I was initially drawn to Junk Style by the enviable name of the author, Melanie Molesworth (which evokes memories of Nigel Molesworth, hero of my youth). First published in 1998, it has been reissued and is particularly relevant now when conspicuously recessionary consumerism is in vogue.
The focus is on genuine 'shabby chic' - inexpensive French-style interior décor using old furniture and accessories and found objects. Good ideas include an old wooden gate as a strong bedhead, flour sacks as rustic cushion covers for a painted bench, and an armchair reupholstered using a faded blanket.
The book's photography is fresh and graceful, but something makes me think that this look could easily be taken too far in a non-photoshoot setting in my home, where two energetic children create their own junk look in no time. And the chapters on collectibles and found objects are not for me either, as such things as driftwood, flat-irons and religious icons would only annoy Beatrice, my imaginary assistant, as she goes about her diligent dusting.
But the effect of the book was to make me want to return to my student days and take this imaginative approach to rented apartment décor rather than tolerate their dark leather sofas, wonky tables and Argos wardrobes. Landlords please note: why not let out bare, freshly painted student apartments with a functional kitchen and a copy of this book to promote design, initiative and frugal comfort?