If I could download any designer’s brain into mine, I would tap the head of award-winning interior designer Betty Lou Phillips. I would like to mainline her design sense, her eye, her sensibility, her shopping acumen, heck, I’d even like her wardrobe.
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But you and I just got the next best thing.
Phillips, also the author of the most sumptuous design books you could ever lust over — just check out “French Impressions, Inspirations from France and Italy, The French Connection” — has put between covers her approach in a how-she-does-it design guide: “Interiors by Design,” $25, just out from Gibbs Smith Publishers.
Her 13th book is the first one in which the Dallas designer takes readers — in this case those of us who deign to tackle home decorating on our own — behind the soie curtains of her gorgeous spaces and translates how she pulls it off.
In the 100-plus-page, binder-style book, Phillips channels hundreds of tips and design principles. She puts her finger on the elusive je ne sais quoi that great spaces have. Or in English: what is it about this space that’s making magic here.
Tab dividers separate photo-filled sections that focus on design secrets of color, fabric, furniture, lighting, window treatments, rugs, art and more. The three-ring binder feature lets users add pages for their own project plans.
When Phillips sent me her book, she included a note explaining that she wrote it because of the changing industry. One in which, thanks to the Internet, far more “fledgling decorators” are creating “striking settings on their own.”
“Once the thought of doing the decorating oneself was viewed as difficult and daunting,” she wrote in her note. Although some “design aficionados will still leave the task to the professionals, the Web has been a game changer.”
In the guide’s introduction, Phillips writes, “infinite inspiration is available at the click of a mouse” and interior design has become “undeniably egalitarian.”
So she offers some rules of the road, so that we egalitarians have more to go on than unschooled intuition.
After looking over her latest gift, I e-mailed Phillips to see if she could talk a bit about her book. She promptly e-mailed back: “Dear, dear Marni, I just landed in France to shoot for a new book. But that said, I’m so glad you like the binder …”
In one short sentence, she confirmed that she not only has the design sensibility I want but she also has the life I’d like, too.
Alas, in place of having Betty Lou’s brain, or her house — and I have been in two of them (!) — or her life, thank goodness I have her book. And for that we can all be grateful.
As I read through each section of “Interiors by Design,” I found good foundational pointers (don’t start unless you have a plan), along with many maxims that were complete news to me and some worthy of repeating. Here’s a small sampling:
New (to me) notions
Tips that bear repeating
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.