Over the weekend, AT: Chicago reader Eiren emailed us her review of Midwest Modern along with photos of the projects she pulled off. Impressive all around! Here we go:
Amy Butler is an optimist. And, more than that, she is a Midwesterner who won't pretend to apologize for the comforts of the prairie, or abandon them just because she loves the clean lines of the Modern.
Her new lifestyle book Amy Butler's Midwest Modern is a paean to all things Heartland that gives readers permission to like what they like: vintage fabric, tchotchke collections, and Wormley chairs.
Butler has been designing lush fabric and patterns for years, creating prints that feel like French whorehouse wallpaper and spare organics all mixed up, and then showing you what to do with them.
With that huge catalog of materials and patterns behind it, Midwest Modern might have veered into make-and-do territory. But instead, it is a call to the artistic spirit behind good living: an idea book, only lightly sprinkled with instructions.
Every page has a great deal to digest and almost too much inspiration per square inch. But only almost. Somehow, the pages and layouts, like her fabrics and designs, all hang together and the conversations are energizing, not chaotic.
There are some projects. I took on one "simple how-to" from the book -- making the large floor cushion without knowing how to use a sewing machine. Using Butler's fabric and clear instructions I made the cushion in one day (although I had to change the dimensions a bit). No sweat. Now my two-year-old won't sit anywhere else in the living room.
On the downside, I'd have appreciated a few more project descriptions. She has deceptively simple ideas like using "Slipcovers (as a way of life)" but since she makes them herself for unique chairs, you'd have to guess how to make your own.
But, those seem like petty quibbles when she also invites you to her website for free pattern downloads and provides a spirit of optimism to keep you company while you decorate.
It is hard not to lust after Butler's home and life a little: the house where she lives, works and gardens, the kitchen complete with – no joke – caramel and dark chocolate infused cheese, the collaborative studio, and the cute husband who takes the pictures.
But, it is also hard to envy her, since it seems as if you might be happier, better dressed, more comfortable, inspired and well-fed yourself if you could just spend some time sitting with her in your living room.
And, luckily, with this book on your own coffee table, you can do just that. I think I'm even going to try to make slipcovers.