The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson is a book about styling. It is a book about living with stuff. It includes beautiful images, a requirement for every design book, but it also includes actionable, attainable advice for your home.
The author describes the art of styling in such a way that it feels accessible and near impossible to do badly. Her description of collecting and creating styled objects in your home is romantic, "For me, making a home really was about the layers of things that are acquired over time; things that have stories and remind you places and people and a feeling of discovery." The author provides concrete advice and a glimpse into her process by encouraging a critical eye and observation of Dutch still-life paintings and Irving Penn photos.
While all the photos in the book are on the dark & moody end of the scale, her use of found objects and everyday items makes this appealing to everyone. After reading the book, you'll most likely find yourself unconsciously rejecting the new for the worn, used, unique, well-loved, pieces that the author lovingly advocates throughout the book. Pieces like unusual antique collections (think old tools, saddles, ceramics, apple crates), feathers, bits of branches, bone, and coral are encouraged more than buying the latest Nate Berkus vase from Target.
She hones in on the human spirit by recognizing that styling your home is a "desire to be surrounded by things that transport them to another place, time or moment." The book is cleverly divided into different ways to style objects - intuitive, narrative, practical, and curatorial - as well as different types of stylists- neatnik, bohemian, naturalist, sculpture vulture, and noble salvage. Providing first advice on styling and then a peek into people's homes and how they've styled their objects.
But what I love most about this book is that it is realistic. Fancy collections are not required, a surplus of money is not necessary, and the only stuff you may need is what is already in your life. As the author states, "Unless you want to become a dealer, it is essential to integrate your acquisitions into your home somehow." Finding and editing the stuff that composes our life is what this book prepares you to do.
Bottom line: If you need styling inspiration and advice, this is a great book for your collection.