‘Design Rules’ Book Review & GIVEAWAY

By Kate Riley November 17, 2009

Several weeks ago, Gotham Books sent me an advance copy of Design Rules: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, written by Elaine Griffin, an interior decorating specialist, and also rated one of the country’s top 100 designers by House Beautiful.  I was delighted to be included among the group of bloggers that were given copies of this text. 

Perhaps you’ve read a few of these reviews, like my friend Lindsay over at Living with Lindsay who wrote an incredibly insightful review, as did the marvelous Kimm at Reinvented.  Once I read their reviews, I simply had to read Elaine’s book cover to cover for myself !  I’m so glad I finally did, because I carried away dozens of helpful tips and tricks.  And now I get to giveaway a copy of this text to one of you !

Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, in stores November 3

Elaine breaks down what seems an intimidating science into simple, manageable, easy techniques for getting a designer look without actually paying for a professional.  She offers us all some very helpful tools to do it ourselves, like the proper scale and proportion of furniture, as well as many rules of thumb used by designers.  This charming and seasoned author and designer is sharing her knowledge so that her readers can truly decorate their homes themselves.  As an avid DIYer, this completely appeals to me.   

When we all admire the best designed spaces, what is it we notice time and again?  Take a look at this living room space designed by Elaine, and notice how several of her practical tips are incorporated. 

elaine griffin move sofa console table

The furniture is pulled away from the walls, floated in the middle of the room and anchored on an area rug, yet it still allows for proper flow of traffic.  There is a mixture of wood tones, and the clever use of the versatile console table, with its perfectly paired candlestick lamps.  The furniture is not upholstered in all the same fabric (a big design no no), rather there is a medley of complimentary textures and patterns in the fabric choices.  An upholstered ottoman serves the same purpose as a coffee table, completing the look with a practical tray, some flowers, and hardcover books. 

elaine griffin bathroom

In the bathroom, Elaine makes these observations.  Stylish bathrooms often use field tile to add wainscot to the walls that ends about 48” above the floor.  A guaranteed chic design even with simple white tile is when it’s installed in an offset pattern.  And when it comes to bathroom fixtures, it is perfectly okay, in fact encouraged, to be ‘matchy matchy’ with your faucet finishes. 

This book breaks down many of the tricks of the design trade room by room. 

Are you struggling with how to create a foyer where there is none, or how to fill your entryway with stylish yet practical furnishings? 

Do you long for tips on how to to display art in an interesting way ? 

Have you ever wondered where and how to install proper lighting, whether it should be overhead, direct or indirect, task or decorative?  

Want the skinny on proper proportion for coffee tables, end tables, sofa tables, and just about any piece of furniture ? 

Then you will value this book.   And if you want it all shared in a casual and laid back presentation, complete with plenty of honeys, darlings, and sugars, then you’ll appreciate Elaine’s informal writing style, and feel like this Southern gal’s best friend in no time.  You can pick up your very own copy of the book right here

For your chance to win a free copy of Elaine’s book Design Rules: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, simply leave a comment.    

Giveaway ends Sunday November 22, 2009, at 8 p.m. PST.  One winner will be chosen by Random.org, and forwarded your own personal copy by Gotham Books.

All images via ElaineGriffin.com


  1. OH I would love to win this book. I love all the designs you have shown already
    Hope I win :)
    have a happy day

  2. What a great giveaway! I would love to win. The bath pictures really show that even a small bathoom can be done in style.


  3. I’d be thrilled to win a copy of Elaine’s book Design Rules An Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator
    Kindly, ldh

  4. I would love to have a copy of this book. We are in the middle of relocating and it would be very helpful with picking out new furniture, etc. Great giveaway.

  5. I would love to win this book! I have wanted to get into reading design books in addition to the great blogs online like yours! I could see it now on my coffee table!

  6. I could really use some helpful hints with my new place. This looks like just what I need.

  7. Those rooms look amazing and I have a living room suffering from furniture against the wall. I could use some help.

  8. I would love to win this book, as I pour over all things about design, but often lack the confidence to trust my own instincts! This book would be very helpful.


