Dueling design books showcase Minnesota homes

  • Article by: CONNIE NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2007 - 11:41 PM

Ever wanted a chance to see the work of local interior designers? Well, now you have two chances.

Ever wanted a chance to see the work of local interior designers? Well, now you have two chances.

That's because two vanity-press books are now duking it out for the Twin Cities market.

The lookalike books -- "Designed in Minnesota: An Exquisite Collection of Minnesota's Finest Designers" (DSA Publishing and Design) and "Spectacular Homes of Minnesota: An Exclusive Showcase of Minnesota's Finest Designers" (Panache Partners) -- are similar not only in size, shape and format, but they also share lots of gorgeous glossy photos, blatantly promotional text and $39.95 price tags.

"Who would have thought there would be two books about Minnesota designers out at the same time?" said Carol Arnold, administrator for the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

Apparently not some of the 44 designers who signed up to be in "Spectacular Homes," which contacted designers first but was printed in June, about a month after "Designed in Minnesota."

Jim Noble of Noble Interiors said he agreed to pay about $5,000 for a four-page spread in "Spectacular Homes" before he learned that DSA Publishing was putting out a similar book featuring only ASID members. He spent another $3,300 for a four-page spread in that book, too.

"ASID is a credible organization of which I am a member. I felt I had to be in that book," he said. "But I wish there would have been one book: 'Spectacular Homes Designed in Minnesota.' "

The books, which both publishers modeled after books they've produced in other states, are clearly marketing tools. Minneapolis designer Sandra Mangle (who has nearly identical four-page spreads in both books) said she intends to give books to existing clients and use them as hard-cover portfolios to help attract clients. Greg Walsh of Minneapolis-based Walsh Design Group, who opted for only "Spectacular Homes," said he is counting on the book to build his firm's "long-term name recognition."

But participating designers and their publishers say the books will have broader appeal.

"I may get a few calls, but that's not why I did it," said Noble. "The goal of both of those books was to show rooms."

Frankly, neither book makes for riveting reading, although we learn from "Spectacular Homes" that Michelle Boucher Eich dreams of being a NASCAR driver (for Victoria's Secret) and that Katie Sidenberg has 15 winter coats. But show rooms they do -- from an Arts and Crafts cottage by David Heide to a contemporary kitchen by Brandi Hagen.

And that's what makes the books of interest beyond the design community, according to Duff Tussing of DSA Publishing and Design. "People never get tired of looking at pictures of rooms," he said.

The ASID's Arnold isn't so sure. She's concerned that two local design books are too much for this market.

"It would be different if this were Chicago or New York or L.A.," she said. "But this is Minnesota."

Julia Hoover, director of book marketing for Panache, is willing to take the risk. "I guess our sales will tell if the market can handle two books."Spectacular Homes" already has a leg up. It's been in local Barnes and Noble stores for more than a month, while "Designed in Minnesota," currently available only at the ASID office in Minneapolis, is expected to be in bookstores soon.

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