Gift Books for Design Devotees

Books enhance the sophisticated vibe at Redefined Home Boutique.

Books enhance the sophisticated vibe at Redefined Home Boutique.

Books as design products reflect the very soul of a space, the subject matter and the appearance of the bindings representative of the taste of the people living within each room. Even a design-oriented retail space takes on a warmer feel when books are in the mix, my point proven by the two photos (above and below) of David D’Ambrosio’s Redefined Home Boutique—as of last month with two locations in Atlanta.

Books Reflect the Soul of a Space

I have visited both of his shops with Bethanne Matari of Currey & Company, who has such unerring taste in design, and it was immediately apparent that D’ambrosia “gets” what soulful design is about, as he always has the most interesting selection of books sprinkled around the space. Each time, they draw me in and make me want to sit in one of the comfortable chairs to investigate the pages fluttering open before me.

An example of the fascinating titles for sale at Redefined Home Boutique.

An example of the fascinating titles for sale at Redefined Home Boutique.

I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I am drawn to his brand of classicism, each vignette in his stores appealing to my love of chic executions of timeless treasures. It’s this sliver of my personality that’s driving today’s article featuring exquisite coffee table books that I’ve put on this holiday’s gift-giving A List. Be sure to participate in the giveaway featuring JoAnn Locktov’s book Dream of Venice with details below. It could mean a free copy of the lush book will land in your stocking this holiday season.

Anouska Hempel

The cover of Anouska Hempel, released in the US by Rizzoli in 2015.

The cover of Anouska Hempel, released in the US by Rizzoli in 2015.

Rizzoli has published the first two books that I believe will make excellent gifts for design lovers. The lead example is filled with such profound eye-candy that it shunted me into a rare case of interiors envy. The luxurious look into the design prowess of Anouska Hempel features environs she has created the world over, and even a few floating upon the high seas.

Cole Park designed by Anouska Hempel

An interior designed by Anouska Hempel at Cole Park. Image © Simon Upton.

In the introduction, Marcus Binney said of the London-based designer, “Anouska Hempel could have been born in any era, anywhere in the world, and however lowly or isolated, would have beaten a path to opportunity, success and good living.” He contends that “beauty and charm come in equal measure,” and so it seems to me that her rooms reflect her very nature. Hempel is one of those designers whose fashion designs influence her interior designs and vice versa, and whose talent for placing lacquered elements in a room is as remarkably refined as I’ve seen.

The dining room at Cole Park by Anouska Hempel

The dining room lighting at Cole Park is designed to create shimmering opulence. Image © Fritz von der Schulenberg.

I provide a more in-depth review of the narratives contained within Anouska Hempel and within my next book, Charlotte Moss’s Garden Inspirations, on the Improvateur blog if you want to see why I was enamored with them beyond the luscious photography presented in each one.

Garden Inspirations

The cover of Garden Inspirations by Charlotte Moss

The cover of Garden Inspirations with a luminous bouquet of Zinnias in a Chinoiserie vase.

I can already tell that Garden Inspirations is the book I will pull from my shelves when I need a hit of summer to get me through the gray winter months ahead. The arrangements in the book spectacularly illustrate the declaration my former editor at the Cottages & Gardens shelter publications, Barbara L. Dixon, made in the opening essay titled “Patience, Process & Pleasure.” She so wisely wrote, “Good design is not static.”

Charlotte Moss creates lovely interiors with garden elements

If your idea of a plant pot is round and terra cotta, take a page from Moss’s playbook and think inside the very pretty box.

Moss furthers this theme in the introduction, writing, “Gardening, like any creative endeavor, is as much about the dreaming and imagining as it is about plotting, puttering, and trimming.” She reveals that she loves to visit and study gardens, a claim that is born out in the last chapter of the book, which features some of her favorite American, English, French and Italian gardens.

Charlotte Moss uses elements from the garden to enhance celebrations of any stripe.

Elements from the garden enhance celebrations of any stripe.

As any talented designer does, she explains how each garden that is connected to a home must relate to that dwelling: “Creating a garden means giving consideration to the house, its aspect, the views from the windows, the places you will site outside, the paths leading from one place to the next, and what will greet you at the front door.” This book is one of the finest examples I’ve ever seen of nature influencing design.

