by Saxon Henry
In a world that concentrates all too often on which titles are ranked highest by blockbuster booksellers, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to ask independent booksellers around the country to mention a few of their favorite books relating to design and architecture, and why they chose them. If you’re a fan of beautiful books with lush photography, you’re going to enjoy these.
Anderson Books in Larchmont, NY:
Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds: Built Environments of Vernacular Artists
Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds: Built Environments of Vernacular Artistsby Leslie Umberger
This book is art, architecture and design all rolled into one. It chronicles the homes of over 20 vernacular artists. These spaces are offbeat and oh-so-personal. While you might not love each and every space, you cannot help but be impressed by the work that went into each one.
Lyn Peterson’s Real Life Kitchens by Lyn Peterson
This is a wonderful book to glean ideas on redoing your kitchen. It is full of practical advice on renovating the most used space in your home. Think of it as a head-to-toe guide (and it’s beautiful to boot). The illustrations are simply wonderful.
Rainy Day Books in Fairway, KS:
Farrow & Ball: The Art of Color
Farrow & Ball: The Art of Colorby Brian Coleman (Author) and Edward Addeo (Photographer)
Brian Coleman provides an inspiration for designers, homeowners, and everyone who appreciates the importance of the role of color in interior design. Coleman hosts a tour of cottages, castles, lofts; then illustrates how paint and wallpaper are paramount to a room’s overall design and feel. From a classically furnished pre-war Manhattan apartment to a post-modern glass and concrete home in Toronto, Edward Addeo’s visually stunning photography of the interiors reveals how color is being taken to a new level of art. This is a must-have for someone considering redecorating, and designers also love it.
Bunny Williams’ Point of View: Three Decades of Decorating Elegant and Comfortable Houses by Bunny Williams
World-renowned decorator and gardening expert Bunny Williams makes this observation: “You learn from people with great taste.” As a novice, Williams worked for the legendary decorators Sister Parrish and Albert Hadley, absorbing everything she could about their peerless design sense. Our customers are especially fond of her books—like the best-selling An Affair with a House—in part because they are as much memoir as how-to manual. This luxe volume includes sections on color, windows and other design-related topics with well-illustrated examples. Each example lives up to Williams’ claim that interiors should fit each client “like a couture suit.” The rooms she showcases in her books are chic but not to the point of being museum pieces. We especially like the fact that many of the rooms are filled with books!
Stone & Feather: Stephen Holl Architects / The Nelson-Atkins Museum Expansion
Stone & Feather: Stephen Holl Architects / The Nelson-Atkins Museum Expansionby Jeffrey Kipnis
Architecture in Kansas City has a more prestigious history than many outsiders think; Frank Lloyd Wright designed a local church as one of his last commissions, and in 2007 our well-established museum, the Nelson-Atkins, reopened after a lengthy intermission with an addition by Stephen Holl that made every best-of architecture list from the New York Times to Time magazine. So naturally, this full-color documentation history has been the prize find for our proud readers. The book takes you inside the process and reveals the decisions made by the “starchitect” in ways that amateurs and art-lovers can follow, if not fantasize about their own dream houses. (Isn’t that what books are for?)
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Speaking of Wright, perhaps the most popular architecture book at our store in a long while has been this novel about the youthful Frank Lloyd Wright. The historical novel tells the little-told chronicle of Wright’s early romance with one Mamah Cheney (no relation to the Vice President), the one woman who was, well, man enough to keep up with the burgeoning modernist. Horan’s years of research are handled transparently so that the Chicago landscape and other settings might as well be fictional—though knowing that we are reading about real people and historical affairs makes the story all the more compelling for our readers, who can combine their two great loves: art and gossip!
Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA:
101 Things I Learned In Architecture School by Matthew Frederick
This is a gem as it demystifies things made complicated in the classroom. It starts with “How To Draw,” for example. The author is an architect and instructor who wishes he’d had such a book while in school. Anyone interested in design on any level will benefit from this nifty tome (and the book itself is wonderfully designed!).
Natural Architectureby Alessandro Rocca
Rocca is an architect, architecture critic and professor at Milan Polytechnic. He is also the author of numerous books and articles. The book is elegant with fabulous photographs of architecture in nature, natural and/or manmade environments around the world.
The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka
The subtitle says it well: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live. With great photos and clear text, the book shows how to maximize space in reasonably sized houses while creating beautiful interiors.
Eco Design, The Sourcebook by Alastair Fuad-Luke
This revised edition—to acknowledge the huge growth in efforts to go green—shows how to live sustainably with style. From the smallest item to an entire structure, the information you need is here.
Tattered Cover in Denver, CO:
The Architecture of the Absurd: How ‘Genius’ Disfigured a Practical Art
The Architecture of the Absurd: How ‘Genius’ Disfigured a Practical Artby John Silber
In this book, Silber examines some of the extreme examples of public architecture (such as Gehry’s museums) and concludes that these are not always wonderful improvements.
Green Homes : New Ideas for Sustainable Living by Sergi Duran
This has been a big seller in the growing field of sustainable building & greener lifestyles.
Simple Home : the Luxury of Enough by Sarah Nettleton
We are seeing this as another growing trend: simple, open spaces decorated with few, but carefully selected objects.
Bookloft in Great Barrington, MA:
Houses of the Founding Fathers
Houses of the Founding Fathersby Hugh Howard, photographs by Roger Straus III
This book goes a long way to show us—beyond our 7th-grade knowledge of say, Mt Vernon—how the homes and places of the founding fathers informed and inspired their patriotism, their deeds and their writings. It’s a lovely book with great text by Hugh Howard, whose previous book was Mr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson, about Fiske Kimball—an important architectural historian who first reveled that Thomas Jefferson was in fact also a great architect.
Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA:
Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty
Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty
This groundbreaking female architect designed more than 700 buildings, many in California, and the beautiful book offers an overview of Morgan’s work. It also explores the historical and cultural settings in which her buildings were created.
California Romantica by Diane Keaton.
This visually dramatic book features homes in the California Mission and Spanish Colonial style.
Linda Applewhite’s Architectural Interiors: Transforming Your Home with Decorative Structural Elements
The ideas illustrated in this book provide lots of inspiration with their rich sun-washed colors and interesting use of architectural elements inside the home.
California Country Style by Diane Dorrans Saeks
This book showcases comfortable, casually elegant homes.
Sundog Books in Seaside, FL:
The New Civic Art: Elements of Town Planning
The New Civic Art: Elements of Town Planningby Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk & Robert Alminana
As one of the earliest and best-known examples of New Urbanism, this book was an easy choice for us here in Seaside.
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I’ve visited Seaside regularly over the years and I do believe the buildings nestled into the coastline of the panhandle of Florida represent some of the most serenely beautiful beachside architecture I’ve ever seen.