Ms. Sternberg Phipps (who is, by the way, a countess, but prefers not to use the title) was a designer who was featured in a number of famous decorating magazines, including "Arhitectural Digest," the creme de la creme of the industry. She wrote this book, whose subtitle is: " An Ingenious Guide to Decorating Elegantly, Inexpensively and Doing Most of it Yourself," because she loved beautiful old rooms, richly furnished, but was unable to afford them after the communists seized her families estates in Czechoslovakia. When she developed a reputation for her wonderful rooms and gift as a decorator, she wanted to make it possible for the average person to create the sort of rooms she created, at a price that anyone could afford.
I picked up the book very cheaply, quite a few years ago, from a display table of bargain books at Schuler's. I don't know what I expected, but as I started to read it, I really fell in love with this book. At first I was appalled at the things this woman did to create her rooms. I had always pictured those rooms in Architectural Digest as having been created by a designer with an entire crew of professional painters, builders, upholsterers, cabinet makers, etc., at his disposal. Not to mention all the furniture purchased at antique shops or "To the Trade Only" shops and galleries. But here is Ms. Phipps creating her fabulous rooms with glue, plywood, staple guns and cast off couches she has re-covered herself!
Once I got past the shock, I was delighted! Here was a woman after my own heart. Who says you have to do things the right way? Why not just upholster over the upholstery that's already there? If you don't like the color of the piping, why not just paint it a different color? If you want more seating in your dining room, why not just build in some banquettes yourself with plywood and upholster them with some bargain fabric and a staple gun?
This book was the first one I read that really allowed me to think outside the box on decorating. Suddenly I felt really free to try doing some weird stuff myself. I used her idea for upholstering over the existing fabric on a chair. In a room I was redoing, I recovered the back cushion and seat cushion of a wing back chair I had, but left the wings, arms, and back alone. The fabric I used pulled together a number of colors and elements fabulously!
In her book, Ms Phipps shows how to paint faux wood and marble, create "paneling" and use mirrors for fabulous effects. She explains how to hang a grouping of odd objects on a wall and make it look balanced. She also gives all sorts of instructions from how to make tassels, to how to upholster a room ( yes, a room!) and all in a very easy friendly text.There are a myriad of other decorating tips that I have found invaluable. I have used many of her ideas and techniques in my home as well as in dioramas.
I highly recommend this book for dioramists because it gives so many ideas that are even more usable in small scale rooms than in the human size rooms for which she intended them. See if your local library owns copy or can order one. It's well worth checking out!