I have an embarrassing number of interior design books, but American Modern by Thomas O'Brien is my favorite. Why do I love it so much? The rooms are liveable, timeless and well-considered.

Now, if you oggle interior design books like I do, you know the frustrating fact that it is easy to pick out the images you like but it is hard to make your home look the same way. This is not so surprising - you might know that Pride and Prejudice is a great book but you'd be hard-pressed to write something half as good.

That's why I don't just look at the pictures, I try to learn something from them. I ask myself - what do I like about it? How would this work in my home?

For Mr O'Brien's book, I've picked out three images to share with you, and the seven ideas I've gotten from them.

Kitchen in Thomas O'Brien's Upper East Side Apartment, from American Modern by Thomas O'Brien

Kitchen in Thomas O'Brien's Upper East Side Apartment, from American Modern by Thomas O'Brien

It's in the Details

This is Thomas O'Brien's own Upper East side kitchen. It is so beautifully simple. Here's what makes this kitchen great:

  • inset cabinets, not full overlay cabinets. A good explanation of the difference between these two styles is here. It is a seemingly small detail but its one of the main reasons why I would (and did) fork out for custom inset cabinets over IKEA's full overlay cabinets.

  • the cabinets line up on the top and the bottom. It has a good rhythm.

  • a perfect painted finish

  • I love the mirrored back splash

Kitchen in West Village Apartment, from American Modern by Thomas O'Brien

Kitchen in West Village Apartment, from American Modern by Thomas O'Brien

Mix and Match Materials

Another beautiful kitchen. You can see that mixing and matching different materials really works. I remember seeing this for the first time and it was an epiphany - you don't have to pick just one material for your back splash, for your counter tops or for your cabinets. You can have more than one. The room has:

  • a concrete counter edge with a composite stone counter top
  • a marble back splash in light-duty areas and a stainless steel back splash for heavy-duty use
  • a mix of metals: brass pulls, nickel lights and shelf supports, stainless steel appliances and iron windows (echoed in the stools - nice touch)

It also shows a great mix of having upper cabinets in some places and not in others. Some kitchens have a lot of upper cabinets and it can look very heavy. This one strikes a great balance.

Bulletin Board in Thomas O'Brien's Upper East Side Apartment, from American Modern by Thomas O'Brien

Bulletin Board in Thomas O'Brien's Upper East Side Apartment, from American Modern by Thomas O'Brien

Build a 3D Bulletin Board

I love bulletin boards, and this one shows you that they don't have to be flat - they can have many beautiful layers. Just put a low cabinet underneath your bulletin board and start stacking it with a small bookshelf, a pedestal and books to display your objects.

You can see a step-by-step on how Thomas O'Brien built this custom bulletin board in his blog here. I plan to make my own with cork boards from IKEA, some fabric and a custom frame from American Frame.

If you are inspired too, you can get American Modern for $35 on Amazon. What's your favorite interior design book? Please let me know in the comments!

 

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