November 9, 2016

Homespace by Darren Palmer

Using real life interior design projects, Darren Palmer inspires us to change the space we have into the home we love.

The blurb is a lot longer but that is all you need to know about this lovely hardcover about one of my favourite topics – home decorating. I am guilty of clicking through pages of Pinterest drooling over remodelled tool-sheds, kitchen updates and holiday house renovations. But like all fantasy, it is fantasy. Short of wallpapering my home with issues of Home Beautiful, I will never achieve anything even close. The best part about this particular book is that it makes you feel like it is possible for you to achieve some of what you see on theses semi-gloss pages. They are not all Grand Designs.

It’s a down to earth designer book – is that even possible?

There are only five case studies but they take you from the beach to leafy suburb, family home to heritage apartment. For someone like me who grew up with the luxury of backyards, open verandas and above all, space, a lot of these design books feel a little claustrophobic – well, maybe not the warehouse conversions. But I was half convinced I could live in the gorgeous restyled heritage apartment, or in the casually elegant beach house (okay I would have to ditch the kids and pets, but sacrifices, yes?).

How to, or not to, that is the question

Often when I read one of these books, the problem is that the photos are gorgeous and everything is in its perfect place, but that’s where it ends. Not so here. At the end of each case study, where the elements are explained, not only do you pick up a bit of design lingo, there is a section called “Pieces of the puzzle”. Oh joy of joys, Darren shares why the spaces work. He even shares a design exercise with you, one he was given by his mentor. So having picked up stuff about ‘focal points’ , ‘editing’ (no not that sort), ‘choosing the right tile’, ‘scale’, ‘drama’ and ‘installation’, I started to analyse the age old design question “Why doesn’t that room work?” Well if you do the ‘mat dilemma exercise’ or the ‘small change’ exercise, you might just get some answers. Not sure how to make your bedroom look like, well, a design statement? Yes, there’s a ‘casual unmade bed look’. There’s a section on it!

“… four different takes on one simple room answering four separate briefs.”

So step by step you are taken through why the space worked as well as a potted history of the project. Everyone has their own particular comfort level. I am not a particular fan of hard modern lines and polished concrete and neither do I really like frilly floral tie backs on equally frilly curtains. No offence to decorators of either, but usually I feel a little isolated from authors of designer books as they tend to embrace either one end or the other. It was refreshing to find someone who seemed to be really in touch with how people used and lived in their homes. The variety of projects in the book attests to Darren’s flexibility as a designer.

“When you find images of things you like, think about why you like them.”

Let’s do this together

The nice thing about this book is the easy reading collaborative tone. Should I ever be so lucky as to be in a position where I needed to consult a decorator, then Darren would be top of my list. The whole design process is a collaborative one between himself and the client.

“Getting to know my clients is an important part of my job, and it’s just as important for the clients to get to know me.”

If I must have a criticism then let it be that the book is too short – I want more case studies. I would be intrigued to see what he would do with northern homes in the tropics and sub-tropics. I appreciated being treated an in intelligent participant in this book, neither talked down to nor bamboozled with jargon. This book is accessible, genuinely informative – Darren open-handedly shares both his knowledge and his passion.

This is a Christmas stocking filler for sure – after reading it you could practice placing it artistically on your coffee table.

Rating 4.5 out of 5

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