Monday, September 25, 2017

Celebrating Sophie Donelson’s Brilliant New Book, ‘Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs’ Just Published by Abrams

It’s dynamic, inspiring and full of her design insider ideas and knowledge. It’s fresh, colorful, and an essential reference book for your library.

Sophie, the beloved and admired Editor-in-Chief of
House Beautiful
has created a dazzling idea-filled design book that is vivid, joyful and inspiring.

On its 250 pages and in 8 chapters, Sophie has delineated and illustrated hundreds of decorating and interior architecture ‘secrets’ including the instant effect of using an unexpected color, working with antiques and vintage pieces, making a grand gesture with a large-scale sofa, ensuring a sense of ‘touch’ on fabrics in every room, selecting personal (perhaps eccentric) favorites, and ways of creating a ‘wow’ moment. 

Sophie Donelson, Editor-in-Chief of House Beautiful (Photo exclusive).

Photography includes the new portrait of Sophie Donelson, above, with décor by Ken Fulk. Images from the book (below) include décor by Myra Hoefer (the all-white living room), bedrooms and kitchen details by Benjamin Dhong, and a fireplace vignette by Ken Fulk. Sophie selected highlights from top designers and creatives for ‘Style Secrets’…only the best. The range of ideas is exciting, the images vivid.

Exclusively for THE STYLE SALONSTE: Sophie Donelson’s Style Tips

Best of all, Sophie’s ideas are practical and versatile and they don’t require a huge splurge.

“There is no big budget required for entry or to initiate stylish changes,” she said. ‘Since House Beautiful’s founding in 1896 we’ve engaged readers with ideas to try, not just to buy. Every month, our issue is full of chic concepts, quick upgrades, new colors, designer tips, and new ways of looking at design. So a smart reader walks away with scores of potential new home upgrades in each issue—no shopping required,” said Donelson.

And these artful and smart concepts and fast lessons are on every page of the book.

Sophie’s Choices

“There are many useful and practical design ideas I’ve included in the book many professional ideas and things that most decorators agree that a home needs,” said Donelson. 

“I believe that an over-scale urn or plant or tree always adds gravitas to a room, no matter how small. Unexpected color can cheer a room or change its mood. Luminosity turns a dull room into something spectacular, whether from a crystal chandelier or a mirror. I love a punch of black for contrast. I like the artful use of an unusual or unexpected fabric or leather or antique textiles. And fabrics that are lovely to touch. Avoid having everything brand-new in a room, as it can look rather hotel-like. Old things—a rug, a painting, and a family heirloom—remove that ‘just delivered’ look.” 

These concepts are all shown and described in the new book.

Sophie’s Insider Tips: Exclusively for THE STYLE SALONISTE

I sat down for a chat with Sophie Donelson recently to find out more about her book, and to get a few more ideas. Here are her great pointers.

DDS: Sophie, congratulations. Your book is exuberant, joyful, highly informative, and a great pleasure to read. You’ve selected ideas that are inspired and possible. My readers would love to know what did you set out to accomplish with this book?

The book is a fresh way of presenting the gems that live inside every issue of House Beautiful. We present new-to-market furniture and accessories to our readers each month, but the features in the book go much deeper – they document what makes a room truly special or personal. I felt those ideas deserved a bigger canvas, a treatment that’s bolder, and a format that’s truly keepsake and so that’s when I pitched the book idea.

DDS: The images you’ve chosen for the book are the cream of the crop of House Beautiful recent design features. You feature ideas from top designers in every design hotspot in the country.

How is this book unique and different from other design books?

The truth is, beautiful rooms are defined as much by smart ideas as they are by fine furnishings. So, the mission of the magazine and Style Secrets is to reveal those truths. It’s sort of give a man a fish / teach a man to fish scenario: we will always do shopping stories in the magazine, but true, lasting enjoyment of home is wrought not from possessions, but from how its put together and the vibe it emits.

The most interesting design professionals to me are the ones who can rearrange a homeowners existing furniture and art—and add just a few new elements—to create a magnificent space. They don’t need to start from scratch to relay a vision, nor do our readers. The book gives readers a shorthand guide on how to capture those insights for their own space.

DDS: Your book is full of fantastic anecdotes, many of them witty, about each image, each room. Can you tell us how design brings joy and fun into your life?

So many ways! Last night I had a few friends and colleagues for dinner and it was just a joy to see the dining room at work. The sconces—a splurge—glowing dimly; vintage dining chairs slapped with Ikea sheepskins on top, the narrow dining table chosen because it’s more intimate for everyday use and fun with a group … and it all worked in symphony with lots of storytelling and laughs around the table. It gives me so much joy to see how the things I’ve invested in can enable happy moments.

I’m happy I have a fine wool rug in the living room; my baby spits up on it and it’s easy to clean and resilient. Plus, all my pictures of him learning to crawl have the BEST background!

DDS: Sophie, thank you so much. I’m re-reading the book for about the twentieth time, and I’m find more ideas, Toward the end of the book, I found pages about ways to do treillage, as well as Chinoiserie murals, and at the very end there are ten pages about Moorish/ Moroccan/ Spanish design ideas, motifs and colors. I’m smitten. Thank you. It’s a keeper.

House Beautiful ‘Style Secrets: What Every Room Needs’ by Sophie Donelson is published by Abrams this month. The 250-page reference/ idea/workbook also includes a very detailed list of credits/ information on each room, as well as a very thorough index.

Photography used here with permission, House Beautiful.


  1. I agree it's a keeper! I especially appreciated that there was so much color. And I really agree with Sophie's comment above that it's often just a matter of adding/removing a few things and working with what is there that can make a room sing. Anyone can buy a 'look' and install it ready-made. Making a space look great and effortless is the real talent.

  2. paula--thank you...yes, I love it.

    You are right that there are great ideas using color--and the tips are always useful, practical and logical.

    In particular...there is no one style direction dictated.

    The book encourages readers to be confident. Sophie loves the idea that everyone is an expert on their own style--

    very best--DIANE