different perspectives

a literal approach to interior design

In her book Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature, Los Angeles–based author Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, a former columnist for W magazine and essayist for Martha Stewart Living, takes readers back in time, to literary worlds they may have once romanticized in childhood. From the bare rooms of a Dickensian house, to the extravagance of the D. H. Lawrence period, to Alice in Wonderland’s fantastic underground rabbit hole, 60 classic novels are mentioned in conjunction with Giramonti’s purpose: to help readers determine their design style through the lens of the classic novel.

Divided into richly designed sections that delve into six different concepts (simple, traditional, earthy, glitzy, bohemian, and fantastical), Giramonti, along with the many beautiful images created by photographer Ivan Terestchenko, takes readers on interesting twists and turns. She offers lessons on how to live these particular lifestyles—how to inhabit a room like The Great Gatsby, for instance, or the importance of creating a quiet place to read, as one might find in Little Women. To assist a reader with dressing up actual spaces in the way novelists do on the page, she includes lists of period-appropriate decorative items—silhouette portraits, valet trays, leaf prints.

Each section includes quotes from the characters in novels mentioned, illustrating how they existed and entertained in their literary spaces, or what they admired. About the library she created for the March family, Louisa May Alcott is quoted as saying, “The friendliest homes seem to have an untidiness that enhances their beauty.”

On the other hand, in going “Au Naturel,” the author describes what it’s like to live in a room well edited: “When we whittle down our possessions, what remains becomes more sacred.” It’s very much like living with Heathcliff in the austere farmhouse known as Wuthering Heights, where one might walk on stone floors, sit on hand-carved furniture, or sip from an earthenware cup. In “Anything Goes,” Giramonti shares how to make an emphatic statement with color, how to mix patterns like a bohemian, and why an eclectic room demands attention.

At the end, Giramonti lists each classic novelist mentioned, including a paragraph about the books and interiors discussed, calling the reading list a “jumping-off point” for future investigation. Her gorgeous book is a novel—and literal—approach to interior design.—Jackie Dishner