Not Webster but not bad

The book jacket touts Mary Gilliatt’s latest as a “comprehensive source of information that will help you navigate all decisions related to home decor....” Wonderful! But wait, where are kitchen countertops, bamboo flooring or advice on recessed lighting-versus-lamps?

The disappointment wanes after the discovery of engrossing short biographies of influential architects and designers (don’t expect to find any up-and-comers) and synopses of styles and movements.

A quick flip through “Furniture and Upholstery” reveals what eglomise means (a painting process done on the reverse side of glass) and what a Pembroke table is (a drop-leaf with a drawer set in the frieze or apron). Terms that had been vaguely familiar were suddenly crystal clear.


Photographs or more of Gilliatt’s rough drawings of difficult-to-describe entries such as the escabeau (an early carved stool or bench supported by decorative trestles) would have been useful, and a guide to pronouncing foreign words would have helped.

It’s an interesting tome filled with good information, but Gilliatt may have overpromised. It’s a fun reference but don’t count on it to guide you through design decisions.

-- Christy Hobart