A read through The Pretty and Proper Living Room, by Holly Holden, is the next best thing to being raised by a grand Patrician family and inheriting every needlepointed, monogrammed, and engraved bit of decorating DNA they possess. The sub-title doesn’t lie: “Old-school secrets for timeless elegance… and the no-no’s to know.”
Indeed, writes Holden, quite pretty and proper herself, the nature of her subject “is inherited, not re-invented,” passed down through the generations “like a secret code.” In sharing said code, the designer-author gives us a thorough primer on the elements of traditional design–from accessories to furniture to lighting.
And whether you were to the manor–or the bungalow–born, the information is darn useful to anyone interested in interiors and perhaps especially to those just starting out. To wit: Holden illustrates the difference between an Ushak and a Heriz rug; shows how to tell a Chippendale from a Hepplewhite; extolls the good sense of protecting tabletops with a pane of glass; and marks the wisdom of buying inexpensive wine glasses instead of renting them when entertaining.
As I’ve just posted about weddings, or more precisely Miss Manners’s guide to wedding etiquette, this book would be a thoughtful gift to the traditionally-inclined young bride. Get her off on the right track, as it were.
Anything to save her (and the rest of us) from Forbidden Faux Pas. These might be my favorite parts of the book. “Do not use coasters unless you need them… Do not use plastic cups at parties… Avoid matched sets of furniture… Stay away from candles with bright colors.” You don’t have to agree with them all, but you can respect the integrity of a point of view.
If you don’t know your églomisé from (Robert) Adam, there’s an excellent glossary.
And let me be the first to say I did not know the design motif of half-horse-half-fish was a hippocamp. Or that in Greek mythology, hippocamps pulled Poseidon’s chariot. Now thanks to the lovely Holly Holden, I do know.
I wouldn’t Bullfinch you.
The Pretty and Proper Living Room was privately published in Fall 2013 and is available through www.prettyandproper.com. The imprint is Fox Hall Publishing, named for the author’s historic house in Connecticut.