I’ve been waiting, not-too-patiently, for a copy of this book, which is apparently out of print. I bought mine used at Amazon.com for less than $15, so don’t think you need to fork out $50 or $80 or more for a copy. As I suspected, it really is glorious; a whole lot of dream food here, and it’s not dream food lite either. I’m guessing you either love Kaffe Fassett’s aesthetic or you hate it. I can’t really see how anyone could be indifferent to it. And the contents of this book are about as in-your-face as any interior design book I’ve ever seen.
It covers a lot of ground. Predictably, there’s a heavy emphasis on Fassett’s interest in and involvement with fiber, and there are a good many patterns for knitting and needlepoint. But there are also fairly simple instructions for other ways to jazz up a space. A paper mosaic on a room dividing screen is not only beautiful, but the steps echo the steps involved in creating “real” mosaics, making the transition from paper to ceramics a bit simpler.
And there are a lot of photos of Fassett’s pique assiette work which, though beautiful does, in fact, give me one of those Martha Stewart moments where I roll my eyes and think, “Oh sure, I’ll just dig out those boxes of priceless porcelain pieces the servants broke, and whip up a dozen little accent plates for my foyer!” Yeah, okay, I’m facetious by nature. But sometimes you become aware of a certain dissonance in books like this which seem to suggest that these are arts and crafts of the people, but which rely on heavy outlays of money and/or time. Not that it does or should ruin the fantasy, but I’m always somewhat aware that this isn’t Design on a Dime. You don’t achieve looks like this using Red Heart yarn and faux Chinoiserie from the local WalMart.
And then, this look is a lot to live up to. Some people will get what I mean when I say that there are days where color or pattern are just too big a commitment, and wearing black is the only choice that will let you get on with things. Similarly, Kaffe Fassett’s interiors are big commitments, even if you live alone.
I look at rooms like this and go all gooey inside. But at the same time I’m aware that living in a room like that might well drive me nuts. Even for someone like me who loves color and visual richness, this is distracting. And because of that I fear that if I attempted to duplicate it (Goodness, where are all those Russian shawls and scarves I picked up on my last trip to St. Petersburg?) I might just freak out mid-hoosh, and leave it half done, neither here nor there, sending a message that I am not so much brave and cutting-edge as an idiot with no taste.
But I don’t really mean to be negative. I love this book. I adore Kaffe Fassett and his bravery in a beige world. If I was called upon to live in rooms like this, or sterile little boxes painted off-white and filled with glass and metal, there’d be no question which I’d choose.
There are, of course, happy mediums. You don’t need to live in houses with striped walls, chock-a-block with grinning Buddhas to embrace this aesthetic. But you can’t fear color or pattern, rich fabric or comforting furniture. You do need to commit, but you don’t have to live in spaces which threaten to devour your children and pets.
You also need to recognize that a look like this isn’t just going to happen unless you have a team of decorating elves working for you. It is going to take a substantial investment in time, money or both. But like the gardens his work resembles, these rooms will come into their own over the years. I see them being works in progress for most of us, and that can a very satisfying process.
Yes, I do recommend this book if you’re at all taken with Fassett’s style. Even if you never make use of the ideas inside, it still makes wonderful reading. Curl up in a cozy chair, sip a cup of exotic tea, and enjoy.