  9. This looks like an awesome book. I need help re-styling our house; my husband lived here before we got married and, well, it still looks like a bachelor pad LOL.
    Thanks for the opportunity! Love your blog!

  10. Oh, the book looks so handy and useful! I would love, love, love a copy! Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

  11. This book would be incredibly helpful! You did a wonderful review of it and have me sold :)

  12. I would love to have this book. It would be a great resource for decorating my home and a wonderful coffee table book.

  13. Wow, looks like a great book with tips I could not only use…but need in some places.

  14. Now that I am a firt home buyer/owner I am enjoying the freedom to decorate. It is one of new hobbies that I can’t get enough of. Since I am new at this I think this book would be amazing to have, to help me on my way to creating my own design. What a great book with such wonderful ideas!

  15. Sounds like a wonderful book to add to my decorating book library! Enter me for a chance to win, please!

  16. Sigh. . .I would love to have this book, so I keep entering the giveaways, but I think I will just absolutely have to go buy it!! :)

  17. I would LOVE to win this book! Mr Johnson, Jr and I will be moving into our first house at the end of the year and I need the wonderful ideas suggested in this book.

  18. If I don’t win then I’ll just have to pick it up! My mom, for the first time in her 60 years, has decided that she wants a decorated, put away home that screams ‘this is MY home’. It sounds like the book would make a great x-mas gift for her.

  19. Oh I so NEED to win this book! Looks like it has awesome tips that would assist me in pulling everything together I am trying to do in my home. Great giveaway!

  20. My parents just built a beautiful house and I know my mother would LOVE to have this book! And then I can borrow it. :)

  21. I definitely need this book! It sounds like it has just the tips that I’ve been looking for.

  22. I am so have trouble with furniture placement/traffic flow in my living room. Sounds like this book has some great advice. Love the photos from the book.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  23. YES! I need help with this one:
    “Want the skinny on proper proportion for coffee tables, end table, sofa tables, and just about any piece of furniture?”
    Thanks! :)

  24. That book sounds fabulous! If I’m not the winner I’ll have to see if my library has it available to check out.

  25. This book would be great!!! I am looking for some great ideas for my mom’s house and my newly finished basement!!!

  26. Would LOVE to win this book! I’ll have to tack that on to my wish list if I don’t win.

  27. Ooh I could use this book! I would love to float my furniture…particularly my couch and put a sofa table behind it…however, I’m confused as to what to do with my side tables then…it just looked weird when I tried it. It’s not a particularly huge room…any suggestions?? :)

  28. OMG, been eying this book since they had it in Essence. Even if I don’t win, I already have it on my wish list on Amazon. But I so want to win…He He!!

  29. I could use this book. We are finishing our basement, and I need some decorating tips ASAP!

  30. Although were are renting for 6 months or so before we buy I am still struggling with what to do with our living room. It’s at least 32 feet long. We jokingly call it the great room. It’s in a 60’s ranch home and is the biggest room in the house and is begging for some 60’s themed parties to happen. I’m trying to get my hands on a vintage hi-fi to at least fill the room a bit more. This book seems like it could really help my rare “too much space” issue.

  31. I’ve been wanting this book since I saw Lindsey’s review. If I don’t win one I’m going to buy two – one for me and one for my MIL. =)

  32. maybe i should have a book of this type. i’m sometimes afraid that i have no decorating talent at all.

  33. I could use all the help I can get! This book would definitely be put to use in my house.

  34. My husband and I are in the process of buying our first home…and boy does it need some design! Well, it actually needs and new roof and new carpet first…but I digress!

    I would LOVE to have some practical advice in turning the now smurf blue monster into a beautiful home!

  35. Gorgeous pics from the book! I need all the help I can get — I’d love to win this giveaway!! It’ll be on my wishlist regardless!! CHEERS!

  36. Oh heck, I couldn’t wait, and just purchased this book!! Can’t wait to get it in my hot little hands! Oh, also purchased “Domino”! Yes, I do need a lot of help in home decorating!! LOL

  37. What a great book! This will definitely be added to my “to buy” list, unless I get lucky!

  38. I would love to win that book! I’m German and it’s amazing to see how much interior design differs from country to country.

