A Life In Design by Kathryn M. Ireland (CICO Books)

It makes sense that the chapters of Kathryn Ireland’s new book, A Life In Design (Cico Books), would be named for her favorite movies. Even though she generously cites her “wonderful crew” and many enlightened clients for whom she designs interiors as reasons for her success, she remains the star of every project she undertakes. And to read this book is akin to losing oneself in the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster—not exactly a rags-to-riches tale, but one about a woman who made it to the top of her field while admitting to being “completely self-taught.” In fact, like many a screen star, Ireland came to Los Angeles directly from her native England; she was a young woman in the late 1980s. She set up a design business in a Santa Monica garage and storefront and soon landed her first star client— Steve Martin. As she details in the chapter entitled “LA Story,” Ireland acted as much as the decorator for Martin as she did his real estate agent, driving him one afternoon to see an available house owned by friends of hers. “As I suspected, the house and garden immediately captured his imagination,” she writes. And it was after seeing her own house that Martin wanted the same feel and look for his. Everyone likes a movie with a happy ending, and in this case, Martin lives there still after all of these years. Ireland is known for her ability to relate a compelling plot, in person and in print. One of the most engaging aspects of this book, her seventh, is that of the 20 houses featured in the volume, six are about her current and past residences. As she emphasizes, “Very often, our best work is that which we do for our ourselves.” Her current home, featured in the chapter titled “As Good As It Gets,” is a place in which she recalls experiencing “love at first sight.” Reading this book means learning the stories of her clients. But the best story of all is hers—and one that is ongoing.