“What We’re Reading” brings you our monthly pick of new design-related books with reviews from our HGTV.com editors.
|An Elegant Wilderness: Great Camps and Grand Lodges of the Adirondacks, 1855-1935: Imagine going to sleep-away camp with the richest and most powerful people in the country, and you’ll have a good idea what An Elegant Wilderness by Gladys Montgomery (Acanthus Press) is all about. The Adirondacks was a wild playground for Gilded Age millionaires, and allowed New York City urbanites to engage in pastimes like hunting and fishing (and allowed women to ditch the constricting corsets to do so, too). Notable names like Daniel Guggenheim, J.P. Morgan, and Teddy Roosevelt summered there, and often took the style and trappings of the city with them. The delight of this book is seeing how the landscape’s inherent rustic style is either tempered or embraced by those with expensive taste. My favorite retreats and rooms featured in the book, such as Mabel Garvan’s “Tree Room”, honor the setting with dramatic yet tasteful touches that still look modern. But I come from Western Pennsylvania, and a long line of hunters, so who am I kidding? I can get down with all that taxidermy, too. —BRIANA MOWREY, Senior Editor|
|Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes: Have you ever wondered why certain styles become trendy? This book might have an answer for you. Right at the beginning of Design Research by Jane Thompson and Alexandra Lange (Chronicle Books), Design Within Reach founder, Rob Forbes, points out “If you hear the words ‘modern lifestyle’ and don’t connect the dots to Design Research, then you are probably too old with a fading memory or too young to know who’s your daddy.” From the first row house in Cambridge, Mass. in 1953 to the loft-like former factory in San Francisco in 1965, D/R, as many call it, influenced American fashion and design like no other shop before its time. D/R founder and architect, Benjamin Thompson turned his vision to create a place where you could buy all of your contemporary household decor and furniture into reality with this store. You could say D/R was the Crate & Barrel of the 1950s and ‘60s, Marimekko included. From Bentwood Viennese café chairs to popular, Finnish Marimekko fabrics, it’s easy to see how Design Research continues to heavily influence stores like IKEA, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma and Design Within Reach years after its 1978 closing. I definitely have a better understanding of my own home and all of its D/R influences after reading this informative, well-designed book. —HILARY JOHNSON, Editor Intern|
Pale & Interesting: UK-based designers Atlanta Bartlett and Dave Coote have a strong affinity for rooms that are restful, muted and subtly sophisticated. In their book Pale & Interesting (Ryland, Peters & Small) , they explore the elements needed to pull together a neutral room that is beige but never boring. By incorporating distressed vintage pieces, texture, pattern and chalky pastels, the pair creates spaces that are understated, relaxed and livable, as evident in the beautiful photography by Polly Wreford. A laid-back lifestyle is at the heart of the book; the designers recommend timeworn finishes and easy-care fabrics as the natural complement to family life. Want to achieve a tranquil, light-and-airy look in your home? Pick up a copy of the book and visit their online store, paleandinteresting.com, to shop for their hand-picked essentials. —CAMILLE SMITH, Editor
V&A Pattern – Boxed Set #3: For killer eye candy and drool-worthy artistic patterns, look no further than the four book V&A Pattern – Boxed Set #3 (V & A Publishing). This stunning introduction to the abundant pattern collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum shares a diverse array of designs from various cultures, across several centuries and in various artistic forms. Although I loved the intricate and sophisticated patterns of Walter Crane and the prestigious and luxurious designs of ancient Chinese Textiles and Spitalfields Silks, I was immediately drawn to Pop Patterns covering the 60s- and 70s-style patterns that made a huge impact on commercial design and tested the age-old definition of “fine art.” American contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein expanded the boundaries of the art world by using advertisements, celebrities, comic strips and billboards as their inspiration to create striking works of art that opened up and created this entirely new genre. No surprise their designs made their way onto fabrics and wallpaper, too. —KAYLA KITTS, Assistant Editor
A History of Design From the Victorian Era to the Present: Because I’m a traditionalist when it comes to decorating and design, I’ve been looking for a book that would offer me a refresher specifically on design periods of the 20th century. I want to facilely articulate the difference between modern and post-modern. Like the childhood matching game, rapidly assign principal design influences to different periods of modern history. After reading A History of Design by Ann Ferebee (W. W. Norton & Company), I can confidently say that it wasn’t my personal tastes that held me back, it was the lack of a comprehensive guide to modern design. A History of Design, a second edition paperback release, has opened my eyes to the world of modern architecture, interiors and industrial design. I’m now fascinated with Antonio Gaudi and Art Nouveau architecture, and I have a newfound respect for pop art I previously scoffed. A History of Design delves deep into the social and economic environments that birthed each movement and the natural evolution from one period to another. It’s definitely staying on my top shelf. —KARLI SANDERS, Assistant Editor