When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

My friend Joan knows me all too well. After visiting my home in California, she sent me a gift, a coffee table book by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti entitled, NOVEL INTERIORS. It’s a gorgeous book with captions from well-loved novels and photos of interiors and exteriors that illustrate the feeling, the mood of the literature–for decorating is art, writing is art and they combine. Excited about this book, I took some of the literary excerpts from it and illustrated them for this post.

The photos are part of a collection that I have created over the years, tearing from my favorite magazines the rooms and gardens that I absolutely love. So I hope you enjoy the combination of words and pictures. Maybe they will inspire you as they do me.

“Don’t let us make it tidy,” said Mary anxiously. “It wouldn’t be a secret garden if it was tidy.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

A lovely secret garden.













“The people whom she had hitherto known just put what they had or could get into their homes, old things, and new things, side by side with each other.” Flora Thompson, LARK RISE TO CANDELFORD

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

Color, shapes, comfort, sunshine all side by side.














“She has the idea that one night in your house would give her pleasure and do her good…Being one of those imaginative girls, the presence of all our books and furniture soothes her.” E.M. Forster, HOWARDS END

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

I could sink into that chair and never leave, book in hand.

“Jo hurried to this quiet place, and curling herself up in the easy chair, devoured poetry, romance, history, travels, and pictures like a regular bookworm.” Louisa May Alcott, LITTLE WOMEN

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

A cozy corner, sunshine and books!!













“If people do but know how to set about it, every comfort may be as well enjoyed in a cottage as in the most spacious dwelling.” Jane Austen. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

Simplicity but with warmth and color.














“Nothing matched anything else. Everything was of an exotic brilliance that took away the breath. ‘Not the room of a lady,’ thought Miss Pettigrew.” Winifred Watson, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY

Nothing matched anything else. Everything was of an exotic brilliance that took away the breath. 'Not the room of a lady,' thought Miss Pettigrew." Winifred Watson, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY

Bold, bright and wonderful.












“It struck me that the seasons sometimes gain by being brought into the house, just as they gain by being brought into painting, and into poetry.” Willa Cather, THE PROFESSOR’S HOUSE

When Novels Speak To Your Decorating

Nature in art and from the garden.














“Picking up the cushions…that Mary had desposed so carefully, she threw them back on to the chairs and the couches. That made all the difference; the room came alive at once.” Katherine Mansfield, “BLISS”

When Novels Speak To Your Decorating

A gorgeous collection of pillows and cushions.











“I’m glad you appreciate my sofa,”replied Mme. Verdurin, “and I warn you that if you expect ever to see another like it you may as well abandon the idea at once.” Marcel Proust, SWANN’S WAY

When Novels Speak To Your Decorating

I would think the Mademoiselle would love this sofa.












Photos from Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Books, Mary Engelbreit Home Companion and Anthropologie. HAPPY DECORATING, HAPPY READING.

47 thoughts on “When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

  1. Magnifique, Beth! I’m so pleased that you liked the book enough to write a blog about it. I love the photos you chose and would be delighted to relax in one of the cozy corners with a good book and a cup of tea.

  2. Hi Joan,

    It was super fun doing this blog post. Though as I worked, I was missing many of the magazines I had to give away before we moved. Years of collecting images of rooms I would love to live in. It’s never too late to start again. Hugs, Beth

    • Thanks, Marianna. It was lots of fun. I love imagining how I could change my rooms, but sometimes it gets down to a candle and a bunch of flowers. THAT’S OKAY!!

  3. The book and your blog post are both so creative. Books are supposed to transport us to other worlds; make us reflect on our own lives; teach and inspire us. I hadn’t even considered they could shape the things we surround ourselves with in our own homes… Except for Under the Tuscan Sun… Brenda

    • Hi Brenda,

      I guess it depends on what you focus on. I remember reading THE GREAT GATSBY and it wasn’t the BIG house I wanted to live in, but Nick’s house with his garden. I love finding interiors in fiction. Sometimes they say more than the dialogue!! Beth

  4. The image of Jo reading in the sunny room brought back wonderful reading memories. If I could only have crawled into the pages of Little Women, I would have do so and never come out. Thank you.

    • Hi Barbara. So lovely to share your thoughts. Girlhood reading was the best. I never wanted my mom to say “Sorry, there isn’t another one” after Little Men and Jo’s Boys. I guess it was like Harry Potter today. But in my mind MUCH BETTER.

      • I agree…I have actually stood under that tree that Louisa Mae Alcott talked about in Little Women. It was like magic for me. And I found it totally by accident. That is just one example of how we travel.

  5. Oh, I just have no talent for this stuff but my favorite shows to watch are home remodels on HGTV. I would love for somebody to help me transform my home to look like some of these photos. And that Secret Garden, my favorite childhood book of all times and have always craved to have my very own. Stopping by here felt like a lovely respite. Thank you.

    • You are totally welcome. When I am not writing, my best times are tweaking something in my home. It’s an ongoing project but it’s always rewarding. But probably would not make it into someone’s book!

    • I think we all love to immerse ourselves in different interiors and exteriors when reading. It’s just fun to bring them to life.

    • The word NOVEL certainly took on new meaning when writers in England started to write fiction books that told stories!! Thanks for being here. Beth

    • Yes, I do love collecting photos. A lot of dreaming and not a lot of DOING occurs, but then you never know. We painted a dark table white and combined it with dark chairs–only because I saw a photo in BH&G. And it worked!

  6. I’m another person with no talent for design. I do appreciate a good room and love how you matched beautiful prose with the perfect image.

    • Thanks, Kay Lynn. I think we all have our strengths and cutting things out of magazines is one of mine!!

  7. Love this idea and I will know use it more in my own decorating. Maybe I will use music instead LOL. (Psst, be careful using others photos, crediting them is not enough).

    • Hi Shelley, using music would be a great idea! As for the photos, most of them are very old and I did not use photos from the author’s book. I did use a few from a book that I edited for Meredith Books. But you are right.

    • Ah, that’s what I love to do. When I can’t write anymore, I just tinker with my house. So much fun.

  8. What a lovely book, and thank you for sharing it with us! I’m not sure which novel I could say my home reflects, but I’d love to read and read until I find one.

    • Now that would be interesting. The photos in the book are so rich and full of color. The ones I chose from Better Homes and Gardens reflect my style which is not as heavy.

    • Thanks so much, Andee. I apologize for the late response. Busy time of year. Happy New Year and Merry Christmas. Beth

    • Mithra, you could certainly do something like this for you next shoot. I find the concept of matching the words from the books to the photo what is so enthralling about this book. You could find something similar just working with gardens. Wishing you luck and keep me posted, Beth

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