A Girl’s Guide to Decorating

Cover image of A Girl's Guide to Decorating by Abigail Ahern

A Girl’s Guide to Decorating
By Abigail Ahern · Reviewed by Katy McRae

Abigail Ahern is a British interior designer, stylist and owner of one of London’s leading interiors stores. And now she’s added author to her list of achievements with A Girl’s Guide to Decorating.

As you would expect from a woman with such a reputation for style, this is one good-looking book. Beautiful photography is matched with clean, clever layout to create 190 or so pages of eye-candy. Even if you didn’t read a single word, the pictures alone would give you a good half hour of inspiration. And the paper stock is classy – I like that in a book.

Luckily Abigail can also write…which is a huge relief because there’s nothing more disappointing than a book that’s all fluff and no substance. Her mantra, if you will, is that “style has absolutely nothing to do with money” and she sets about proving her case in what is effectively a decorating how-to, packed with hints, tips and tricks of the trade.

Abigail has divided the book up into the basics of interior design – glamour, colour, texture and light – prefaced by a chapter on planning your space and ending with a chapter on ‘practical stuff’ (tools you’ll need and techniques to master). She covers everything from painting floorboards to hanging wallpaper, but specialises in ‘entry-level’ DIY which gives you the biggest bang for your buck. It’s all about giving things a lick of paint, arranging collections in clever ways, swapping the handles on your furniture (“one of the easiest ways to change the look of your furniture”) and making the most of your space rather than bashing down walls or ripping out your kitchen.

Double page spread from A Girl's Guide to Decorating – Abigail Ahern

Double page spread from A Girl's Guide to Decorating – Abigail Ahern

She also has nifty sections within each chapter where she goes into all the different options and what they’re best suited for – wall and floor surfaces, styles of curtains, shelving, options for cabinets, different types of wallpaper and so on. This woman knows her coving from her cornicing and now, thanks to her, I do too.

My only slight criticism would be that she does, at times, have a tendency to state the blindingly obvious. Case in point: “displaying personal treasures…gives a home a heart and soul.” Or my personal favourite, “paint is a great way to spruce up walls without blowing the budget”. But I can forgive her the occasional banal comment for all the good advice she then goes on to give.

As with all of these sorts of things, the closer you are in taste to the author, the more you’re going to get out of the book. DesignSponge describes Abigail Ahern’s style as mixing “eclectic elements while having fun, but not going overboard – very modern, but still so liveable.” If that sounds like your cup of tea, then this is a book for you.

Katy McRae likes formica tables, sharp scissors, fabric (especially felt), strong-smelling solvents and words. She also likes to make stuff. She’s not a fan of the colours peppermint and royal blue.

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