Monica Pedersen does everything at hyper speed. For example, the HGTV star wrote her first book, "Make it Beautiful," in nine months.
The photos were shot in less than three months. That's quick work on a lot of parties to fulfill the book's subtitle, "Designs and Ideas for Entertaining at Home."
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From tea with her mother to an elegant eco-friendly graduation party outdoors near a horse barn, Pedersen staged real parties for most of these shoots in locations from the Chicago suburbs to Los Angeles and Kohler, Wis. And, of course, everything had to be picture perfect because the book depends on great photographs by Peter Rosenbaum.
Pedersen, whose best-known television shows are HGTV's "Dream Home" and "Designed to Sell," grew up in Wood Dale. She and her husband, Erik, an attorney, live in Highland Park and frequently visit her mother in Prospect Heights.
"I always wanted to do a design book," Pedersen said in a recent interview. "As a self-taught designer I wanted a coffee-table book people could get lost in and look at beautiful things."
And here's the first and major tip from the book: She started each setting with the fabric, which she calls her passion. And she encourages her readers to have as much fun as she did.
"This was the best way to show off my hand for color and pattern. Tablescapes give you more freedom; interior design is more permanent. But the principles are the same: Small accessories tell a story, and lighting, color and scale are the same."
The book shows 10 parties that Pedersen designed for shooting by Rosenbaum, who she met when she was a model. The duo soon learned that despite all the magic of modern photography, real parties are different from pretend.
"Originally we were going to stage these looks and not use people," Pedersen said. "Then we used people for a couple of parties, and it was a different energy. Ten parties. It was crazy, so much fun."
Since Pedersen's suburban English Tudor home is dark, none of the parties were shot there. From a suburban porch to Top Chef Fabio Vivani's Cafe Firenze in Los Angeles to Rosenbaum's Chicago library, she took advantage of friends' locations.
"My car was loaded to the gills. I could do any party at any time," she said.
"I was on five different shows. I was traveling. One of the parties we did in Los Angeles when there shooting. We squeezed it in. I give people permission. This is how I got it done and got it done quickly. I was working. I had one assistant on days of shooting, and the photographer had one assistant. I felt what a lot of women go through -- what have I gotten myself into?"
And which of the results were her favorites?
"I'm kind of girlie, so I loved the wedding. It was so pretty."
But that was a small, staged event, unlike the graduation party for 40 set outside under walnut trees.
"The graduation party was beautiful and elegant and approachable," said the designer.
Then there was the tiny Tea, just Pedersen and her mother.
"Tea for two with my mom was simple, and the message was clear. She noticed the little red accent on the table. She noticed everything. It was raining. The sun came out the minute she sat down in the chair, giving us beautiful natural light."
While Pedersen says she does not have time for complicated crafty projects for her parties, she does put time into the accessories and other details, including favors for her guests: Linen-wrapped red oak seedlings for the green graduation party, leather notebooks tied with linen bows for notes on wine tasting and gift-wrapped cosmetic brushes at a baby shower.
What about price? What ideas does the designer have for the reader without the funds for Scalamandre fabrics, which Pedersen admits are expensive.
Trot off to Loomcraft Textiles in Vernon Hills, says the design show host who also claims great finds from HomeGoods, Michaels, IKEA, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby.
"It's the style and the look rather than who makes it," she said, "or you can rent things. The concept of the parties can be copied on any budget."
Here are more tips from "Make it Beautiful."
•The graduation: Clear glass accessories match everything and come in handy if you entertain a lot.
•The wedding: When you use a neutral palette you need a variety of textures.
•Coffee and ... : Mix your fine china with inexpensive accent plates.
•Wine tasting: Break rules. Pedersen used chargers with an Indonesian ikat pattern even though that under-plate accessory would generally be too formal for this setting.
•Book club: If the tarnished candlesticks look good with the fabric, skip the polish.