I rescued Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard from my parent’s bathroom when I was home for the holidays. I think I got this book from my grandmother sometime in the late 90s and it has been residing in the bathroom ever since. It makes PERFECT bathroom reading because you can just pick a page and start reading.
Alexandra Stoddard is an interior designer who has written MANY books about interior design and living a graceful life. The thesis of Living a Beautiful Life is that we spend 85% of our time at home in our kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom and these rooms should be treated with the same importance as our public rooms.
The book was written in the mid-80s, so it’s fairly dated- Stoddard recommends using a FiloFax to keep organized- but I find it a very soothing book to read. The focus of the book is on the rituals of daily life, having a pleasant breakfast nook with colorful place settings, lighting candles in the bath, that sort of thing. I started reading it when I was probably 11 or 12 and I think it started my life long interest in living beautifully which has sort of culminated in this blog. Some cons of the book are that the language can be kind of annoying (take a shot every time she writes “ritual” and you will be very drunk indeed before you finish the first chapter) and Stoddard shows a lack of awareness of privilege that can be extremely grating (she recommends that you have a favorite book bound in leather, a service that Asprey New York apparently used to provide. Currently they don’t, but you can buy first edition copies of the Hunger Games… for $3000!).
The Grace Notes sections at the end of each chapter are a quick way to pick up some inspiration if you are having a dull moment. Some favorites:
- “Have a special basket for mail. It looks pretty, and it’s fun to bring into the living room or library, to open at leisure.”
- “Use antique brass weights as doorstops. They’re heavy and decorative.”
- “Save old, worn-out white gloves and wear them as silver-polishing mitts” (as though anyone has white gloves to wear out!)
- “Serve tea from a porcelain teapot that has been hand-decorated in colors that are attractive with your cups and saucers. Keep it ready on a tray for spontaneous tea rituals”
- “Put eggs in an old wire basket”
- “Have a rocking chair in the bedroom. Rocking soothes, and can be a great ritual.”
- “Have a small refrigerator in your closet for fruit, ice, Perrier, and chilled glasses.”
- “Display green and red mouthwash in glass bottles to add some color to your bathroom”
Basically this book is kind of a weird Martha Stewart Living/Pinterest mashup with some Sex and the Single Girl vintageness (there’s a lot of name dropping of stores and items that don’t exist anymore). If you can get past all the crazy bourgeoisness, you can find quite a bit of inspiration.