Home design, by the book

The most comfortable rooms in any house are always the most simple. So says Terence Conran, British designer and furnituremaker. As founder of the international chain of Habitat furniture stores (now owned by Ikea), his name is familiar to many. And his products are still for sale in Terence Conran Shops scattered across Europe and in New York.

Two new books make Mr. Conran's clean, spare aesthetic even more accessible. "Terence Conran's DIY by Design" and a reissue of his popular "Terence Conran's New House Book: The Complete Guide to Home Design" (each $24.95 and published by London's Conran Octopus) are excellent resources for those looking for either inspiration or nuts-and-bolts information related to home-design projects.

Conran's "New House Book" showcases his love of simplicity. This design philosophy grew out of distaste for the clutter he saw around him as a child - everywhere but in his own home.

"My mother achieved great simplicity," he writes. "The few objects that were in the house seemed to be in sharp focus: You saw them with an intensity you can't appreciate in a cluttered room. I've been trying to re-create that atmosphere of luxurious simplicity ever since."

Simple doesn't have to mean stark, austere, or dull, says Conran. He compares designing a room to putting together a stylish outfit.

You start with a few basics and then accessorize. "If you have chosen the basic shapes and forms of a room with simplicity in mind," he says, "then any decorative, elaborate objects you have will work better in conjunction with them."

Whereas his "New House Book" speaks to all issues surrounding home design - from decorating a one-room apartment to children's rooms, artists' studios, lofts, and even gardens - his "DIY by Design" teaches readers how to "do it yourself." With sketches, charts, diagrams, and photographs, it is a highly practical guide to everything from laying flooring and tiles to crafting a wardrobe with hinged doors or concealing unsightly radiators.

Key to any design project, Conran says, is to have a clear sense of your own tastes and then design with courage and conviction.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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