Inspiring Interior Design Books

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Anne Mai Yee Jansen


Anne Mai Yee Jansen is a literature and ethnic studies professor and a lifelong story addict. She exists on a steady diet of books and hot chocolate, with a heaping side of travel whenever possible. Originally hailing from the sun and sandstone of southern California, she currently resides with her partner, offspring, and feline companion in the sleepy mountains of western North Carolina.

I’m gonna be honest: I’m kind of obsessed with interior design books right now. While I love the ones that show a bunch of beautiful homes and might make great coffee table books, the ones I can’t get enough of are more educational. Put another way, they explain various aspects of interior design so that readers can try to enact some of the ideas they like in their own spaces.

After all, some people were gifted with natural talents that enable them to make their home spaces look like they should be featured in a magazine. I, for one, am no such person. I like all kinds of weird stuff and have no idea how it all fits together (or if it even can).

But these interior design books break down some of the key elements of interior design so they’re accessible. Some of them even offer ideas for little projects that you might take on if you’re so inclined. Others feature fun (IMHO) quizzes to help you get a better sense of how your tastes might translate to a beautiful living space.

As an added bonus, they are certainly all a pleasure to peruse. By which I mean: they’re really pretty.

Whether you’re redecorating your dwelling, moving into a new place, or just looking for inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of interior design books that I hope will give you lots of great ideas. Happy decorating!

Books With Quizzes to Get You Started

Styled by Emily Henderson book cover

Styled: Secrets to Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson

Styled is the only book on this list that is more than a few years old. But I had to include it because I think it’s a great place to start, especially if you feel sort of lost or insecure about interior design. Henderson starts off with a quiz to help you identify your design style (which I made pretty much everyone in my life take), then she explains each of those styles. The rest of the book is dedicated to demystifying interior design. As Henderson focuses on different room types, she also provides helpful insider tips on how to think about styling your own space. If you like this book, then you might want to know that she has a new book called The New Design Rules that is scheduled to be released in April.

Your Home Your Style by Donna Garlough book cover

Your Home, Your Style: How to Find Your Look and Create Rooms You Love by Donna Garlough

The quiz in Your Home, Your Style aims to help readers figure out their design “disposition” (as opposed to Henderson’s “style” quiz). It’s kind of interesting to think about whether you seek out items for your home that each have their own unique story or prefer to decorate once and never have to do it again. Whatever your design disposition, Garlough then dedicates the rest of the book to planning your space — from inspiration to execution. I enjoy the breakdown of spaces not into rooms, but into types of spaces: social, relaxing, hardworking, and in-between.

Books About Specific Styles or Spaces

Jungalow by Justina Blakeney book cover

Jungalow: Decorate Wild by Justina Blakeney

Justina Blakeney’s first book, The New Bohemians, made a big splash in 2015. So big, in fact, that she released a follow up handbook 2 years later. Jungalow is her latest book, and it’s my favorite book on this list. Not only is it full of colors — which seems to be kind of rare where interior design books are concerned, surprisingly — it’s also really nicely organized, with chapters that look at color, pattern, and bringing the outside in. Blakeney’s conversational tone makes the book super fun to read, and I love her point that design is culturally inflected: “‘Clashing’ is cultural. Vibrant color combos that are rare in some cultures are ubiquitous on walls, outfits, and accents” in others. The vibrant colors, patterns, and textures in Jungalow are a welcome and refreshing divergence from the more common palette of beiges, whites, and grays.

Design Remix by Corey Damen Jenkins book cover

Design Remix: A New Spin on Traditional Rooms by Corey Damen Jenkins

Just as the title promises, Design Remix offers a fresh take on “traditional” style. Jenkins definitely updates traditional, giving it a little color here, a subtle twist there. The result? Rooms that are at once innovative and familiar, and always inviting. The book’s organization moves from basics to more complex ideas in a way that builds so once you’re finished there’s been some real learning. Jenkins’s original sketches are a nice visual complement to the beautiful photographs that will have you drooling over upholstery and rugs and everything in between.

Homebody by Joanna Gaines book cover

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines

Gaines’s lovely book begins with a couple of chapters on basics (“Homebody 101” and “Identifying Your Design Style”) before launching into nine individual chapters that each focus on a single room type (bedrooms, entryways, kid spaces, etc.). I love that each chapter features a short section called “What to Consider” and ends with another short section called “Troubleshooting.” These sections are super helpful and make for easy reference guides if you’re planning something in a specific room of your space.

Wild Interiors by Hilton Carter book cover

Wild Interiors: Beautiful Plants in Beautiful Spaces by Hilton Carter

If you like keeping plants in your home, this is the perfect book for you. After the introduction, the book is broken into three sections. In the first, Carter shares his ten biggest inspirations and features in-depth information about ten on-trend plants. In the second (and longest) section, he showcases beautiful interiors as examples of different ways to plants can be incorporated in home design. In the third and final section, he offers guidance for thinking about how to successfully bring plants into your own home. I especially appreciate the tips and tricks of the trade that Carter sprinkles throughout the book.

Small Garden Style by Isa Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer book cover

Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers by Isa Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer

Okay, I know I said this list was about interior design books, but I had to include this one. It’s the best little guide to styling your outdoor space! It’s fantastic for thinking about small gardens (as the title suggests), but I think it would also give those of you lucky enough to have large outdoor areas plenty of ideas. Eaton and Kramer cover a lot of design principles for yardscapes, including planters and outdoor furniture and creating a balanced garden design.

Bibliostyle by Nina Freudenberger book cover

Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home With Books by Nina Freudenberger

I couldn’t leave this book off the list. After all, this is Book Riot! No way I could not tell you there’s a whole book about how people incorporate books as a central element of interior design. As a disclaimer, this is probably the one book on this list that goes in a more coffee-table-book direction, since it is really more of a showcase book than a how-to book. Nevertheless, I think you’ll understand why I included it if you pick it up — just flipping through Bibliostyle will give you about a million ideas for how to shelve your own books.

If you feel inspired, you might want to check out this post on How to Build Built-In Bookshelves. Or, for more bookish eye-candy, give Bookish Exteriors: Libraries That Look Like Books a read!