Books to Inspire Your Old House

March 6, 2023

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One of the questions we’ve been asked a few times is who we’re reading, following, and watching for inspiration.

When we first had our offer accepted on the Georgetown house, we couldn’t help but start to look for inspo and dream up ideas for what to do here. While still in the County House, we gathered ALL our design, decor, and home books and spread them out across the dining room table. We poured through each one a page at a time and bookmarked everything we saw that we loved that was applicable to the new house.

By the end of it, we had a pretty good visual indicator of the books that were inspiring us the most. A few were bursting with stickies (we never, ever, ever dog ear – no sir).

When someone else landed in our DMs this weekend asking to share our favourite inspo books, we thought we’d finally round them up into a blog post.

Writing this post was also such a good reminder to look back at inspo that originally led us in a direction! It’s amazing how you can get into a project and micro-decision by micro-decision veer from the original idea. That veering isn’t always bad. Sometimes we’ve looked back and gone “yeah, that was so not the right decision in the end.” And that can be validating. But it can also be a reminder of the specific feeling or moment you originally fell in love with when planning a space, that can easily get lost in the minutia of drawings and sourcing and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on.

So, this weekend, I think we’ll plan to revisit those stickies. Some might get added, and some removed. But having a solid few sources of inspiration around, and remembering to use them as such, is a surefire way to reenergize when things get tough or feel slow-moving.

Our top picks for old house inspo below. Please comment with books we’re missing!


1- Adventures with Old Houses – Richard Hampton Jenrette

A classic collection of old homes with timeless style as restored and designed by Richard

2- The Curated Home – Grant Gibson

Grant’s work has been of major inspiration for years – the perfect blend of old meets new and in interiors that are classic, yes, but livable and comfortable. We have more stickies in Grant’s book than any other in this list!

The Curated Home - CLEVNET - OverDrive

3- The Art of Home – Brian Gluckstein

Everything Brian does has that custom, classic look. We love a designer who, when you look at their work, makes it difficult to know whether it was done 20 years ago or 2 weeks ago.  We also love a Canadian. 🙂

Brian Gluckstein: The Art of Home – Figure1Publishing

4- Architectural Digest at 100

Just a great roundup of jaw dropping interiors, 90% of which aren’t practical at all for us but if we can attain even 10% of the feel would be a major success for us. The curation in the book is so well done.

Architectural Digest at 100: A Century of Style: Architectural Digest, Wintour, Anna, Astley, Amy: 9781419733338: Photography: Amazon Canada

5- Collected Interiors – Philip Mitchell

Another Canadian, Philip’s work in this book inspires the layered, colourful, and whimsy that we aspire to – while still all working seamlessly together in a wow-inducing authentic way. Also, the foreword is by Bunny Williams, who’s books we don’t own but say about twice a week we need to get our hands on a copy.

Collected Interiors: Rooms That Tell a Story: Mitchell, Philip, Nasatir, Judith, Williams, Bunny: 9780847870578: Books -

6- Design Remix: A New Spin on Traditional Rooms – Corey Damen Jenkins

Corey is a master (literally – check out his course on Masterclass) at creating bold spaces that work. We’re always noting how he’s able to make decisions that most would write off as risky and have the final outcome feel absolutely perfect. That’s a skill we’d like to get better at!

Design Remix: A New Spin on Traditional Rooms: Jenkins, Corey Damen, Drake, Jamie: 9780847869732: Books -

7- Scalamandre: Haute Decor

It’s like an explosion for your visual senses. Some of the textile world’s most iconic patterns inspire colour, fun, texture, and pattern-on-pattern goodness! With big wallpaper and fabric dreams for a few rooms in this house (including Scalamandre patterns we’re destined to use), this is the book that’s getting us to think big, fun, and bold.

Scalamandre: Haute Decor eBook : Stolman, Steven: Kindle Store

8- Down to Earth – Lauren Liess

Lauren has a unique ability to bring formality and informality together to create spaces that are grand but also make you want to just flop on the couch and enjoy a night in. Beyond the amazing work in the book, what is quite cool about it’s structure is each chapter focused on a must-have ingredient in Lauren’s approach: Point of View, Timelessness, Something Old, Something New, Nature, and Simplicity. Now that’s a good checklist.

Down to Earth: Laid-back Interiors for Modern Living: Liess, Lauren: 9781419738197: Books -

9- The Nature of Home – Jeff Dungan 

Jeff’s book looks great – his homes with an emphasis on natural materials are a masterclass in lighting, texture, and layers. But the writing in this one is also really good!

The Nature of Home: Creating Timeless Houses: Dungan, Jeff, Abranowicz, William: 9780847863068: Books -

10- Live Beautiful – Athena Calderone

Flipping through Athena’s book is like a crash course in “oh that’s who designed that massively magazine famous space I’ve seen before,” including her own house! This is a curated breakdown by Athena of other creatives’ homes. You’ll spot Nate & Jeremiah’s work, for example, in this collection, who are also mega influences on us outside of the book world!

Live Beautiful: Calderone, Athena: 9781419742804: Books -

11- Timeless – Patrick Ahearn

Does Patrick need introduction? His work is a multiple-times-a-week point of inspiration for us. The book in particular is a fascinating collection of Patrick’s projects, with incredible detail about his process to building and restoring classic homes. Of real interest to us is Patrick’s writing about creating the historical narrative for a house – who lived there? how? This creates a filter for decisions that leads to coherent and authentic details, whether that history is fiction or real! It’s something we’ve done in both the County House and GTown, and Patrick’s tips for working in such a strategic and focused way really validated some of our intuition for bringing historical clues into our projects.

Timeless: Classic American Architecture for Contemporary Living : Ahearn, Patrick: Books

The final two books are more technical in nature, but if you’re as geeky as we are about the details, systems, and sustainability of a home (regardless of its age!), these are a must:

12- Pretty Good House – Maines, Kolbert & Mottram

A framework for building or renovating a house to be high-performance – all in a way that is practical, feasible, and budget-friendly. Their philosophy? 1 million houses that are ‘pretty good’ at sustainability is significantly better for the planet and people than 100,000 houses that are ‘perfect’. We need sustainability to be accessible and doable. That’s speaking our language.

Pretty Good House

13- Get Your House Right – Cusata & Pentreath

The title says it all. Avoid the common missteps of McMansions by following these traditional principles in which you can’t go wrong. Columns, moulding, windows, doors, roofs – you name it. The detail you need is illustrated and explained beautifully in this book, including what to watch out for.

Alibris Books Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements To Use & Avoid - By Marianne Cusato, Ben Pentreath, Richard Sammons | Bramalea City Centre


Have others that are must-haves? Drop them in the comments below so we can grow this list!

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hey there - We're
kevin & sarah

We're making an old house work for modern life.

Follow along as we transform our (second!) turn-of-the-century house into a restored, 21st century dream home. 

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