Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes, for visionaries like Frank Lloyd Wright, inspiration may come from something as simple as nature itself. For others it might come from years of conditioning and exposure, and the ability to notice a nuance that sparks the imagination. Designers have always seen the world through a different set of eyes and sensibilities. They can take something old and make it new again. They can position an object or color in such a way that not only makes us notice it, but makes us feel it.
During my years in the business, I’ve met a lot of people working in the interior design business at different levels. Some of them are very successful but a better salesperson than a designer. Some have talent off the Richter scale but not a nickel to their name. For some it’s a business but to a special few, it’s a passion. These are the people who inspire me.
Anyone interested in interior design deserves to surround themselves with some inspiration from their peers. We’ve all hit that wall once in a while when we are trying to put together a presentation. Our minds are drawing blanks, the deadline is bearing down on us, and we feel like there isn’t an ounce of creativity left in us. That’s the time to put my pencil down, turn off my brain and relax with a great design book and get lost in another world. Seeing pictures of some of the most beautiful rooms in the world recharges me. It gives me a fresh outlook and I no longer feel trapped by the ideas of my past.
I’ve decided to share some of my favorite books here. I’m not selling them or recommend where you buy them, but these are by far some of the best. If you have any favorites you’d like to share with me, please send me a comment. I’m always in the market for a fresh read. These are not listed in any order of preference…that can only be decided by you.
Architect and interior designer, Jose Solis Betancourt is a regular on the AD 100, Architectural Digest’s list of top designers, sometimes called the Oscars of the design world. “Essential Elegance: The Interiors of Solis Betancourt” covers 14 of his projects. These are rooms where you find refuge and comfort. His use of luxurious fabrics contrasted by his simple arrangement of furnishings and accessories create a subtle and sometimes dramatic effect.
Axel Vervoordt is a Belgium antique dealer who, along with his family, runs an 85 person design firm, a multidisciplinary center of decorative arts and crafts in the Kanaal, a complex of restored nineteenth-century warehouses and silos. His is considered to be a master of color and light. “Timeless Interiors” contains over 20 of his best projects.
Alexa Hampton’s “The Language of Interior Design” demonstrates the exposure and expertise she acquired as the daughter of interior design icon, Mark Hampton. Now regarded as one of the top interior designers of our time, she also licensed product lines from different manufacturers. Her style runs from the classic to the contemporary…each with an astonishing eye for proportion, finish and details.
“Mary McDonald Interiors: The Lure of Style” combines vintage Hollywood glamour with everyday life. She is consistently ranked one of House Beautiful’s Top 100 designers. Her personal style of layering and collections are neatly organized to add intrigue without appearing cluttered. Her combination of styles has been called many things…it needs to be seen to be appreciated.
“Victoria Hagan: Interior Portraits” is the first collection of works for this seasoned designer. First discovered by New York magazine in 1998, Victoria Hagan has become renowned for her” intelligent integration of architecture and interior design.” This is a book about an artist with interior design…relying on what’s not there as much as what you see. Her rooms are magically calm and organized, clean and crisp. This is a book you’ll pick up more than once.
“Vincent Wolf, Lifting the Curtains on Design” is his most recent release from 2010. It provides a glimpse into the mind of designer from concept to completion. His work is clean, sophisticated, and uncluttered. His palettes are weightless and his uncanny sense of using surprisingly affordable objects as focal points is refreshing. Based out of New York, his work spans the globe in both residential and commercial projects.
Also released in 2010 is David Easton’s “Timeless Elegance: The Houses of David Easton”. The book features mostly work that has been unpublished prior to this book and includes blueprints and drawings from the projects to better understand the design decisions that were made. His work is layered, classic even when doing contemporary styling and finished with tons of detail. This is a man who understands art as much as interior design and architecture. Although his clients have great means, the rooms carry an artful refuge and calmness.
Thomas Jayne’s “The Finest Rooms in America” is a collection of 50 interiors spanning the history of the United States. It includes everything from Monticello to New York loft. It’s about the best of the best in both design, periods, furnishings, accessories and fabrics. Jayne himself is an accomplished interior designer but he has chosen not to include any of his own work in this book. This is a book you will reference over and over.
I’m sure all of these books are available through your local bookstore or the like should you care to purchase any of them for yourself or someone who might really enjoy them as a gift. They will provide hours of enjoyment. You’ll probably find that if you leave them lying around on your cocktail table, your friends are likely to pick them up and get immersed in them…and probably ask to borrow them. All of them provide excellent examples of some of the finest interior design work of our time. You’ll find them to be an endless resource of ideas and inspiration. But of course, as with libraries, the collections grow and designers rise to the top. As I discover new books, I’ll be happy to share them with you.