  39. I am wondering how big or small I need to go in buying living room furniture. I think I need to buy this book! I love your blog, though I mostly lurk, don’t post.

  40. This book looks like it has some wonderful ideas.. Would absolutly love to read it and get some ideas for our house. There are some things that I love that I did and other’s that still need lots of work…

  41. I am guilty of a big design no-no. All of my furniture is upholstered in the same fabric! I need this book in order to retain my freedom to decorate.

  42. The book looks great. I am struggling with getting to one thing at a time because there is so much in my house I want to do!

  43. I have heard so much about this book. With having just bought a new home, this book might be the guide I need to really make our house feel like home!

  44. I came across your blog and love everything you have done with your house. I’d love to see what I can do to my own house with the book you’re offering. Keep up the awesome work.

  45. OOOOOOOOOOoooooo! Just what I need! I’m usually design challenged. I can copy ideas with the best of them, but when it comes to decorating my new house, I’m having the hardest time!

  46. I would love to have a copy of this book. It appears to answer so many of the questions I have! Thanks!
    And, I love your blog.

  47. I would love a copy of this book! I enjoy making my home more beautiful and think that this would be a great way to give me some new ideas!

  48. I would totally love this book, especially if she calls me honey like we were best of friends! I love that kind of talk in a book – I need to be best friends with a designer that’s for sure!

  49. That sounds like such a fabulous book, I would love to own a copy of it! If I don’t win, this is definitely going on my Christmas list. Thanks for the great giveaway!

  50. Wow do I need this book. My husband and I are constantly at odds with each other on decorating. As a result… we don’t do much. I can’t wait to show him that all furniture doesn’t need to be the same fabric. : )

  51. Decorating books and magazines are my downfall. I absolutely love looking at them. Alas. . . we moved into our house back in March and I have yet to actually decorate anything. Maybe this book would spurn me into action. :)

  52. I have several rooms in mind for redecoration, and could so use some advice and inspiration! I am preggers with Baby #4, so I think I’m nesting, but I have plans for almost every room in the house, so this would be a great tool to help me not get overwhelmed! Here’s hoping!!!

  53. I discovered your web site a week or so ago. My lucky day. I spent the better part of a day looking over many of your projects and creative ideas. I am recovering from a couple of illnesses over the past year and a half and finally have my energy back. You have inspired me to get back to the crafting and sewing that I love. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  54. I was so excited to read your post about this book~~looks like what I’ve been waiting for!!
    Also, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog (just found it a couple of months ago). Thanks for all the great ideas!

  55. OOOOHhh.please pick me…..embarking on many projects , some spurred on by the big fire 2 years ago…..carpet still “gone” upstairs but downstairs wood floors refinished…stairs redone…new headboard…..windows needed….narrowing down choices and affordable selections….juggling…..loving my OWN vintage stuff tho and glad I still have it…………
    love your blog. thanx for all the sharing.

  56. I sure could use this book right now. I just started the process of looking at each room in my home and deciding what stays and what goes and where it goes. In between all this I am decorating for Chirstmas. It’s a nightmare.

  57. I first became acquainted with Elaine Griffin when I read an article about design workshe did too update and beautify a “Safe House” for battered women and children. Elaine is a talented designer, who defiinitely has a kind heart; as evidenced by her work at the women’s shelter. I look love the opportunity to read her book and learn new design principles!

  58. who couldn’t use some expert help in doing it yourself, especially since I simply cannot afford a professional to come out to “fix” all of my many problem areas LOL!

  59. who couldn’t use some expert help in this area without the cost of hiring out per hour which quite frankly isn’t affordable to me in this day and time

  60. I am in need of some down to earth, real style decorating tips and it looks like this one fits the niche nicely.

  61. Oh, I need this badly! We just moved to a new house and I am currently looking at an un-skirted decorator table that’s filling in until I figure out how to furnish this new space. I just dont know what I’m doing!!

  62. I have recently heard of this book and that is a must have. I would LOVE TO HAVE since I need decorating help! Thank you for sharing!

