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Correction to This Article
In the first paragraph of the story it incorrectly states that Elizabeth Mayhew was an editor at Shop, Etc. She was an editor at Real Simple.

Decorating Advice, Step by Simple Step

Elizabeth Mayhew, author of flip for decorating.
Elizabeth Mayhew (Annie Schlechter)
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By Lindsey Rowe
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Elizabeth Mayhew was at a photo shoot with her 4-year-old son in 2004 when she found the inspiration for her new book, "Flip! for Decorating" (Ballantine Books, $24). Mayhew, then an editor for a magazine called Shop, Etc., watched the photographer take hundreds of digital photos that when lined up gave the appearance of slow-motion movement, and she started fixating on the idea of a flip book about home design.

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Fast forward five years: Mayhew's first book is exactly that, a horizontal handbook that one can flip through to see four rooms put together step by step, with tips and informative sidebars on transforming your home. "This is a decorating guidebook," she says. "You're supposed to flip for it, literally."

While studying art history at Georgetown University in the late 1980s, Mayhew, now a contributing editor for House Beautiful magazine and the "Today" show, started a catering business and unwittingly set forth to become a lifestyle expert.

Mayhew, 40, slims her years of design know-how into 243 pages, using her own Manhattan apartment as the example. She gives advice on finding the simplest and best ways to change up decor, including five paint colors that will make any home better.

Mayhew recently shared her excitement about paint color, among other things, with us by telephone.

What was your inspiration for this book?

Not a day goes by when I don't get a phone call from a friend who says, "What color should I paint my walls? Where should I hang this picture?" I've been this go-to girl for my friends, and I know what they need to know. And I know from the magazine world what seems to be missing out there: a really simple guide that demystifies the hardness of decorating. Most people are terrified by decisions, and what this book intends to do is hold your hand through the process.

The other thing that I think I really wanted to do is this idea of step-by-step styling. I think people buy stuff but they don't know how to put it together. If I tell you and I show you step by step, you can mimic that.

If you had to boil all your rules and tips down to three or four, what would they be?

My top rule . . . is that I cannot stand anything in an angle in a corner of a room. I like everything squared off. I hate it when people put a dresser in a corner and it cuts off the corner of a bedroom; it's awful to have that weird dead space behind the chest that you can never get to.


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