"The Foraged Home," by Joanna Maclennan and Oliver Maclennan. (Thames & Hudson, 253 pages, $40.)

Forget those manufactured "tiny houses." Try living inside an overturned boat. Don't shore up that collapsing wall with an expensive metal beam — use a shark's bone. And while plaster is nice, walls built of whitewashed horse dung and local grasses are nice, too, though they do have a tendency to crumble.

Reduce, reuse, recycle has become our mantra, and that makes this lovely book more than a curiosity — it's an inspiration.

The homes pictured here — ranging from the U.S. to the U.K. to Norway, Bulgaria and beyond — are furnished with found objects: shells, twigs, seedpods, distressed armoires, broken chairs, chipped crockery, antique rugs, fishing nets and rusty lanterns, arranged to make these homes look cozy and timeless. And where did the owners find such wonderful objects? Washed up on beaches, tossed into dumpsters, set out on tables at flea markets or left behind in abandoned buildings. It takes an eye to spot the potential in what most of us would consider trash.

"Shared Living," by Emily Hutchinson. (Thames & Hudson, 175 pages, $29.95.)

Sure, you might be married to each other. But you might not be — maybe you're siblings. Or college roomies. Or you met on Craigslist when you were looking for a place to rent. Sharing living quarters is less expensive, more collegial and definitely more green than living alone. But how to agree on decor? And how to carve out areas that are yours alone — particularly in the bathroom and the kitchen?

This book brings readers inside shared houses and apartments from Tokyo to Australia to New York, showing how various groupings of people have made cohabitation work. There are commonalities in these homes: lots of potted plants, lots of light, exposed brick, curious things hanging from the ceiling and walls (vintage chairs, crystals, tennis racquets, a collection of unusual hats). Make a statement, the author suggests. Take your time. Invest in adorable storage cubbies to keep your nest clutter-free. And it always helps to designate one person the chief decorator.

"Decorating With Plants," by Baylor Chapman. (Artisan Books, 271 pages, $24.95.)

Someone gives you a plant. You put it in the window. You water it — maybe too much, maybe not enough. It dies.

Someone gives you a plant. You turn to this book. The plant lives. Your house looks great!

"Decorating With Plants" gives you the most basic of information, plant by plant: How much light do they need? How much fertilizer? What about water? What about bugs?

And once you get past the primer, the good stuff starts: where and how to hang them; which groupings look best; where to find lovely containers; how to keep your herbs thriving all year round. (And, gosh, they look pretty, drying.)

Healthy plants add color, life and a whiff of outdoors to a room. Dead plants, not so much. This book will help you keep your plants healthy.

"Bedtime: Inspirational Beds, Bedrooms & Boudoirs," by Celia Forner. (Vendome, 287 pages, $60.)

The bedrooms in this book cannot possibly be for sleeping. The chandeliers, four-poster beds with heavy canopies, leopard-print wallpaper, clamshell bed frames that look like they are about to devour you and busily patterned carpeting — wouldn't all of this keep you awake?

Still, for sleeping or not, these bedrooms — depicted here in 250 photographs and illustrations — are fascinating to look at.

There's a 14th-century Italian bedroom with thick walls and heavy, dark carved furniture; a 19th-century bedroom designed to look like a Roman emperor's tent; a black velvet bedroom that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots; a stripped-down bamboo and sliding-screen Japanese bedroom. These rooms, you think, are far too interesting to sleep in, which is why the middle of the book is so important. Here you'll find proof that these rooms were actually used — dozens of black-and-white photos of Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, Hugh Hefner and others, all lounging in these impossible beds.

"Down to Earth: Laid-Back Interiors for Modern Living," by Lauren Liess. (Abrams, 255 pages, $40. )

Bare wooden floors, scattered with a couple of hand-woven kilim rugs; whitewashed barn-wood walls; wicker hanging lamps; soapstone kitchen sinks; open shelves made of old beams, holding simple white cups and saucers. These austere yet warm rooms are what author and designer Lauren Liess calls "easy" — "relaxed, casual and cozy." There's nothing here that you need to worry your child might break; very little that is going to be smudged or marred. (If the walls are reclaimed wood, they're already marred.)

Liess' rooms are white, primarily (except when they're black), filled with items from the natural world — wood, stone, leather. Color comes in bursts, in the form of rugs, throw pillows and potted plants. In these 150 photographs you'll find inspiration and ideas. (And envy — oh, the big windows of these houses. It's less scary to paint your walls black if the room is flooded with light.)

"Inside Outside: A Sourcebook of Inspired Garden Rooms," by Linda O'Keeffe. (Timber Press, 252 pages, $35.)

It's best, when paging through this lovely book, to turn off the realist in your brain. It's unlikely that you have a yard big enough for a table that seats 90 people. It's unlikely that you have a pool, not to mention one with dyed-black water (the better for reflection). And it's unlikely that your living room floor extends seamlessly out into the garden, inside and out divided only by a sliding-glass door.

But put "likely" out of your head, and instead look for ideas that you can adapt to your own humble, northern space. And there are plenty of ideas here: rusty, rustic gates; ornate wooden sheds; a topiary arch trained over a small garden table; a dappled patio made of both flagstones and cobblestones.

This book is filled with ideas for garden rooms, patios, topiary designs, elaborate plantings and the most adorable chicken coop you have ever seen. (Page 116.) No, you can't do it all. But you can do some.

"Urban Garden Design," by Kate Gould. (Kyle Books, 176 pages, $27.99.)

For the practical homeowner, Kate Gould's book of smart suggestions and lovely examples hits just the right tone. For small gardens, for overly sunny patios, for gardeners trying to camouflage unsightly air-conditioning units, for container gardeners, for folks hoping to illuminate their night gardens — she's got the answers, stated forthrightly. She has lists of do's and don'ts; helpful information on various kinds of plants, fences, deckings, pavers and grasses; and checklists for complicated projects. Dig in, and then begin.

Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. • 612-673-7302 @StribBooks