Big, Easy Style: Creating Rooms You Love to Live In, by Bryan Batt
Bryan Batt (Salvatore Romano for three seasons of Mad Men) has written his second book, this one about one of his life’s passions and his second career: Home decor. In addition to being an accomplished actor, Bryan is the owner of Hazelnut New Orleans with his life partner Tom, a home accessory and gift shop.
Bryan guides the reader through the decorating process with a lot of practical tips: He details paint colors, stores he likes, colors that set mood, and so on. But the heart of the book is his appreciation for the meaning of every room in your house, and his trust in you, the reader, having good intuition. Lavishly illustrated with “rule-breaker” rooms, Bryan demonstrates how you can find your inner decorator. He describes creating a portrait arrangement, a dining room suitable for entertaining, a collection display, and a bedroom that helps you rest. He has very few hard rules; rather than being an instructor, Bryan is your friendly native guide to Decor Land, and he does it with great flair.
As a writer, Bryan is significantly more accomplished in his sophomore outing. His prose is still florid, but there’s an ease this time that makes it more fun to read. In She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother, there was something of a consciousness of “I am writing” to Bryan’s style, whereas now, he just lets himself dive in.
The joy is infectious. His welcoming, let’s have fun style draws you right in. Truly I was only reading this book because it’s Bryan’s; my home turned the corner on lived-in and landed in “oh my” years ago, but Bryan brings joie de vivre to decorating that makes you feel like it’s part of a life well lived. His colors, odd items, and reminiscences about great spaces are like a party you are happy to attend.
The book is organized by different rooms (bedroom, living room, etc.). He discusses the purpose and flavor of each room, and as he shows you illustrated examples, he discusses the decision-making process that went into the final outcome. You start with the “bones” of a house: Its architecture and shape, and work your way out. Here’s a decision to make a room less formal, here’s a room that’s kid-friendly, here’s a room for people who throw a lot of parties, and so on. I only wish Bryan hadn’t omitted a discussion of pets, because I think every pet owner knows how much animals and decorating are incompatible, and Bryan could have discussed creative ways to face that challenge.
But, that’s what the book isn’t about. For what it is about, it’s delightful.
Full disclosure: As is normal for book reviewers, I was given a complimentary review copy of Big, Easy Style by the publisher.