The best books about making and running a welcoming home

The Books I Picked & Why

The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners

By Margaret Visser

The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners

Why this book?

Manners can be a dull topic when merely outlined in a reference book of rules (hold your fork this way, pass the salt like so, etc…), but when woven into historical and cultural context, as Visser does here, all these hows and whys suddenly come to life. Visser covers everything from spitting to sitting, from banquets to burgers. 


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The Interior Design Handbook

By Frida Ramstedt

The Interior Design Handbook

Why this book?

Finally, a book for regular people that spells out the golden rules of design in a way that’s easy to understand and to apply to the homes we live in, whatever they may be. Ramstedt guides us through everything from lights to flower vases to the arrangement of furniture to choosing white paint. A book to help us see the places where we live with fresh eyes and tackle the kind of tweaks that will make us feel more at home in them than ever.


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The Pocket Butler's Guide to Good Housekeeping: Expert Advice on Cleaning, Laundry and Home Maintenance

By Charles MacPherson

The Pocket Butler's Guide to Good Housekeeping: Expert Advice on Cleaning, Laundry and Home Maintenance

Why this book?

How to run a house is no longer part of our education system. The only way to learn this vital skill – one that helps make the whole of our lives run more smoothly - is by educating ourselves. This compact book teaches us everything from how to clean a room to how to fold socks to how to descale a shower head. It’s like having your own butler to turn to for advice whenever you need it.


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A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

By David Tanis

A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

Why this book?

Menu cookbooks can be tricky, but Tanis has produced this and another masterpiece (The Heart of the Artichoke 2010) both of which will up the game of any dinner-party host. The recipes are varied, imaginative, and infallible (Fish Tacos with Shredded Cabbage and Lime, Chicken Tagine with Pumpkin and Chickpeas, Rum Baba with Cardamom) and the menus sheer poetry.


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Great Hostesses

By Brian Masters

Great Hostesses

Why this book?

Who are the great hosts and hostesses of our day? We don’t know; nobody ever talks about them. Celebrities and socialites, instead, have stolen the spotlight. But, great hostesses of the past were not only prominent, but powerfully influential, subtly steering the fate of society this way and that. Masters provides portraits here of some of the most celebrated hostesses of days gone by, including Emerald Cunard and Mrs. Vanderbilt. A book to inspire a new generation of “inviters.”


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