Review: Living with Light by Gail Abbott

A very inspirational book full of light-filled interiors.

Living with lightI am a big fan of Sweden’s Gustavian interiors, which to my mind are exactly what a house should look like, and following a dull, rainy, miserable July, I once again went on the hunt for a good book about them.

This is it. The title Living with Light is an accurate one, but not helpful when you’re looking for specifically Swedish interiors, but that is indeed what this book is based on, although it covers Swedish-inspired interiors in many parts of the world.

In the best tradition of coffeetable books, it is heavily illustrated with four-colour photographs on every page, showing modern and traditional interiors, and covering issues such as the use of white, the use of light, the use of colour and light in different rooms of the house.

For visual stimulus and great ideas, I don’t this book can be beaten. It is not a history of Gustavian interiors, does it feature many of the famous historic Gustavian properties, nor is it a how-to book, but it is clean, simple, easy to read and informative, with many ideas that you can follow.

I felt frankly inspired by this book, and in short order, began painting much of our living room furniture a distressed white or pale grey (excluding antique pieces whose value might be affected by a paint treatment).

We now have a white and grey buffet in place of dark green, and a white dining table, dining chairs, wardrobe and log box that were formerly bare wood. Next on the list will be the telephone table and etagere.

The difference it has made is astonishing – like installing new windows or light bulbs – and I really wish we’d done it years ago.

This reminds me that we did originally try a Gustavian effect when we bought the house 15 years ago but found it too cold at a time when there was no planting around the house, nor any pictures on the walls – the latter is crucial to avoid too stark an effect.

I enjoyed this book so much I have instantly ordered a couple more of Abbott’s books and hope to get the same visual inspiration from those.

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