My Top Five interiors books

If you’re like me then you probably received a few interiors books for christmas. I love whiling away the hours (which happens as often as I go to the gym) with a good interiors book of a Sunday afternoon, coupled with a pack of caramel chocolate digestives and copious amounts of caffeine. Heaven! I’ve got some fabulous books lined up for you here, you’ll want them all!

Our home is modelled on the simple coastal architecture of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s a weatherboard clad home with a colour palette of cool whites and muted greys and blue. When designing the home I wanted to conjure up memories of the coast. My family originate from Rye Harbour in East Sussex, UK. Many of my ancestors were fishermen, I know, how butch am I? I come from a family of burley men with largely-girthed fishing rods, who knew? My hubby comes from the coastal edges of the Lake District in Northumberland, so we both have an affinity with blue waters, salty air (Ooh er missus) and driftwood grey skies.

The only room in our house that didn’t get this look is our master bedroom. It was the last room to be decorated by me and I really just lost my mojo, so it was painted in whatever we had left and the furniture and styling was just everything that didn’t fit anywhere else. Last year I decided to give it a revamp and got carried away by a dusty pink colour I had seen. It’s a lovely colour, but with our west-facing light in exudes peach! Yes, I’m fully aware that apricot is very much of the moment, but you won’t find me anywhere bloody near the wretched colour! You see, my lovely mother had (still has) a penchant for the cobbleresque tone and it reminds me of Laura Ashley ruched curtains with tie backs and flouncy floral wallpaper boarders. So, every time I walk into our bedroom I think of my mum. Now, she’s lovely, but she’s the last person on earth I want to think about just before I’m about to get down and dirty, so it’s all got to go!

At the time I was short on time and money, so I didn’t really change the furniture or the finishing touches very much and the result was another room that didn’t really flow with the rest of the house.

There is a balcony off of this room, which I remodelled and styled last year successfully using muted greys and whites and rustic wooden furniture, mirrors and lanterns. However, the bedroom itself doesn’t talk to the balcony. In fact, they are estranged! So my mission is to make the two best friends and I’m not going to give up until they’re practically booking a Club 18-30’s holiday together!

So, at the beginning of the remodelling journey I start with research, I need all the inspiration I can get. Pinterest helps a great deal and my account: jpclarkstylist is now brimming with ideas for a rustic, coastal look, using whites, rattan and artefacts from the shoreline. I’ll be writing another article later in the spring on how we went about the transformation. Here’s hoping I get it right!

As well as Pinterest, interiors books can be invaluable and also make for fun reading for houseguests on coffee tables, or casually displayed in a bedroom. To me they are a thing of beauty before you’ve even opened the front cover!

The five books I’m going to tell you about have been invaluable in researching the look for our bedroom. A few of them I have used for direct inspiration and the others have had useful advice on colour pairing and styling.

My five books of choice are:

Relaxed Coastal Style – by Sally Denning.

For the love of White – By The White Company Chrissie Rucker.

The stuff of life – by Hilary Robertson.

Life|Style – by Tricia Foley.

Recipes for Decorating (Farrow & Ball) – by Joa Studholme.

Relaxed Coastal Style

I’ve followed Sally Denning since I started my own Instagram journey sixteen months ago, on her beautiful account @blackshorestyle – she is a freelance interiors stylist and creative director with over 20 years experience, including 12 years working on interiors magazines. She frequently features in titles such as Homes & Gardens and Country Homes & Interiors and her work work was featured as the front cover in the January 2020 issue of Homes & Gardens.

Relaxed Coastal Style is split into two parts. In the first half Sally talks about her take on coastal style. Don’t think tacky seaside-themes with anchors and mini lighthouses everywhere, it’s more a celebration of the natural colours and textures that nature provides on the coastline. Barnacle-encrusted jetties, muted silver driftwood finds, washed-up coral and salt-eroded paintwork. She delves into furniture, lighting, soft furnishings and simple ocean objet d’art such as nautical maps, lobster pots, rustic rowing oars, crumpled linens and beachcombing finds. It was the perfect choice for our bedroom revamp and I’ve borrowed heavily from her incredible styling ideas. She has a natural way of making the simplest of objects look beautiful, pairing them with natural light and textured surfaces.

The second half of the book sees Sally visiting a collection of stunning coastal homes, from rustic coastal retreats in the Isle of Sheppey, just off the Kent Coast and made quite famous by the fabulous Becca from @malmo_and_moss (This is definitely on my wish list – Elmley Nature Reserve – tried to book for a weekend this year, but they were full, darn it!) to vintage homes in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (a woman after my own heart). My favourite home in the book, however, is the home of designer Hannah Childs situated along the shoreline of Long Island Sound. She deliberately wanted to use very little colour, with each room flowing effortlessly into one another using softly shaded White Dove by Benjamin Moore. I’ve just ordered a sample! The entire home has a bright, airy feel and is beautifully uncluttered. Accents of rattan blinds and bamboo shades, with muted grey, blue and tortoise shell colours in the furniture, cushions and sculptural objects.