  63. I would love to win this book. It seems I have a fear of decorating and need a boost to just get over it. We have lived in our home for EIGHT years and still have boring cream colored walls because I haven’t known what to do (yes I know how sad that truely is LOL). Thanks for providing a website with so many great ideas (I am actually going to redo my first chair this weekend after checking out some ideas on your site).

  64. ooooo please help this newlywed in dire need, i need this desperately!! :) thanks for the great giveaway and book tip!

  65. I need this book in the worst way! None of my furniture is pulled away from the walls and I have matchy matchy upholstery in my den! If I don’t win this book, I will definitely be buying it!

  66. I’m very curious to read this! I LOVE design books. They’re great for curling up with.

  67. It could help me. I am a woman that was born without the decorating gene. I am also missing the shopping gene. Sigh…………I would love to have my house look like we live there!

  68. Oh my gosh — I would LOVE to win this book! My fiance and I just bought our first place and we have empty rooms that I have no idea what to do with! Thanks for sharing! :)

  69. I would love to win this. Hope it has some ideas on for my dark and dated family room.

  70. YES PLEASE!!! I keep hearing so much about it and boy do I want it! But I am B. R. O. K. E. broke. XD Being a college student is fun like that.

  71. I was just thinking about getting some home design software, and this would be the perfect companion piece! Thanks for the chance!

  72. I have seen this book reviewed on many blogs now and I would just LOVE to have a copy, please! :)

  73. You make this sound like a “must read” and I would love to have a copy. Throw my name in the hat please!


  74. Okay, you already know that I am decorating challenged. You think this book could help even me?
    Would so love to win this!
    thanks for a great giveaway!

  75. This book looks so great! I’m working on decorating our first house, which we just completely renovated! I definitely need lots of tips.

  76. I LOVE your website. I have been inspired to redo some Goodwill chairs and to someday redo my staircase. I just enjoy seeing the pictures on your blog..they are spectacular. Thanks for being so generous with sharing your home and your ideas.

    I would love a copy of the book, thanks!

  77. I’ve been looking forward to this book. I’m a wanna-be decorator who really needs some basic rules.

  78. Looks like a very practical book for answering many of the design problems amateurs encounter. Would love to have it.

  79. Thanks for the great giveaway. I’d love to win a copy of this book to ad to my design library!

  80. I would love to get my hangs on this book. Even if i don’t win. I love decorating as it is but when you see these designer rooms you are just in ahhhhh. It would be nice to see how you can create that in your own home. Thanks for the chance to win….and for your amazing abilities and talent.

  81. I would *love* a copy of this book! I just recently bought my first place and am having trouble figuring out how to furnish it.

    Thanks Kate… I love your blog and all the tips you give to us :)

  82. I’m always looking for some more decorating tips and hints….hope I win the book!!

  83. After 17 years of marriage we finally bought our first house last year, a 1935 Spanish Ranch. It has many great details, and I would really like to make it home, but I could use help with the decorating. My hubby would be happy to see it coming together on the inside as he works on the outside. This book sounds like a godsend.

  84. What a neat book! I love reading practical expert tips- they’re incredibly useful, and help me to think about decorating in new ways.

  85. This would help me a lot!!. I’m constantly having trouble on how to decorate a room or small space. I’d love to have this book! :)

  86. I would simply adore a copy of this book – so many tricks compiled into a single space!

  87. I need some serious help with decorations. I love refinishing furniture but it’s the decor I get caught up on. As always, thanks for the chance to win!

  88. Looks like a wealth of information! Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest changes..its just knowing all the little things. I think this book would help

  89. getting ready to redecorate my living room and remodel my kitchen, could use some professional assistance from a book like this.

  90. I first became familiar with Elaine Griffin through an article that showcased her efforts to design a “Safe House” for battered women and their children. Clearly, if I know nothing about Elaine Griffin, I do know that she has a heart for people in difficult situations. She did a Fabulo-tastic job!!! I imagine that the residents were uplifted by such a beautiful environment. I would absolutely love to win her book and learn new priniciples to continue the never ending process of transforming my home.

  91. We built our new house, so since we got to pick everything out I thought making it “home” would be easy. Wrong, I so need help & would love to win this book! Thanks for the opportunity, I enjoy all the inspiration from your blog too.

