After an introduction that argues making over a room is not a way of starting over from scratch but instead starting fresh with a focus on your personal taste and what you want the book opens with the theme of “Balance” as Chapter One. Primarily through numerous pictures and small amounts of accompanying text the chapter shows how light and dark colors, old and new things, large and small items, etc, make a room feel in balance.  This format with numerous pictures and small amounts of text are used throughout the 480 page book making this mainly a visual book. 


“Simplicity” is the idea of Chapter Two which involves cutting down what you have in the room so that the attention is focused on the things you really love and treasure. That can be the spectacular view out the windows which can be further heightened by removing the curtains. Or, it could be the flooring and so you get rid of the rug to showcase the wood or tile floor.  As in the previous chapter, this chapter begins with surfaces such as walls and ceilings, moves to floors and cabinets, shifts on to showcase furnishings such as tables and chairs before looking at soft touches such as rugs, curtains, slipcovers and the like. This leads into accents such as certain types of firewood standing vertically in the fireplace, wooden sea horses on the walls, etc.


“Impact” is the idea behind Chapter Three which boils down to having the “wow” factor when others look at the room. The editors suggest painting the panels of a formal fireplace or hanging a salvage door on the wall like art among other possibilities. Again, the same format of surfaces, soft touches, etc is followed as numerous pictures of many different styles are showcased.


Chapter 4 is on “Function” and is designed for “Tricks you can employ to make a room both beautiful and practical.”(Page 211) They then go on to suggest readers learn about “scratch resistant stone, durable upholstery fabric, and smart storage solutions.”(Page 211) the surface section of the chapter opens with a play room wall that has been covered with chalk board paint so that the kids can write /draw to their hearts content. While that works as far as it goes they include a fragile looking small wicker chair and a beige rug to “hide minor stains.” (Page 213)  It truly might be the cleanest playroom I have ever seen and durability would be a question.

 “Details” is the theme of Chapter Five and all about “… Layering patterns and textures, and taking the time to upgrade those less-than-perfect pieces—whether recovering pillows in gorgeous antique fabric or defining the edge of a cushion with silky fringe (Page 289). They suggest things such as painting a wall as a mural, hand painting stripes on the wall to give it the look of wall paper, etc.


Color has been an issue throughout the whole book and finally Chapter Six devotes a whole chapter to the topic. Not only should you think about the mood you want to create according to the editors, you also want to think about the shades that please you. Consider what you wear, the artwork you like, where you like to visit and combine that with what you want to see in your home.


“Quick Fixes” is the idea behind Chapter Seven.  Ideas like a fresh coat of paint, changing out a window frame, picking the perfect item at the flea market, adding plants, are just a few of the many ideas illustrated in this chapter. One striking picture showcases a room with a canted ceiling much like what you would find in an attic space. The owners affixed a world map on the ceiling and ran it down to the floor on the one wall before putting a brown couch in front of it. The look is interesting and can be found on page 423.


Three pages of photography credits and a four page index bring this book to a close.


This a difficult book to review as it is primarily a visual book that you have to see to appreciate. European and Asian influences dominate the book with virtually zero mention of anything Southwestern or Western in design or appearance. The pictures represent beautiful rooms, landscaping and homes that aren’t remotely child friendly. Often they don’t look people friendly and instead have that showcase sterilized look that prohibits one from imagining any people ever actually living in the spaces. It creates a book dedicated to appearances but not one that embraces people and their lives.


Clearly the book visually represents well a number of different ideas so it lives up to the concept of “Great Ideas” of the subtitle. Though the “Quick Changes” concept might usually not be so quick after all as many of the changes suggested would take considerable time. Then there is the whole issue of the main title. One would expect since the word “makeovers” is used in the title that one would see “before” and “after” photographs. There are simply no “before” pictures in this book. Not a single one. Readers have no idea what anything looked like before the makeover. Or, if there really was a makeover of anything. All we have are numerous beautiful pictures but no indication that anything was ever done or what changes were made at all.


While this book won’t work for everyone, it does succeed in its objective of giving readers numerous ideas on how to change their living spaces for the better. It just doesn’t illustrate how it was done or at what cost.


House Beautiful 500 Makeovers: Great Ideas & Quick Changes

Editors of House Beautiful

Hearst Books (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.)


ISBN# 978-1-58816-694-4


480 Pages


This material was provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2009


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