I’ve always wanted to use Benjamin Moore paints, as I’ve been a fan for years. They are now available in the UK via Shaw Paints Ltd. I’m looking at White Dove, Decorators White and Chantilly Lace, all inspired by this beautiful book.

Every photograph in this dream book is beautiful from pebbles on the beach to the rustic farmhouse kitchen of a Cape Cod cottage. Sally affords everyone the chance to have a little coastal inspiration in their homes, whether they are lucky enough to live by the water or not.

If you’re thinking of creating a relaxed coastal look in your home then this is the only book you will ever need. Sally has created an invaluable style guide, a bible for the love of rustic coastal charm.

For the Love of White

Published to mark the 25th anniversary of the iconic British brand The White Company, this beautiful book allows us to explore 12 inspirational homes, including the author’s own London home, that all use white as the foundation for their style. Chrissie Rucker, the founder of the company, offers up styling ideas and clever tips for creating a warm welcome in your home.

For the love of white is a masterclass in the use of white. I was particularly interested in the coastal section, which includes a pool house, a shingled house and a lighthouse. I was suitably impressed with the way the elements had been incorporated into their style, bringing the outside in. With a balcony off of our bedroom, which looks onto the garden, it’s important that I make the two spaces connect and speak to one another. Creating a natural flow and an inherent calm is so important. The pool house in the book uses natural rustic bare wood, rattan, blown glass pendants and vistas to green and white borders beyond to create a peaceful tranquility.

The shingled house imparts a simple contemporary blend, using shaker and Scandinavian influences, tongue and groove walls and masses of natural light. The lighthouse has a quirky, fun feel to it, using the natural curves of the architecture. Custom-built furniture hugs the smooth arcs of the walls, while rich wooden floors bounce the light onto the crisp white metro tiles and coastal finds.

I love Chrissie’s tips on mixing old with new, her splashes of green from foraged foliage in ghost-like glass vases. She has an incredible ability to create warmth and a sense of well-being using white as her backdrop. So often, in the wrong hands, white can look cold and bleak, but somehow she cleverly pulls together an eclectic palette of warmth and friendliness. This book is a big white hug that wants to envelope you and make you feel at home.


I’ve had this book for a few years now. It sits on a rustic shaker chair in our white guest bedroom for guests to peruse of a cosy Sunday morning. I bought it in one of my favourite shops in Key West – Besame Mucho. It is a masterclass in using paired down style, clean lines, a calming palette of welcoming whites and collected vintage items. Designer Tricia Foley’s Long Island home exudes timeless, classic style. It’s filled with antique market finds and pieces from her travels. It tells a story and showcases her life and times.

Life|Style is surprising too as throughout it you will not only find advice on the best shades of white from paint to table linens, but also extremely helpful checklists for how to make your guests welcome, how to create the perfect home office, summer outdoor dining and even a christmas entertaining and decorating guide! It encapsulates calm and order. If, like me, you veer on the wrong side of OCD, then you will love her style. I’m in no way being rude. I’m sure she knows that she likes a well-appointed home, where everything has its place. It is, as the book says: elegant simplicity at home.

Recipes for Decorating

The experts at Farrow & Ball have come up with an amazing collection of winning colour recipes, case studies for selecting the right range of colours to create harmony. Just like in the kitchen, cooking with colour is an art, not a science. Mistakes are fine because the joy is in the journey, then sharing it with friends, the results should be enjoyed and celebrated.

Farrow and Ball colour curator Joa Studholme takes us through a kaleidoscope of colour recipes and a menu of ideas to emulate. There are 13 case studies in total from Danish contemporary to a light-filled Brownstone. Each case study goes into fine detail about each colour recipe and how the tones compliment and contrast with each other.

She starts off though by giving us a brilliant analogy: the humble potato. “It can be mashed, boiled and turned into skinny fries, but the dishes are all made from the same ingredient. Similarly, a room can be painted in three different ways: the woodwork can be picked out in white or it can be painted darker than the walls, or just one colour can be used on both walls and trim. The main ingredient, the wall colour, remains the same, as with the humble potato, but the look of the room, like the cooked potato, will be totally different.”

Once we’ve understood the basics of cooking with colour, we can then start to experiment with our ingredients and use them in different ways to create a whole range of effects.

The case studies guide us through the myriad of colour options, making things simple to understand and to try at home. In the second half of the book we are treated to a whole host of recipes to try for different areas of our home, from the kitchen to a children’s bedroom.

In part three we get the tried and tested colour recipes, the sure-fire hits where you can’t possibly go wrong. Joa talks about colours to use in large rooms and small spaces, the use of light and even which finish to use. If you are looking for the ultimate guide to colour and how to use it in your home, then this is the book for you. Recipes for Decorating is like the timeless classic: Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course. Once you’ve bought this book, you don’t need another!

