumn-yellow leaves or neon pink sweet peas are shown adorning table settings and mantelpieces, and Chezar, whose previous titles include The Flower Workshop, provides detailed instructions for achieving these looks—including how to build an arrangement’s base layer and even how high to fill a vase with water.
In Bloom (CompanionHouse, Mar.) by Clare Nolan, former lifestyle editor at the U.K.’s You magazine, emphasizes gardening as a means to beautify and personalize the home. Laura Taylor, who edited the book, says readers “want the ability to use flowers as a decorating tool, and to express their style.” She adds, “By growing your own, you get to enjoy things you can’t easily find or afford from shops.” The book offers advice on what sorts of blossoms make for good cut flowers; how to raise bulbs, annuals, shrubs, and more; and how to effectively build arrangements and display them around the home.
Say It with Flowers
Both In Bloom and Seasonal Flower Arranging address giving arrangements as gifts—a tradition probably as old as cut flowers. This is the entire subject of The Posy Book (Countryman, May). In it, author Teresa Sabankaya revives the practice of floriography—the “language of flowers” beloved by Ottoman Turks and Victorians alike—using calla lilies (“magnificent beauty”) and basil (“best wishes”) to create a bouquet that connotes, for instance, a happy birthday.
Aurora Bell, associate editor at the Countryman Press, says this acquisition grew out of her experience planning her wedding, when she couldn’t find books that “gave accessible instructions for meaningful bouquets.” She says the meanings embedded into the posies, as well as the “meditative handiwork” involved in fashioning them, will most appeal to readers.
Beautiful Wreaths by Melissa Skidmore (Skyhorse, Aug.) instructs readers in handcrafting floral décor, presenting 40 suggestions for working with dried flora. She gives structural instructions and offers some novel treatments, such as a wreath tucked into the top of a watering can.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is banking on plant lovers of all kinds with its new color-photography-packed Home Grown Gardening Guides, launching in May. One title, Best Roses, Herbs, and Edible Flowers, is a reference manual for growing Japanese anemone, marigolds, and of course, roses, along with instructions for how to harvest and preserve them, continuing the season’s trend of bringing nature, and its calming effects, into the home.
Lela Nargi is an author and freelance journalist in Brooklyn.
Below, more on the subject of home and garden books.
Rescue from Chaos: PW Talks with Vern Yip
In 'Vacation at Home,’ the HGTV personality focuses on how to turn a disorganized, stress-inducing home into a serene retreat.
Greenspiration: New Home & Garden Books 2019
These fanciful garden books are designed for gift giving and coffee-table perusing.
Sacred Spaces: New Home & Garden Books 2019
Books that approach home design from a faith perspective make an explicit connection between habitat and spiritual well-being.