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Southern Living's recent publication, "Southern Living Style," offers readers a wide range of home decorating projects. From camouflaging a washer and dryer into a cocktail bar or transforming a child's bedroom door into a chalkboard, the ideas are practical, fun and, as Southern Living editor Lindsay Bierman said, show that updating "doesn't have to cost a fortune."

The economy did have an influence in the production of the book, according to Bierman.

"To me, it's the difference of showing people where they are and where they want to be," he said. "In a down economy, even though you're broke, you want to dream.

"Even if it's knocking off paint or adding a drawer pull, there's something for everyone in this book. Sometimes taking one piece of furniture and giving it one new coat of paint can make a big difference."

The book defines Southern style as an "easygoing mix of formal and informal furnishings. A color scheme that soothes but never bores. Treasured art displayed in a casual way. Window treatments that waver somewhere between frilly and masculine. A pedigreed rug, passed down through generations and now the perfect spot for a dog's nap time. A fine antique chest cozying up to a loosely slipcovered club chair. Taken together, the pieces add up to a graceful look that can only be Southern."

Divided into three main sections, the book is chock-full of colorful detailed photographs.

Defining the look

"Defining Southern Styles," the first section, addresses colors and patterns to slipcovers, collections, painted floors, portraits and antiques, among other topics.

The passion of collecting is big in the South, the book notes.

Designers offer suggestions, fully illustrated, on how to showcase collections by displaying them either on traditional bookshelves, an old post-office mail sorter or in cabinets, for example.

"We wanted the book to reflect the best of Southern style," Bierman said, noting that the publication has a large inventory of designer contacts, thus a huge diversity of ideas. "The book was carefully curated to represent a broad style, a relaxed elegance, rooms that are upscale but relatable."

Room by room

"Living Southern in Every Room," the second section, offers advice on decorating ideas for entryways, living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, home offices and kids' rooms. Designers show readers how to make dramatic transformations using simple techniques.

Designer Tyler Colgan takes readers into her Atlanta home where she has a bohemian-inspired living room. Using patterned textiles, the designer has a paisley throw draped over a pedestal table, apothecary-style containers on the coffee table and a lamp fashioned from an old printing spool by the sofa.

Reinvention

"Reinventing the Old," wraps up the last section of the book.

The washer and dryer disguised as a "snazzy bar" or "wrapping station" is one of the most clever suggestions in the book. The design was formulated by Alabama's Heather Chadduck, who serves as style director at Southern Living.

"It was something she had done at her house in Birmingham," Bierman said. "It's the kind of space people have in their own homes. Most of us don't live in houses with 10-foot ceilings. Heather makes the most of what she has to work with."

It was Chadduck who also came up with another simple, inexpensive, yet aesthetically pleasing idea of using ribbons as drawer pulls.

"She's also a master of taking a flea-market find and giving it a simple upgrade to make it special," Bierman said. "She's a master of making plain pretty."

Bierman said even he gets inspiration from the book.

"It's sort of a problem with me," he said. "I see so many good ideas that it carries over to my own house. I recently painted my master bedroom blue, then white, then a mustard color and then settled on a more neutral color. I couldn't make up my mind. And that's how I feel about the book. I honestly love everything in it."

Start-to-finish

The book offers plenty of photographs to help readers navigate the designers' process from beginning to end.

"We try to break things down to make it easier to follow," Bierman said. "It's easy to look at photographs and feel overwhelmed. Our designers wanted to make it easy by pointing out important details."

Bierman expects the book to be popular from coast to coast, not just in the South.

"The South is really 'hot' right now. Southern style has a warmth, and there's an inviting, relaxed elegance that people aspire to not matter where they live. The South has a special richness, a personal charm, a patina -- the way most people like."

"Southern Living Style," $29.95, published by Oxmoor House, is available at most bookstores.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill.

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