Authors turn to other countries to show us how to make our lives more beautiful and simple.

“Wabi-Sabi Welcome,” by Julie Pointer Adams. (Artisan Books, 267 pages, $29.95.)

We should not feel that our homes must be perfect before we can invite friends over, Julie Pointer Adams maintains in her new book, “Wabi-Sabi Welcome.” “Entertaining is first and foremost about being together … rather than trying to impress our guests,” she writes. Adams uses the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi — seeking harmony and serenity, and accepting imperfection — to frame our lives and homes. Chipped pottery, faded linen curtains, wicker baskets of fruit, wildflowers stuffed into jam jars of water — photo after photo looks like an image from Real Simple magazine. Elegant and simple, modest, humble, and yet, why doesn’t my house look like this? I’m modest and humble! My stuff is chipped! Adams tells us how. Make do with what you have, she says. Celebrate natural materials, such as wood, bamboo, linen and leather, instead of hard and shiny materials like plastic and glass. Use handmade objects, and make simple foods such as noodles and soup. Declutter your mind. Live deliberately.

“The Little Book of Lagom: How to Balance Your Life the Swedish Way,” by Jonny Jackson and Elias Larsen. (Andrews McMeel, 143 pages, $12.99.)

I had to laugh at the first chapter — “What is lagom? Is it just hygge in disguise?” — because we have been enduring so many of these trends that it’s easy to get confused. The short answer is, sort of. Hygge, which is Danish, is the art of enjoying simple pleasures and calm; lagom, which is Swedish, is a way of discovering life balance and happiness with just the right amount of — everything. The book addresses the usual topics: decluttering, weeding out your wardrobe, eating right, etc. But it also has tips on gardening and composting, learning to say no, drying herbs, saving energy, and making fun toys for kids out of packing cardboard. The photos show sunny skies, birch trees and wildflowers, chubby children, bicycles, strawberries — yes! This is the life I want! The life we all want!

“Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home,” by Danielle Postel-Vinay. (Dey St./William Morrow, 267 pages, $22.99, coming March 6, available for pre-order on

Ah, the French. More beautiful, more glamorous than you and I. We think of French women (who, famously, don’t get fat), elegant in their wool and silk, but in this book the author is thinking of their homes. The first French home she visited as a girl made an impression. It was, she said, “foreign yet intimate … spacious and elegant.” Unlike a hygge or lagom home, “the very idea of minimalism … was the opposite of what I found there.” In this book, Danielle Postel-Vinay moves through houses in a logical way: from entry to living room to kitchen to bedroom, offering observations and suggestions for both decor and entertaining. (She uses the French terms, though, which meant I sometimes had to guess which room I was in.) Fresh baguettes and wicker baskets (yes, more wicker baskets); gilded mirrors and chandeliers; cocktails at 6 p.m.; adorable antique writing desks that can fold up to hide the clutter; Provençal quilts; antique French bed frames. And voilà! Tres chic.


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