The Stuff of Life

This book is another of my finds from the lovely Besame Mucho in Key West. Hilary Robertson is a bit of an idol of mine. She is one of the greatest interior stylists of our time. In this book she reveals a multitude of creative ways to style and display our possessions, our accumulated history of objects that define and describe our lives. She has the most astonishing ability to take seemingly ordinary objects, bring them together in a vignette and create a stylish corner worthy of a magazine. If you’ve always wondered how the pros manage to make everything look so effortlessly beautiful, then this is the book for you!

Hilary tells us that “if we want to display objects with the skill of a professional stylist, then start by examining every artistic arrangement you encounter with a critical eye.” Looking at a grand master’s still life painting or an Irving Penn photograph can teach us everything we need to know about grouping objects and the importance of the negative space Between them. She sees the grouping of objects almost as a form of meditation and just as good for the soul. “Even if nothing Else in your room pleases you, you can transform one surface to your own satisfaction” by rearranging objects until you see something you like.

She has helpfully grouped the different ways of styling objects into four categories: Intuitive, Narrative, Practical and Curatorial. Through doing so, she gives us a framework from which to start to create the perfect balanced vignette. The second half of the book takes on a journey of peoples homes and peoples lives – how their experiences in this life have shaped the objects that are found on the shelves, nooks and cosy corners of the homes. The objects tell stories and give insight into the souls that inhabit the space. Displayed in the right way, taking time and care over their placement can totally alter the perception of a home.

If you’ve ever walked into a home and wondered how the owner has managed to effortlessly create a sense of balance and calm, intrigue and drama just by the arrangements of life-collected objects then please buy The Stuff do Life. I’m not on commission, theirs no paid partnership, I just love it and it has helped me so much and continues to inspire me.

So, there you have it, my five books that have helped and inspired my new master bedroom remodel. This week I started on the hard graft of DIY. I hope that the end result will do all of these books and authors justice in some small way. Wish me luck! Jp x

Follow me on Instagram @jonpaulclark


  1. Noleen
    February 13, 2020 / 9:14 am

    Great read JP – I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your labour 😊 x

    • Jonpaulclark
      February 16, 2020 / 5:54 pm

      Hope I don’t disappoint honey, thanks for reading. Xxx

  2. Emma
    February 13, 2020 / 9:49 am

    Love this blog post, Jp. Can’t wait to see your master bedroom re-do. You’re always so generous with you recommendations, and ideas, thank you. And a huge THANK YOU for letting us all know that Benjamin Moore Paints are now available in the UK – this is such good news. Right, I’m heading over the Amazon to order the two books I don’t already have from your list of 5. Thank you again for being such a lovely person on Instagram to follow xx

    • Jonpaulclark
      February 16, 2020 / 5:53 pm

      Oh my goodness thank you honey. So thrilled about Benjamin Moore. Xx

  3. February 13, 2020 / 11:43 am

    Fabulous blog JP! I love all the books for their different takes. I can see I’m going to be very tempted!

    Got to log off before I find myself on Amazon!

    • Jonpaulclark
      February 16, 2020 / 5:52 pm

      I think Ive cost you a fortune this month Penny!

  4. February 14, 2020 / 10:21 am

    Thanks JP – really useful book review and I’m going to order Lifestyle by Tricia Foley – I was drawn to it and when you said – ‘If, like me, you veer on the wrong side of OCD’ I knew I had to have it 😀 Looking forward to seeing the finished master bedroom. xx

    • Jonpaulclark
      February 16, 2020 / 5:51 pm

      That’s so fab! You wont be disappointed! Xxx

  5. Kathie koo
    February 15, 2020 / 1:41 pm

    What a fabulous blog. The books all look extremely inspiring.
    I love the coastal vibes in your fabulous home.

    • Jonpaulclark
      February 16, 2020 / 5:50 pm

      Thank you so much for reading it Kathie. Xxx

  6. Philippa
    March 8, 2020 / 8:43 am

    Fab blog post JP, looking forward to seeing the finished room! You are a natural at writing!!

    • Jonpaulclark
      March 20, 2020 / 2:34 pm

      Ah thanks so much Phillipa, very kind of you. Xxx

  7. Michelle Dempsey
    March 11, 2020 / 10:50 pm

    Love your blog and the squares, have 2 out of 5 of the books too, you have given me some good ideas too look forward to reading and planning my revamp ❤️❤️

    • Jonpaulclark
      March 20, 2020 / 2:34 pm

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read it. Xx

  8. Helen
    April 21, 2020 / 7:55 am

    What a great blog JP, I love interior books and there are a few here that I don’t have. It’s my birthday next weekend so I can add one to my little list. Thank you. Love then some change too!

    • Jonpaulclark
      April 21, 2020 / 10:11 am

      Ah thanks Helen. Happy birthday for next weekend too! Xx

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