I’m all for digital design inspiration, but nothing gets my creative juices flowing like an old-school book. The heavy, glossy ones I pull off my shelves time and again not only look great (I mean, you can’t put a Pinterest board on your coffee table), they’re packed with images I revisit like old friends. To me, the best design books offer both eye and brain candy. Here are a few recent-ish favourites.
If you’re the focused type who prefers a room-by-room deep dive into one home, check out Library House by designer Thomas O’Brien, the master of curating and collecting. The lush book with its dark, moody cover, follows O’Brien’s dream of building a new house in Bellport, N.Y., that looks like it’s been there for generations. (Spoiler alert: He nailed it.) The book is also cleverly organized to mimic the tour O’Brien and his partner, designer Dan Fink, give visitors upon arrival.
For those who covet the soulful, natural look – think: slubby linens, rustic barn board and foraged branches – I recommend Down to Earth by Lauren Liess. The author and designer, whose Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating was a bestseller, takes a pared-back approach with six principles for six different types of homes, and the rooms are so inviting you’ll want to crawl inside the pages.
Like a magpie, I flock toward shiny objects. With its gilded cover, The Finer Things by Christiane Lemieux, the Canadian founder of Dwell Home, practically flew into my hands, and I’ve never regretted judging this book by its cover. Inside are memorable lessons about quality, from how to spot it, to why it matters. Lemieux tackles design basics like wallpaper and paint, furniture and lighting, through stunning photos and interviews with global experts. Flipping through this book is an education.
It’s not new, but Emily Henderson’s Styled is a classic handbook for those who want to see their rooms with a prop stylist’s eyes. It begins with a comprehensive quiz to help you define your style, and then gives you the tools to bring your look to life.
Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone, of the popular Instagram account EyeSwoon, is one title that has me intrigued. When her Brooklyn townhouse was published in Architectural Digest in 2018, I pored over the photos (oh, that kitchen!). In addition to sharing her insights, Calderone also tours the homes of design-industry boldfaced names such as Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, Jenna Lyons, and Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of Roman & Williams, the firm behind New York hot spots such as Guild and Le Coucou. The one caveat? This book has pedigree but is perennially sold out, so I’ll have to keep you posted!
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