For Atlanta-based interior designer Nancy Braithwaite, known for her sophisticated, spare aesthetic, the act of creating a simple space involves more than willy-nilly de-cluttering. It has to do with purposeful editing. And editing, she maintains, has everything to do with learning to see.

In the first half of her new book, Simplicity, Braithwaite opens our own eyes by sharing her thoughts on five important elements of design: architecture, composition, proportion and scale, texture and craftsmanship. She shows—through clear words and well-chosen photos—how understanding these principles and how they interact helps us to “edit a world of almost limitless choices” to “what is absolutely necessary.”

Happily, Braithwaite revels in taking risks. She knows when to super-size, toss in asymmetry or introduce a touch of whimsy. A few of her rooms may even shock, despite their simplicity, but that’s all part of the plan. Simplicity should not be boring.

The latter half of the book proves another point: Simplicity is not just for contemporary homes. Braithwaite’s portfolio comprises three categories: country, classic and contemporary. Her examples include her own farmhouse-style Atlanta home, a neoclassical New York City townhouse, several homes designed for collectors of fine art and antiques, and her large-scale contemporary residence on Kiawah Island.

London-based photographer Simon Upton wraps gentle light around his subjects, expertly revealing the dimensions, textures and nuanced colors Braithwaite so loves.

Simplicity by Nancy Braithwaite (Rizzoli) is available in stores and online.