Big Style, Small Spaces: Book Worm
by Lisa Rogers
Books aren’t only a treasure to read, but also to hold and display
Whoever said anything about books being obsolete hasn’t met an interior designer! Because, to us, books aren’t only a treasure to read, but also to hold and display – on your shelves and coffee table. They add weight and layers to a room, and the sense that the space has been lived in and curated by someone who cares.
I love going to the bookstore and browsing through the coffee table books – about gardening, interior design, cooking, fashion and photography. There’s nothing quite like a gorgeous coffee table book for inspiration. Browsing interiors or gardens online doesn’t compare – you can’t sit on the sofa in front of the fire, a cup of tea at hand and with the computer in your lap in quite the same way as a big fat book.
Online images are all over the place, whereas a book has a set focus and the settings and photos are related to that focus. You can be transported to exotic places you otherwise wouldn’t get to see. Vogue Living: Homes, Gardens, People, for example, is full of lavish interiors culled from the past several years of celebrity homes.
Art books are wonderful coffee table books. My new favourite is the one I got from David Hockney’s latest exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last fall. Fashion is another passion of mine – I love anything shot by Richard Avedon, arguably the greatest fashion photographer of the 20th century, and the 2015 book pulling together his collection of Dior photographs is another favourite.
The books are timeless; Tom Ford’s book of fashion — simply named Tom Ford — was published in 2008, the Chanel Collections came out in 2007, and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was available in 2011, all of them still bestsellers. I never get tired of going through my coffee table books. If I’m starting a project, I’ll spend an hour or so flipping through and will inevitably see something I want to incorporate.
Gardening books take you to places you’d never get in to see, like secret parterre gardens in England or France, courtyards in Venice, vast expanses of flowers in The Netherlands.
Whatever your passion happens to be – horses, dogs, needlework, fashion jewellery, 11th- century Japanese porcelain — invest in some large books with beautiful photos and captivating text and put them out for the world to see.
Books aren’t just about beautiful pictures; they also help you understand something, whether that is the balance and symmetry of a garden or an interior design, or how the various flavours co-exist in a wonderful recipe. When I want to do gardening, I will pick up a gardening book because I want to know how to create a garden, what temperature the plants thrive in, the kind of soil, and so on.
Books also work well as an integral part of your interior decor – heavy ones on their side on the bookshelf, or coffee table, or on the console. I switch them up every week or so, depending on the season and my mood and love how the covers are so eye catching.
I even display cookbooks on the kitchen island, the kitchen table, sometimes with a vase of fresh flowers on top. I like to have them accessible and within reach for the recipe I might need. But they’re also handy for keeping friends occupied while you’re preparing food.
The only thing with cookbooks is they’re a genre of their own and don’t translate as well into lusciousphotography in the same way as design or gardening. But they have a unique collectible quality as social and historical documentation. I have a few cookbooks that were my great grandmother’s, passed down to my grandmother, my mother and now me. I still make the shortbread recipe at Christmas that my great-granny made.
My all-time favourite cookbooks are my mom’s Joy Of Cooking, the Silver Spoon series, all of Julia Child’s books, and the Gourmet cookbook, a classic collection that required sifting through 50,000 recipes by editor Ruth Reichel and her staff. My latest favourite is the one I picked up last summer while taking the Tuscookany gourmet cooking school in Tuscany.
It’s a wonderful thing to hand these down generationally – your kids might not want your china, crystal or furniture, but they love the cookbooks that yielded their food, because food and memories are all intertwined. I love to make something that I remember my mother making, which I now know my grandmother made and her mother before her. Every time I pick up the book I think of those women, a constant reminder and a thread through the family.
These books make great gifts, especially for thard-to-buy for friends and family. As long as they have a passion, there’s a book to satisfy it, which they can read, look at and display on the coffee table.
Where to find them? I’m reluctant to provide a list of must-have design books because I love so many of them and it’s such a personal choice. Since it’s always best to flip through them before buying, head to the biggest Chapters or Indigo you know because they’ll have the most extensive collection. Also, Elte Market has some beautiful coffee table books for sale. Check out publishers’ websites, especially the high-end houses like Rizzoli, Taschen or Vendome Press, because their books are excellent quality, even if a little pricey.
See what books your friends have. I visited my sister in New York recently and she had some gorgeous new books out so when I returned to Toronto I ordered them directly through Vendome Press – The Haute Bohemians; Out East: Houses and Gardens in the Hamptons; Life at the Top, a look at the rooftops of New York City, The Art of Celebrating by David Monn (about dinner parties in places like the White House) and A House in the Country.
I’ll be in reading material for quite a while.
||Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).
Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.
Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.