Novel Interiors

Want to live in an ‘enchanted room inspired by literature?’

If there was ever a book for a book lover to get lost in, this is it. With gorgeous photos and bookish quotes, author Lisa Borgnes Giramonti delivers a uniquely literary interior design guide. I love this book!

Giramonti uses over 60 literary classics to illustrate six common interior design types and shows you exactly how to create a home that reflects your literature-inspired dreams. At the end of each chapter are “finishing touches” – lists of objects, colors and patterns that represent that type. The accompanying photographs and snippets of text from the novels combine beautifully with her lessons and observations in this accessible / aspirational book.

Here are Giramonti’s chapters and their moods:

  1. Shall I Put the Kettle On? (cozy and unpretentious)
  2. Remembrance of Things Past (refined, stately, symmetry)
  3. Living au Naturel (handmade, neutral, pared-down)
  4. Oh, the Glamour of it All (sleek, geometric, black + white, mirrors)
  5. Anything Goes (color, chaos, unconventional, mixing patterns)
  6. Sometimes a Fantasy (drama, pleasure-seeker, theatricality)

Giramonti’s introduction primes the reader for an imaginative and inspiring experience. Note: I read through the Style Gurus section at the end which details all the novels she utilized, and I’ve only read four: Little Women, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I added a few titles to my ‘to be read’ list.

It’s always tricky to review an art or design book because it’s all so subjective. What stands out to me might be boring to you, and vice-versa. However, when I’m enthusiastic about a book I want to share and persuade you to try it, too. Let’s dive into the six chapters and see if any of them speak to you.

The “cheerful domesticity” of authors like Dickens, Austen and Rowling resonate with me. In the first chapter Giramonti writes of “the charms of disorder” to my amusement… ok, let’s call the disorder charming, sure! “When in doubt keep it comfortable” is wise advice. Who wants to live in discomfort?

Some of this chapter’s finishing touches found in my house include framed animal portraits, China cake stands and small round mirrors. Even though this isn’t the chapter that felt most like me, this particular quote does:

The friendliest homes I have seen have an untidiness that enhances their beauty, with books crammed into the recesses, flowers trailing around the windows, and half-completed projects scattered on the dining room table.

Chapter two’s formal elegance and expensive simplicity were a little too austere for my tastes. I like symmetry but this was on the cold side. However, the finishing touches for this style include antique maps and garden urns, which have a magnetic pull for me. So perhaps I could indulge this style in my library and formal garden (if I had either).

Au Naturel is probably the closest to my design style. Natural wood, mason jars, enamel dishware, cast iron, nautical landscapes, and apothecary cabinets all make me happy. This style is simple and brings nature inside whenever possible.

I’m so glad I live in a world with Octobers… Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill – several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them.

Anne of Green Gables

Chapter four celebrates glamour and exuberance and “the glorious potential of every moment.” Glamourous and unpretentious…could that be me? Because this style also appeals in a mid-century modern kind of way. The finishing touches that bring it to life include abstract art, a rolling bar cart with silver cocktail shakers, backgammon, lace curtains and mid-century globes.

Let me take a moment to talk about the photographs in Novel Interiors. They’re exquisite: crisp and warm for some styles and dark and moody for others. The photographer, Ivan Terestchenko, uses perspective, light and placement to add life to the text and make it easy for the reader to focus. If a page resonates, if it makes you feel happy or relaxed or at home, the details are right there in the photo. I found myself lingering over some, enjoying the perfection of the images and the feelings they evoked.

I like the idea of the anything goes style in chapter five – my home is a bit of a mish-mash – but full-on Bohemian isn’t for me. I love the mix of cultures and styles and influences but the layers upon layers make it feel overdone. Too many plants, too many pillows, too many patterns. But that being said,

What is it about global décor that turns a room into a departure gate for dreams?

This rhetorical question got to me. Maybe a lighter hand would make this style work because I do like to dream.

Giramonti’s final chapter, Sometimes a Fantasy, is gorgeous, all dark and velvety with sumptuous fabrics and jewel tones. It’s like living in an Old Master painting. I was surprised to find many of my treasured trinkets on this finishing touches list; it makes me think more about intentionally cultivating this style “for a home that casts a seductive spell and awakens the senses.” More orchids, decorative insects and butterflies, Murano glass and Japanese vases!

The back of Novel Interiors is packed with sources, credits and the novels Giramonti used as inspiration. Even if you’re not interested in making any changes to your living space this book is still a good one to page through on a lazy day, in your favorite chair, beverage of choice by your side.

Want more? Here is Giramonti’s website:

This is an interview with her from 2019

And here is a recent interview with Terestchenko:

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