I LOVE books, especially inspiring books on design and design history!
And I love to give books to friends, clients, family and my staff in the holiday season.
My own library was started in earnest over 30 years ago – and now includes many books in my office, my apartment in Brooklyn Heights and at my still-pretty-new-very-old house in Connecticut.
I looked through my library to find eight books – new, not-so-new, and old – that I think are true gems that would make excellent gifts!
T.H. Robsjohn Gibbings & Carlton Pullin 1963 Knopf
Furniture and interior designer T.H. Robsjohn Gibbings spent nearly two decades researching Greek furniture from the sixth to the fourth centuries B.C. to develop twenty-two models of the furniture. The clean lines and graceful silhouettes are classical in the truest sense of the word, yet seen through contemporary eyes can they almost be seen as modern.
For me, the book has become an essential classic.
Axel Vervoordt creates magical rooms using extraordinary objects and artwork. Spaces that initially look empty are in fact quite full by using refined disparate selections through history that are in a rich visual dialogue.
This book provides a delicious aesthetic vacation that can shift the way you view luxury, the placement of objects and the creation of a transportive atmosphere.
by Bianca Albertini and Sandro Bagnoli MIT Press 1988
Carlo Scarpa is a legendary modern Venetian architect. In a city that is known for its countless historical buildings Scarpa developed a distinctive architectural language that was a richly sensual and personal vocabulary that utilized craft, mixed materials and refined issues of scale.
There are many books that have been printed on his work in Venice and the Veneto Region – but this now out-of-print book is my favorite.
Pierre Passabon, 2009 Rizzoli
Jacques Grange is one of the most influential interior designers practicing today. Based in Paris but with projects for a remarkably sophisticated clientele, Grange combines “good taste and audacity” using disparate elements to create truly distinctive environments.
Bobby McAlpine, 2010 Rizzoli
Bobby McAlpine and his colleagues create romantic homes that evoke a sense of place; while utilizing forms and details from a variety of traditions, the homes are designed to accommodate contemporary lifestyles with grace.
At once familiar and fresh at the same time, it is a book that inspires.
Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. First Edition 1897
This book may be the single most intelligent and enduring book ever written on interior design.
The Decoration of Houses was Edith Wharton’s first published book was both a manual on design, as well as a “manifesto of post-Victorian values”.
I first read this book in 1981 when I was in the midst of my architectural studies. It was most certainly not on the reading list of any of my classes, however the book was, for me, a revelation. Reading a bit between the lines Wharton and Codman took style out of the equation when considering the various elements of domestic interior design – and while they presented very high brow European examples to illustrate their ideas, the fundamental concepts can apply to any style or size of a home – even today.
The essential ideas presented in The Decoration of Houses transcended a particular style. The book offers many concise and intelligent statements i.e “The essence of taste, is suitability” or “The better the house the less the need for curtains” – shockingly pragmatic ideas coming out of the 19th century that remain true today.
Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. Facsimile – 2007, Rizzoli and the Mount Press
Guy Wilson, in his foreword to the new, handsome facsimile edition of “The Decoration of Houses,” says “It is among the most influential books about decoration and architecture ever published in the United States.”
This edition of “The Decoration of Houses” reproduces the original typeface and illustrations, and is a fantastic version of the many printings of this book.
Thomas Jayne, Monacelli Press, 2010
Thomas Jayne is an interior designer with a rich and comprehensive knowledge of the tradition of design and decoration in America. In this book Jayne made a selection of the finest American interior design with an authoritative text describing the rooms in cultural and historical context, identifying the elements that come together to make the rooms so special, and luscious photographs that illustrate the magic.
Leslie Williamson Rizzoli 2014
Another compendium, this book focuses on spaces designed by iconic and unknown Modern European architects and designers for themselves. The book provides inspiring insights into personal approaches to Modernism.
I first learned of this book in a Kick-Starter campaign by the author & photographer Leslie Williamson, and am proud to be an early supporter of this excellent book.
All of the books shared here offer inspiring adventures that can contribute to imagining wonder and a greater understanding of how the human experience can be enhanced by objects and magical spaces.