Book Review
Title: "Restore. Recycle. Repurpose. Create a Beautiful Home"
Author: Randy Florke with Nancy J. Becker
Publisher: Hearst Books, 2010; 192 pages; $24.95

When I think of country-style decor, good things do not come to mind. I think of oak dinette sets with heart-shaped carved chairs and gingham chair pads. I think of walls stenciled with teddy bears voguing around needlepoint sayings. I think: raffia. Need I say more? I thought not.

One quick flip through "Restore. Recycle. Repurpose. Create a Beautiful Home" ("RRR"), by Country Living Magazine editor Randy Florke, with Nancy J. Becker, and I stand corrected. Pleasantly so.

Apparently, while many of us were sleeping, with urban chic dreams styled by Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Design Within Reach (which my circle fondly refers to as "Design Not Quite Within Reach," but a girl can dream!) country-style got a little — scratch that — a lot more chic itself!

And it got greener, too. RRR is all about inspiring readers to undertake their own home beautification odyssey, inside and out, using — excuse me — reusing everything from chimney bricks to appliances, glassware to vintage board games.

In RRR, it’s extremely hard to tell where the reuse for purposes of being environmentally responsible ends and reuse for the point of creating a somewhat shabby, certainly chic, vintage look and feel begins. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there’s really no line — this book personifies that Webbiest of decor terms: eco-chic.

This meticulously organized and photographed book starts off indicting the mega-, maxi-, extreme, school of design that seems to drive so many home improvement shows and decor shows, which have created a new genre of voyeurism devoted to watching people demo and throw out cabinets and finish materials (ostensibly winding up as fodder for the landfills).

Florke weaves together a justification for RRR, from timely environmental concerns, timelier concerns about spending and being frugal, and a fresh note of emphasis on enjoying the activity, the process of customizing your home with reused materials.

Following the introduction, Florke and Becker spend a couple of pages up front briefing readers on various green design and construction terms that will be used throughout the book. It’s a quick but effective primer, glossary-style, with terms including off-gassing and carbon neutral: key concepts for green home-improvers.

The organizational scheme of the rest of the book mirrors the organizational scheme of the homes it promises to recreate. It opens up with entryways, focusing on creating a warm welcome to your home with rugs, reclaimed flooring, strategic storage and smart lighting – including some ways to use old school chandeliers with new-age, energy-efficient "swirl" light bulbs without the jarring visual disconnect. …CONTINUED

It moves next to kitchens, the nouveau-farmhouse style of which it instructs readers on creating, impeccably, reusing and repurposing everything from appliances to countertops. (Old school farmhouse was all dark oak and teddy bears — new school is white cabinets, plate racks and butcher block counters.)

RRR then covers living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms before moving on to home offices, outdoors and then devotes a full chapter to some basic principles and tenets for living — and remodeling — green.

Advisory: There are cowboy boots, hats, vintage pork country-store adverts and even dusty rose florals in this book. If that’s your flavor of flourish, you’ll love it. But even if it’s not, there’s so much in this book that you’d stand to miss if you let the occasional "Western-y" item scare you off.

A good 80 percent of the images in this book could just as well be off the pages of any city-chic decor glossy — see: Country Living mag.

And, actually, given the vast proportions of "reclaimed’ and "vintage" items that are marked up to the high heavens by the most popular design brands, RRR — designated on the cover as "a Country Living Book" could just as well be used by the urban-chic set as a guidebook for cost-effectively reclaiming and reusing materials to fabulous effect.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website,


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