Six Favorite Design Books

When I was growing up in Los Angeles I was a bookworm because I was kind of a lonely little girl, and I was able to lose myself in the fantasy world of books. My parents encouraged me to read, and I read everything I could get my hands on. As an adult, I’m still a voracious reader – and a speed reader, to boot. There’s nothing like the tactile sensation of a book’s weight in your hand and the action of turning the pages. To me, it’s a loving tribute to the written words and beautiful images that are contained within the pages of a book.

That’s why I have a hefty book collection at home – most of them design books, of course. Not only are they treasured sources of knowledge and inspiration that I turn to repeatedly, they provide an ease of use that simply is not available on the Internet or an e-reader. Unlike a novel, which you read from the first page to the last, design books are made to be flipped through. And you simply cannot flip through a hand-held device the way you can a book.

So, with that, here are my six favorite design books:

1. Judith Miller, “Furniture: World Styles from Classical to Contemporary.” Hands down, the best book on identifying styles. Filled with details, details, details. Information on materials, why something looks the way it does, juicy tidbits, the people and events influencing furniture design. This is the book I wish I had written! It’s my bible.

2. Christopher Payne (general editor), “Sotheby’s Concise Encyclopedia of Furniture.” Christopher Payne is a Brit and has the crisp and charming manner of writing that the Brits are known for. This is one of my go-to-books for quick and concise information on a particular style.

3. Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Period Rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Luscious images of the fabulous period rooms at the Met from Jacobean to Frank Lloyd Wright.

4. Frederick Litchfield, “Illustrated History of Furniture: From the Earliest to the Present Time.” I have the 1893 edition that I printed out from Project Gutenberg, and it is fabulous! Incredibly detailed illustrations of furniture and period rooms. There are no photos, only detailed illustrations. Lots of juicy details about various designers and historical figures.

5. Mario Praz, “An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration: from Pompeii to Art Nouveau.” Mostly illustrated through paintings of the period, but a great resource of entire room schemes seen through artists’ eyes.

6. Virginia McAlester and Lee McAlester, “Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles.” Beautiful photos and floor plans of some of the top examples of American architectural styles.

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