"Which ones are your favorites?"
I get asked that question every time I share about my vast book collection.
Such a hard question to answer when you are a collector like I am. It's akin to asking a parent who their favorite child is. Haha.
Ok, maybe that is a gross exaggeration, but it is hard to pick my favorites from over 1500 design and art books I have amassed over the last 10 years or so.
My book obsession went from magazine collecting back in the days when I lived in Florida and could only dream of one day becoming a successful interior designer, to collecting vintage books and design coffee table books, to art and business books.
Back in 1996 when I first moved to the United States from Jamaica, I had no real concept about interior design as a career. When I discovered my love for it, I soon realized that I didn't just love it, I actually had natural talent and I could make a career of it. Books were the catalyst that got me to even think that it was worth pursuing. Well, Shari Hiller and Matt Fox on the HGTV show "Room by Room" from way back in the day, helped to bring it "down to earth" for me. They actually have two books as well HERE and HERE
I remember going grocery shopping with only enough money for food, and still found a way to afford a $10 Florida Design magazine. I still have those very first magazines that I purchased from grocery money, that fed my creativity and allowed me to dream.
I don't collect magazines nearly as much now as I did in the past. Design coffee table books make up a large portion of my collection, followed by art and art history books. At $15 to $50 plus per book, I am thinking I actually am sitting on a small fortune. Haha. My kids don't think so though.
Here is a video I posted not long ago about my books. There have been many more since then.
So what is my answer when I get asked which books are my favorites? I tend to say that all of them are, but really, there are a handful of them that I pick up time and time again. There is just something about them that transports me to a whole other place and time, or at least inspires my own design aesthetic.
Here are 5 of the ones I can think of as my faves.
One Man's Folly gives a glimpse into the world of iconic antiques expert, Furlow Gatewood (I just love his name).
The book by Julia Reed, chronicles the meticulous restoration of his family's carriage house in Americus, Georgia, including outbuildings and dwellings, several of which were rescued from demolition.
Mr. Gatewood who turned 100 years old this year, collaborated with local craftsmen to create the structures that exemplify various architectural styles - from mid-nineteenth century Gothic to Palladian, and the beautiful grounds and plantings for his beloved dogs and peacocks.
Why I love it?
I am inspired by the images on every single page. I love that Mr. Gatewood embarked on this adventure of restoring some of these dwellings at age 90! That to me, says that he felt compelled to preserve these amazing structures for the next generation. That is the heart of a true antiques expert, who understands the value of a well patinaed object, distinctive architectural elements, exceptional craftsmanship, and timeless and enduring design. I enjoyed seeing his beloved collections. Such an extraordinary eye for details and design. And although he wasn't a designer, but an antiques dealer, he is one of those people with the *it* factor.
His designs are decidedly traditional with lots of antiques, yet they feel alive and fresh.
2. Wanderlust: Interiors That Bring the World Home by Michelle Nussbaumer
Michelle's interiors are fabulously lush and filled with treasures from her travels all around the world. Her signature style is very similar to my personal design aesthetic - multilayered that mix periods with antique textiles, embroideries and weavings, unconventional furniture and global art.
Wanderlust showcases interiors from her own homes in Texas and Switzerland, and clients' homes all around the country. Each space features moods of calm and bold, rustic and exotic, eclectic with alluring inspiration for those who appreciate great design.
Why I love it.
Gosh, where do I start? I love every single page, and Michelle's fearless design. I love how layered and nuanced each space is, and it reminds me of spaces I want to create more of. I have traveled a bit, and Wanderlust inspires me to do more traveling and incorporating more amazing treasures into my clients' homes
3. The Patterned Interior by Greg Natale
Greg's interiors are renowned for marrying contemporary accents with vintage pieces to create environments that traverse serenity and flamboyance. His amazing ability to juxtapose graphics and patterns is inspiring.
Patterned Interiors explores a diverse selection of residences in Australia, New York and Oklahoma, that showcase the power and importance of a great pattern mix in creating unforgettable spaces.
Why I love it?
Greg Natale had me at "Patterned Interiors". That is speaking my language. I am not surprised how much I ended up loving this book, I am just surprised that I hadn't heard of Greg before I bought it last year.
4. Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores-Vanna
Miguel Flores-Vianna, a discriminating photographer has journeyed through four continents to capture an extraordinary group of fashion designers, landscape architects, artists and art historians, potters, and interior designers, in their personal residences—country cottages, beach bungalows, canal-side lofts, and East Village apartments, as well as assorted estancias, châteaux, and palazzi.
Some of the spaces captured are grand while others are modest, and that what is so intriguing about this book to me.
As different as the spaces featured might be, they all are original, stylish, charming, and above all authentic, in the sense that they reflect their owners’ tastes and they way they live. That to me is the best of design.
Why I love it?
I love Haute Bohemian as much as I love Near and Far, which is another book of Miguel's that I own. In this book, I enjoyed seeing how other creatives design their homes. From the grandest to the most humble, they are all chic and amazing.
Interior designer Nancy Braithwaite's book is a striking lesson in the art of designing with simplicity. Her work is known as luxuriously minimal, which is not often used to describe shaker style influences, which is present in a great deal of her work.
From art deco to country, her principles remain the same: every element should strive to be simple and powerful without compromise, and every room must have a level of power that comes from commanding scale, repetition of elements, subtleties of color, or the sheer beauty of forms.
This book seeks to define simplicity as opulence through a showcase of iconic rooms from her portfolio plus several houses as case studies, displaying the power of scale, color, texture, pattern, and composition in achieving her single vision.
Why I love it?
This is unexpected for me. It is the very opposite of my personal design aesthetic. But what I appreciate and love about this book, is seeing the complexity of simplicity at work.
What do I mean? It can be much harder to pull off a simple interior space and still make it warm and inviting, and not cold and sterile. It takes incredible skill in selecting the right finishes and furnishings to make a simple space feel well executed.
Vern Yip is a household name, and no wonder. He was one of the most loved and trusted designers on HGTV and Trading Spaces.
In this book Vern shares his favorite design secrets to creating living spaces that have flow, balance, and harmony , while opening his doors to show how he's made these principles work in his own beloved homes.
If you've ever wondered exactly how high to hang your artwork? How about the light fixture over your dining table? Do you know how to ideally size a rug for any room, or the best way to arrange your furniture? Vern answers these questions, and more, by revealing the right formulas and measurements that can make any room feel just right.
In this book he strives to empower the reader to create a home that perfectly reflects who they are.
Why I love it?
This book by Vern is super educational and practical. He carefully presents the standards and principles of design and decorating in a way that consumers can understand and put into action.
The follow up question I often get, right behind the favorite book question is, "do you read all these books"?
No! Haha. I am more of an avid book collector than an avid reader - though I am always reading something. While I do read a lot, I would not have time to do anything else if I read every single one of my books.
I absolutely love a stack of books, the warmth they bring to a space and the sense of homeyness.
When I first bought this book, Biblio Style, a book about living with books (one of many, many that I own), I couldn't put it down. The cover photo immediately grabbed a hold of my heart, to the point of recreating a similar version in my own home in front of a hardly-used fireplace.
You can find my version in the video above.
So truth be told, it is all about the look and feeling I get, the warmth and homeyness they bring to a room - even the smell of old books I find intriguing.
But I love having them for reference and research. Especially as I explore design styles through the years. And I certainly enjoy sitting down with a beautifully illustrated book with a glass of wine after a long day. There's nothing I'd rather be doing.
Head to my curated collection of design books on Amazon HERE and see which ones inspire you. Below is a screenshot of a few of them. There is a broad range for all design styles.
If you do decide to make a purchase through these affiliate links within this post, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.
If you've read this far, I suspect that you might be a book lover too.
Now I wonder what my future book cover might look like one day :-)
I would come up with a more creative name than this I'm sure ;-)
Sound off in the comments below, about which books are your favorites.
And before I go, now that I've made a book collector out of you, you'll need a fabulous bookcase or storage piece to store and display them.
Here are a dozen beauties I found.
Berlin Display Cabinet | Modular Wall Shelf | Trace Brass Wire Mesh Bookcase | Monet Etagere | Aiden Bookshelf | Blackbird Bookcase | Oscarine Bookshelf | Odetta Storage Cabinet | Meryl Glass Storage Cabinet | Black + Gold Geometric Bookcase | Modern | Bookcase | White And Gold Bookcase
Pin this graphic for easy reference
Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.