Joy to the Home

In this season of joy and light, consider giving a beautiful book to someone you love. One of my favorite design books of the year 2012 is The Joy of Decorating: Southern Style with Mrs. Howard by Phoebe Howard (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)–a volume I’m sure will delight those who share my love of  Southern decorating, past and present.



This recommendation has utterly nothing to do with the fact that I had the pleasure of co-authoring the book and everything to do with the fact that interior decorator Phoebe Howard is delightfully articulate, infectiously in love with her subject matter, inspiring, fun, and gifted. Her very first decorating project (outside of the lovely rooms she has created in her Mrs. Howard stores since 1996) appeared on the cover of House Beautiful, to be followed by countless covers and articles in top decorating magazines.



“A sea of blue and white embraces you.”


Phoebe is a compelling storyteller, and in the introduction she describes her evolution from awkward teenager to full-time mother to a design entrepreneur whose empire includes four Mrs. Howard stores, four Max & Company stores, the Mr. and Mrs. Howard line of furniture, and a thriving  decorating career [for more information and to order the book, visit]. The inspiration that launched this journey came from Phoebe’s Aunt Myra, a loving relation who designed an intimate and charming retreat for her teenage niece, teaching her about the healing power of interior design.



“Make your house an escape from the harsh realities of everyday life.”


“I can still close my eyes and recall every detail of that room,” Phoebe writes. “It embraced me and allowed my wounds to heal. When I think back to the impact the room had on me, I realize how powerful our environments can be. They affect us far more profoundly that we realize. In every room I decorate, my goal is to re-create that same sense of inspiration and comfort I felt in that bedroom.”



“The ability to look at the past with fresh eyes is the secret to timeless style.”


Arranged in seven sections with beautiful pictures of rooms decorated by Phoebe (many of them including architectural settings by her husband Jim Howard), she addresses the questions of how to design environments that are Inviting, Inspiring, Timeless, Graceful, Tranquil, Casual, and Comfortable.



“A graceful room is characterized by the harmonious composition of all its elements.”



“The best gift you can give yourself is a pocket of tranquility in your busy life.”



“Inspiration surrounds us all day, every day. You just have to learn to see it”



“An inviting house embraces you. It’s never intimidating or overdramatic.”


These rooms include handsome antiques, contemporary decorative objects, color schemes ranging from the masculine to the feminine, and approaches to style that are both traditional and fresh.

“The contents of the house constantly evoke your interest, inviting questions and engaging you in a never-ending dialogue.”


If you love beautiful décor, this is a book to sit back and enjoy. If your passion is decorating, it’s also one to study and learn from. Either way, The Joy of Decorating is a gift that is sure to delight and inspire anyone who receives it.


Note: This review by Susan Sully also appears on Ronda Carman’s popular style blog,, where you will find any more ideas for holiday giving—to yourself AND others.

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