  92. I’m always on the hunt for some design books for inspiration. I refer to the Domino book and The Home Book regularly, I’d love to add this to my library.

  93. this sounds like a valuable tool… I can use all the helpful tips and hints I can get, I can imagine making the most of her insight and skills!

  94. I LOVE this book and could really use this copy of it. I cannot wait to find out all the rules!

  95. Your creativity is really inspiring and you have great ideas!! I think the book will be a helpful resource in decorating our home.

  96. I could use this book right now with the move to the new house. We have a two story greatroom that is going to be a delimma to decorate.

  97. I could really use this book. Searching the internet for inspirational pictures of bathrooms is how I came upon your blog. (Love yours by the way!) It is so hard for me to make decisions..so many choices out there! Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.

  98. I was about to order this book on Amazon but will wait to see if I am lucky enough to win this fantastic giveaway! Thanks!

  99. Oh I LOVE your blog….!! What a wonderful book and I would love to be blessed with it..(ohpleasepick me). we are trying to juggle multiple home projects , some of them a ripple effect of the big fire 2 years ago….our french doors broke open and altho our street did not burn, others a few blocks away did and we had extensive soot/smoke damage, even a large ember found on our wood floor. we also need new windows….ripped out the carpet and wallpaper upstairs due to smoke (ins only pays for cleaning….our noses knew that was not enough!)…but new floor will be last…so many decisions to make and budgeting…YES! This book sounds like it would be VERY helpful! Thank you for considering me.

  100. This book is on my Christmas wish list! Maybe I’ll win it from you and save Santa the trip! ;o)

  101. I would love to have this book to referenceas as I go on my new DIY decor adventures.
    Thanks for posting.

  102. Love your blog! We bought a fixer upper 6 years ago and have slowly (and budget-mindedly) been DIYing our way into the home we want. I would love another book on the subject!

  103. Sounds like a great read. Sounds like it would be a good one to look over before our big Christmas party. That’s the excuse that I’m giving to all of my home projects. Not much more time left! Eek!

  104. What a GREAT book. We rent, so I cannot knock out the wall between the family room and the formal dining room, or even put a couple of windows in there…I could really use this book.

  105. Wow, this book looks like it has great information — and inspirations. I would love to win this book. Love your blog! Thanks!

  106. Oh I would love to get my hands on this book. Even though I know what I like, it’s hard to pull it all together, so some simple rules from a professional will definitely help.

  107. we are dreaming of our first house in the next two years, so this would be perfect to get us started on the right track!! :)

  108. As a younger newly married woman, who doesn’t come from a decorating background, I would LOVE to have this book. It would be such a valuable tool for me to learn. :)

  109. I’d love to win this book! But I’m never quite sure if prizes can only be shipped in the US only? There are lots of us international readers out there :) Love your tree advent calendar. Cheers from Down Under!

  110. This book looks so good! I think I’ll put it on my Christmas list. Unless I win it, of course!

  111. Oh how fun! Thank you for offering this! I am so excited about learning more about home decor even though it’s overwhelming, lol. I just found your blog and am a HAPPY new follower. :)

  112. This book sounds awesome! We would be very helpful as we move into our first home in December.

  113. I have not been blessed with the home decorating gene and my poor little house suffers for it. I’d love have a copy of the book to break down the “rules” of good design into bite sized pieces for me. I love your blog . . . your foyer transformation made me want to add a second story to our house – just so I could copy it. :)

  114. I love your blog… hope to have a chance to win something ……at least one time in my life!!!
    The book looks GREAT!

  115. Oh I need this book! A toddler, an infant, tons of kid stuff, all in 1100sf apartment. I need help!

    Or, I should just give in and move to the suburbs. But reading this book would be easier, no?

  116. No one needs this book more than me! Love your blog. You are very generous in sharing your ideas.

  117. This books sounds so helpful – our new house if still half empty, I don’t know what to do with it!

  118. Thanks for the giveaway, Kate! Loved your dressers re-vamp-stunning gray-, and the advent tree was brilliant!

    Enjoying the daily eye-candy,
    Holisticgal Jen

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