Whether on the beach or in the backyard, summertime living is made up of warm, lazy afternoons. And while you’re kicking up your feet, you may as well have a good book to enjoy. Our summer design reading series offers a break from the typical beach read and the chance to be inspired by beautiful interiors.
Our first review is the aptly titled “Summers in France” by renowned interior and textile designer, Kathryn Ireland. Longtime fans of her bohemian chic style, we were eager to take a peek inside her summer home, La Castellane, a lovingly restored farm and French chateau in the South of France that the designer fell in love with on first sight. “La Castellane was easier to buy than a pair of shoes,” she writes.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that this book is so much more than a compilation of standard design advice. It’s really more of a memoir chock-full of personal photos journaling Ireland’s 20-plus summers restoring the house and grounds, shopping local antiques shops and farmer’s markets, hosting a constant rotation of family and friends and watching her three sons growing up amongst picturesque sunflower fields.
Ireland has adopted a refreshingly, laid-back approach to living that allows her to dispense lifestyle advice that can be easily applied to one’s own life (even if one doesn’t own a home in the South of France). In a humorous, lighthearted tone, she offers useful entertaining tips along with sensible advice and to-do lists on how to be a gracious hostess. “Having guest rooms you don’t use is a form of hoarding,” writes the designer.
She even offers a list of dos and don’ts for guests, who would be smart to take heed so they may earn an invite back. Here’s an example: “Don’t go to the market and buy just enough food for yourself. Mon dieu! I don’t expect much. A crate of peaches in France is ten Euros. Spring for it. This isn’t an episode of Survivor, France.”
The final chapter focuses on the communal joys of eating, cooking and sitting around the table and is filled with sumptuous photographs as proof of life. “From the moment we wake up in the morning to the aroma of fresh croissants warming in the Aga to filling the dishwasher late at night, food and eating are an integral part of life at La Castellane,” Ireland writes.
Informality is the name of the game, and nothing is to be fussed over too much. Food, friends and candlelight are all that are required for a magical evening. Oh, and wine, of course. Ireland provides a handful of her tried-and-true summertime recipes that can be thrown together with as little effort as possible, from ratatouille to plum chutney to the “best vinaigrette.” There’s plenty of advice on shopping the local markets for the best produce and fresh bread.
But what about decorating advice? Yes, there’s that, too. She gives a room-by-room tour of her holiday home, showing before and afters of the constant work in progress, as well as centuries-old charcoal drawings of the various buildings on the property.
By combining her signature fabrics — seen in draperies, linens, cushions, duvets and more — and antiques and vintage decor found at local flea markets, she shows how to make a room come together. Here again, she stresses a fun and easy approach to decor: “A house is not a home if it’s all good taste. You need nutty memorabilia, glaring imperfection, tacky souvenirs! Don’t be embarrassed by your life’s collection. My kids’ artwork is strewn all over my homes.”
This book is a joy to read, a pure celebration of summer living and entertaining — and a reminder to let loose a little and just enjoy your life, wherever you call home.
Find more design book suggestions here.