In this, Atlanta Bartlett’s fourth book (and her second with husband Dave Coote), we get a proper peek at the method behind her elegantly relaxed look.
I was sold at the first line: “[This] is not a book about a decorating style but a way of life … creating a relaxed and happy home encompasses so much more than just the look of a place.” To me, that is the essence of what the best houses are: not clinical rooms created solely solely for the pages of magazines, but real spaces where real lives happen. Not perfect, necessarily, just ... right.
Divided into three manageable sections – ‘The Simple Mindset’, ‘Making it Happen’ and ‘Living the Dream’ – each one broken down into smaller nuggets of information, this is a book to be consumed slowly, absorbing the ‘simple’ philosophy as you do so.
The book begins with two personal obsessions of mine: decluttering and storage. I firmly believe that no matter what your tastes are, a room can never be restful or beautiful (regardless of how you define those words), if it’s too full of stuff. But, in a way, this needs to go hand-in-hand with a change of mindset – by not accumulating those things in the first place.
‘The Simple Mindset’ addresses these questions ably, demonstrating how, by uncovering the delights of good design; by appreciating the bones of a house and working with them to create honest, characterful rooms; and, ultimately, by paring back to the essentials, it is possible to create a home where you can cook, live, relax, entertain and raise your children in harmony with your surroundings. Sounds pretty good to me.
‘Making it Happen’ is an exercise in how to evaluate the space you have and then how to go about decorating it simply. Ranging from architectural details to colour, via walls, floors, furniture and layout (the latter an essential ingredient in a decorating project, yet one that few books address), it provides a straightforward but beautifully illustrated overview of the process.
‘Living the Dream’ is a room-by-room analysis of every part of the home, from cellar to attic (it even tackles one-room living for those with more modest living quarters), all the while focusing on appealing materials, textures and colours.
It is rare to come across an interiors book that is as concerned with how a space makes you feel as it is with how it looks, yet this is one of the keys to good decorating. For this reason alone, Keep it Simple is a keeper – destined for the bookshelf, not the decluttering pile.
Keep It Simple by Atlanta Bartlett & Dave Coote (£19.99, Ryland Peters & Small)
All photography by Polly Wreford