“The best way to learn is by asking questions,” Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio and author of Undecorate, says in the opening of her new coffee table tome meets textbook, The Finer Things: Timeless Furniture, Textiles and Details (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $60). “But, with respect to making design decisions about your home in this do-it-yourself culture, whom do you ask? You’re lucky if you happen upon a well-informed salesperson or work closely with an interior designer. Most of the time you’re on your own, tearing pages from magazines, studying product details on packages, scanning websites, and trying to figure out things for yourself.” The Finer Things is Lemieux’s answer to her question.
The 400-page book investigates the ins and outs of the home furnishings realm, including furniture, flooring, wallcoverings, tile and more, with the reader’s needs and interests in mind: from the origin of the salon wall (it dates back to the Renaissance) and a timeline of furniture’s evolution (starting with ancient Greek seat forms) to a look at the process of fabric through Pierre Frey’s eyes. But it’s not just history Lemieux provides, it’s applicable education: with fact-based design knowledge that tallies the major players in window treatment providers, explains the science and function of LED bulbs, and catalogues the leading artisans and manufacturers—all accompanied by lavish and inspiring images. Lemieux sat down to chat with EAL about the veritable homeowner’s manual:
The book is gorgeous but it’s also informative. What void in the marketplace did you intend to fill with The Finer Things?
I really wanted to understand real craftsmanship in the world of design. There is a lot of content out there that’s not necessarily right or true. Once I started investigating what makes something timeless with exceptional quality, I went down a rabbit hole that resulted in an encyclopedia of design featuring the world’s most celebrated master craftsmen.
Interior design by Miles Redd; copyright by Paul Costello / OTTO
How did you approach the book? What was your guiding philosophy or mission?
I really wanted to talk to the top experts in all areas of design to learn about their craft. It was humbling in many ways, because although I’m well versed in design, it made me realize just how exceptionally talented, skilled and educated these experts are.
What are some of the most surprising things you’ve learned from your research on the book?
There are so many, but one of the major takeaway is that something of quality has to be as beautifully crafted on the inside as the outside. For something like a sofa, although we never see the inside, it’s still important. For a high-quality piece of furniture, every detail is considered. We don’t think about the inside of things when we spend money, but quality is often unseen.