I named Erin Gates' Elements of Style my most-anticipated book of 2014, and I have been eagerly awaiting its arrival all year. I was not disappointed. Erin's combination of design book and memoir is both gorgeous and compelling. A sentence in Erin's introduction perfectly encapsulates the book's goal and its beating heart: "I love the way spaces tell stories and how stories are born from creating spaces, and from that love this book was born." Erin's subtitle is both powerful and apt: her book is about the design of a home and the design of a life.
Elements of Style is structured like a house; each chapter revolves around a room (entry, kitchen, nursery) and showcases both Erin's peerless design taste and marvelously approachable voice. Pragmatic advice runs throughout the book. For example, each chapter contains a useful two-page spread which identifies five "styles" (modern, eclectic, glamorous, traditional, and new country) and specifies furniture and decorative pieces for each. Erin lists her forty-five favorite paint colors, shares a few favorite recipes, describes various ways that art can be hung on walls, and outlines 12 key wardrobe items every woman needs.
This kind of actionable, approachable wisdom makes Elements of Style a powerful tool. The book would be an able and skilled guide for a home decoration, and with Erin's voice in your ear you would without question wind up with a beautiful, elegant space. Elements of Style is outrageously beautiful to hold and look at: from the leopard endpapers to the many, many photographs of Erin's own house and those of her clients, every detail is perfect. As a design book, Elements of Style succeeds entirely.
But the book is also so much more than that. Each chapter opens with a personal essay in which Erin shares stories from her own life and meditations on important topics. She describes her distaste for the suburbs and the house that changed it all for her, the hilarious-now but devastating-then series of catastrophes that marked her wedding day, the huge fight she and her husband had over Lucite, and her deeply personal struggles about deciding to have children.
I can't recommend Elements of Style enough. The book is my go-to Christmas gift for adults this year. Erin Gates has created an unusual hybrid that is powerfully combines aesthetics and feelings, images and revelation, beauty and candor. Elements of Style is practical and powerful. I loved it and I know you will too.