Friday, June 4, 2010

Coffee table books

If you are like me, then you have a weakness for those big, fat, juicy gorgeous coffee table books on interior design. Filled with page after glossy page with stunning photographs, fabulous ideas, great design and brilliant interiors from all over the world, that make you just want to redo your entire house, NOW. I like nothing more than sitting down with a cup of tea, and perusing the pages of these wonderful books. Here are some new arrivals on the coffee table book scene....that I would just LOVE to get my hands on!

The various Caribbean islands offer a valid example of what happens when distinct nations colonize new territories. The built world, thankfully, provides trace evidence of all that. And that evidence is what Michael Connors sifts through so beautifully in this book. In its surviving houses, the Caribbean archipelago still yields a centuries-long epic of empire expansion by the Spanish, Dutch, English, French and Danes
Sons often write about their fathers, but rarely do they produce the kind of illustrated memoir — or telling monograph — that Ashley Hicks generously offers here. Hicks the elder was the celebrated David, the towering twentieth century design phenom whose love of bold geometric pattern, vibrating color palettes and nostalgia-infused modernism remains widely influential. Hicks the younger is also a highly regarded designer and writer. He documents his father’s career and life at home: early clients such as Helena Rubinstein and Vidal Sassoon, his marriage to Lady Pamela Mountbatten, their children, much-photographed family residences, vicissitudes of the design business and the Hicks brand, an obsession with gardens and, always, the need to create private worlds of singular beauty.
What a treat it is to compare and contrast two dwellings inhabited by each designer, revealing different aspects of the same creative spirit. The urban edginess of Vicente Wolf’s Hell’s Kitchen loft contrasts with his cozy refuge at Montauk. Yet his photography collection in both homes reflects a singular vision. Gracing the book cover is Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz’s South Beach “party house,” its palette inspired by Florida and Fiestaware. His Chelsea home, on the other hand, is drenched in white, from sculptural chairs to feathered lamps. The other designers include Renea Abbott, Sue Burgess, Barclay Butera, Eric Cohler, Beverly Jacomini, Stephen Shubel, Christopher Drake and Lee Bierly.
Elizabeth Minchilli understands rustic Italian design from the ground up. The American-born writer and her architect husband, Domenico, who live in Rome, translate their knowledge into what is, thanks to evocative photos by Simon McBride, a beautiful practicum for building or renovating a home in the Tuscan country style. Minchilli discusses the venerable two-story Italian farmhouse, with animals and tool storage at ground level, and hearth and living quarters upstairs. She illuminates artisan techniques used in building, from fieldstone walls and timbered ceilings to terra-cotta tile roofs and terrazzo floors. She waxes practical and poetic about pergolas, wood-burning ovens, and plastering and finishing techniques. For detailed information and insight into what makes those Tuscan houses so appealing, this book is a wonderful resource.
Interior design has very few masters, but Jacques Grange is unarguably one. In part, that’s due to the tradition that shaped him: Henri Samuel, Didier Aaron, Madeleine Castaing, the Vicomtesse de Noailles, the Rothschilds and so on. In part it’s due to Grange’s remarkable eye for shape, color, proportion and material. Over the years, his client roster has included Yves Saint Laurent, Princess Caroline of Monaco and Valentino — all, like him, endowed with celebrated aesthetic sensibilities and lives of unquestioned opulence. This most memorable book tours the remarkable interiors Grange has designed for an A-list clientele. Notable for blending periods and styles from divided worlds, his interiors are improbably beautiful.
This tome on the dramatic design work of Colombian-born Juan Montoya, with text by Elizabeth Gaynor, dazzles with over two dozen of his masterful projects.
Visionary architect Bobby McAlpine of McAlpine Tankersley explores the concept of home as emotional fortress. Well written with Susan Sully and featuring Mick Hales’ photography of the firm’s “romantic houses,” this is a landmark design book.
Paula S. Wallace, the president of the Savannah College of Art and Design, showcases the American porch as an iconic architectural feature. She writes with insight about “outdoor rooms” across the country and offers tips on creating one.
Designer John Stefanidis invites us inside his sun-drenched Hellenic hideaway, where he complements majestic sea views with a thoughtfully selected array of furnishings — his brand of Greek chic.
Chicago designer Alessandra Branca taps into her roots in Rome, including her legacy as the granddaughter of a Vatican Museum art historian, to integrate elements of classical beauty into modern life. Wonderful photography by Thibault Jeanson showcases her work.
Parallel to China's rapid economic growth is a boom in the decorative and fine arts, in interior design, and in architecture. This book showcases some of the most exciting examples of the new wave of Chinese design through the stunning photography of Michael Freeman and the perceptive commentaries and interviews of Chinese journalist Xiao Dan Wang.
India's visual culture is ruled by bright colours, religious decoration and the unrelenting heat of the sun, and designers have responded to this challenge in many ways over the centuries. With this book as guide, you can wander into the restored splendour of ancient Maharajas' palaces, enjoy living in houseboats on the lotus-covered lakes of Kashmir, or cool off in imposing colonial buildings built for British rulers wilting in the tropical heat. This is truly a world of contrasts, as we move from simple but beautifully hand-painted tribal huts to the L.A. influenced home of a Hollywood star, from a Buddhist house in Ladakh to the most original house designed in India by Le Corbusier. All the interiors here are lavishly photographed and documented.

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