Having lived and worked in Paris for 15 years, Danish-born author Charlotte and her husband Phillippe wanted to change their lives so moved to Odense, Denmark, where they founded their ethical homeware company RICE in 1998.
RICE was chosen as the name of their company because rice is a basic survival product for many of the world’s people. According to RICE, everyday life can be made so much more enjoyable by introducing colour and a sense of fun to daily living, whether it’s with colourful accessories in the kitchen or by adding colourful fabrics, textures and hints of humour to the living room. ‘Happy Home’ demonstrates the RICE mantra of ‘Live Love Laugh’.
Some of you may have come across Charlotte before. Her previous book, ‘Happy Home: Everyday Magic for a Colourful Home’, was well received and written in conjunction with renowned author, blogger and interior stylist Holly Becker of Decor8. For this book, Charlotte goes solo and heads outside. The foreword for ‘Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life’ is written by Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar, from under a palm tree in Mauritius (lucky him) and you’ll find the keywords here are ‘simple’ and ‘easy’.
Charlotte introduces the book and explains how she wants you to, “recall that feeling of building a secret space under the dining room table - that cosy feeling of being in your own little world in there, hidden under a big blanket, lounging on lots of cushions with perhaps some biscuits and a great book.” She wants to inspire you to live, love and laugh, and includes hints, tips and make-it-yourself projects in each of the 6 sections: ‘Inside Out’, ‘Outdoor Rooms’, ‘Relaxing Outdoors’, ‘Outdoor Entertaining’, ‘Playing Outdoors’ and ‘Moveable Spaces’. She gives suggestions for outdoor decorating and styling, ranging from seating and furniture, lighting, banners and bunting to table settings and picnic areas, and spaces for parties and gatherings.
The book is very colourful, bright and pretty but for me, it fits into a range of books that I regard as coffee table ‘fluff’ i.e. something to flick through if you have a spare 5 minutes waiting for a tooth extraction. It’s not taxing and as Will Taylor tells us (whilst he enjoys his traditional Mauritian lunch from a multi-coloured wicker basket), Charlotte has “simple yet imaginative ideas”. For example, amongst the projects on offer, you will find delights such as a ‘Spoon Curtain’ (yes, it’s exactly that), ‘Flowerpots’ (paint a flowerpot, tie a ribbon round it and “you will feel like a talented do-it-yourself queen”), ‘Uplifting Slogans’ (use washi tape to make words), ‘Bonfire Stools’ (find logs big enough to sit on, paint the ends), ‘Candleholders’ (you will need candleholders …) and the ‘Tea Towel Curtain’ (tea towel, pegs, string and hooks … you get the picture).
I think it’s telling that, in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Charlotte notes that, “Last summer when we discussed the making of this book I was in a situation where I really did not have the time or the energy available to complete it…” She goes on to thank someone for “making me reconsider the ‘no sorry not possible’ decision.” Charlotte seems to be issuing an apology or disclaimer. This book gives me the impression that it was pushed out on the success of the first book, but perhaps someone’s heart wasn’t really in it (or perhaps they had a contract to fulfil). Reading through it, you get a sense that the ideas were there but something appears to have been lost in translation (along with some grammar). You get the feeling that perhaps it should have been left on the backburner.
If you are super busy working the hours of a nurse and juggling a hoard of mini people and you don't have the time or energy to think up new decorative ideas, these suggestions and projects might be the simple and super easy things to help you present your garden for that barbecue you're planning. However, for the seasoned crafter, designer or maker, it sadly doesn't feel like there is enough to sink your teeth into.
In Happy Home Outside, you'll find bright colour added to every corner of the garden - garden rooms, cabins, canopies and dining areas as well as vintage vans and tents - and there are plenty of pretty, visual outdoor decorating ideas here, if you can ignore the puerile projects and flimsy text.
Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdor Life by Charlotte Hedeman Guéniau
Published by Jacqui Small LLP and available in hardback at £25
Images from Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life