Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Illiterate Heaven

When I enter a bookstore, I head directly to the bargain bin to look for interior decorating books. They are my adult comic books – short on prose, long on images. To me, heaven is curling up with a decorating book and thumbing through pages and pages of glossy, color photos. Who needs words?

It all started innocuously enough in Japan. When I was bored or lonely, I headed to the PX and mini-mall on Camp Foster. Inside the mini-mall was an AAFES bookstore that was always jammed with service members and spouses. Flipping through magazines and books was free entertainment, and the selection was 20 years more current than the library’s. I wandered into the “Local” section and bought a copy of Blue and White Japan, by Amy Sylvester Katoh. Soon after, I bought Japanese Accents in Western Interiors, by Peggy Landers Rao and Jean Mahoney.

These two books opened my eyes to the exotic shopping mecca I was located in. The gift shops on base and in town were revealed as treasure troves of obis, laquerware, and step tansus. For a while, I had a mania for all things Japanese. Then, I wandered into a Ramayana.

Ramayana is a Japanese import store with goods from Thailand, Indonesia, India. I discovered that I preferred the opulent style of these countries to the somewhat sterile Japanese style. Soon after, I entered my first military spouses’ gift shop, also filled with selections from the Far East, including Korea. My collection grew until every inch of my barracks room was covered with exotica. I once had two children over and when they stepped inside, they were transfixed by the curtains, scarves, masks, fans, lamps, and palms. To complement my collection, I bought every decorating book I could get my hands on.

The AAFES bookstore had a small and inconsistent arts and crafts section. New decorating books seldom arrived, but I bought every one. I searched Amazon for books on exotic interiors and spent a fortune. Now, with less disposable income, I comb the Borders bargain bin and frequently raid the library. I often receive books as much appreciated gifts. My collection has grown to 19 decorating books, and even after repeated perusals, I can still spend an afternoon paging through them.

I’ve listed the titles below, with asterisks next to my favorites.

Blue and White Japan, Amy Sylvester Katoh
Japanese Accents in Western Interiors, Peggy Landers Rao and Jean Mahoney*
Island Style, Jim Kemp India Style, Alexandra Bonfante-Warren*
India, Henry Wilson Morrocan Style, Alexandra Bonfante-Warren
Morrocan Interiors, Lisa Lovatt-Smith
African Style, Sharne Algotsson*
Ty's Tricks, Ty Pennington
Trading Spaces: Behind the Scenes
Trading Spaces: Color!*
Reader's Digest Complete Book of Home Decorating
BHG Style by Nature
BHG New Decorating Book*
BHG Easy Decorating Makeovers*
HGTV Before and After Decorating*
Creative Room Styles Living Together, Erica Lennard and Denis Columb
Trade Secrets from Use What You Have Decorating, Lauri Ward


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