Dream of Venice

Dream of Venice by Bella Figura Publications make great gift books

“Dream of Venice” by Bella Figura Publications.

When publisher JoAnn Locktov asked me to write a poem for the first in her series of books about Venice, I was thrilled. I’m equally happy to report that Dream of Venice is now in its second printing and that I am going to be able to offer a free copy to a lucky reader. All you need to do is visit this post on Improvateur and leave a comment on either this post you’re reading or that one on Improvateur telling me what it is about the book that makes you want to either own a copy or give it to someone you know will enjoy it. I will randomly draw the name of the winner from those who comment and Bella Figura Publications will send the book to anyone the world over granted an email address is given at the time a comment is made so an address can be pinpointed. The deadline for making comments that qualify is Sunday, December 13, 2015, at 11:00 pm EST. Once the deadline has passed, comments will still be enabled but none will be considered as an entry in the giveaway*.

Charles Christopher's image in Dream of Venice illustrating Sylvia Sass's remembrance.

Charles Christopher’s image in “Dream of Venice” illustrating Sylvia Sass’s remembrance.

And if this isn’t enough news, the second book in Bella Figura’s series is shaping up nicely. Devoted to a look at the city’s architecture through the myriad points of view of its essayists, Dream of Venice Architecture will be out in June 2016. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Charles Christopher's image of a Venetian night in Dream of Venice.

Charles Christopher’s image of a Venetian night in “Dream of Venice.”

I’ll segue to the next book with author Frances Mayes’s luminous quote in the Foreword to Dream of Venice because it evokes a visual richness that rests at the foundation of each of today’s books: “Always in memory, the moon is full. Nowhere is the moon so powerful, enormous, so…well, heavenly. Because it floats, the city floats, a mirage of a mirage.”

The Phone Book

Robert Herman's newly released "The Phone Book."

Robert Herman’s newly released “The Phone Book.”

My smallest book presented here today is by no means the least powerful. Robert Herman’s The Phone Book, new out from Schiffer, is as expansive visually as it is succinct narratively. The award-winning international photographer traveled the globe documenting his brand of street photography for inclusion in the book, which he accomplished using the Hipstamatic App™ on his iPhone™. If you have a voyeuristic nature, this book is for you, and I’m excited to have it on my shelves.

An image from The Phone Book shot by Robert Herman in Paris

“A Long White Dress, Paris, France” on page 33 of Robert Herman’s “The Phone Book.”

The American Society of Media Photographers New York recently sponsored a conversation between Herman and Hipstamatic’s Mario Estrada at the Apple Store in SoHo to celebrate this new release. During the event, Herman told the techie crowd he’s been a street photographer since his days as an NYU film student in the late 1970s. He’s been quite prolific since, as another photography book, The New Yorkers, was just released last year.

Robert Herman's the Phone Book contains haunting images

“A Train Rushes In, New York NY, USA” on page 4 of Robert Herman’s “The Phone Book.”

If you happen to be in New York City tomorrow (December 10), stop by the Strand Bookstore at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway in the Village to hear Sean Corcoran, the Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Museum of the City of New York, in conversation with Herman about his travels and the resulting photography within the book. The Q&A begins at 7 p.m. and you must RSVP if you are going to attend. If you’re not in Gotham, you can order signed copies of Robert’s gift books and photographs on his site.

Giving the Gift of Wanderlust

Each of the gift books I’ve featured today have an element of wanderlust in them and I hope you enjoyed the roundup. I also look forward to your comments about the lovely Dream of Venice that I am honored to be featured in. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Text of Gift Books for Design Devotees © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns. She also produces the The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.

*No purchase is necessary. Void where prohibited. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog, with the name provided at the time of commenting, and will be contacted through the email address provided. If no valid shipping address is provided within three days another winner will be selected. The odds of winning are dependent upon the number of entries and Productrazzi reserves the right to void the winning entry if it does not comply with our terms and conditions. In the event that this should happen, we reserve the right to choose another winner at random. Dream of Venice has a retail value of $26. Neither Productrazzi nor Bella Figura Publications are liable for any loss that may be incurred from entering or winning this contest, or for any damage to prizes incurred during shipment.

2 thoughts on “Gift Books for Design Devotees

  1. I would want to win because I haven’t been to Venice since I was 20 and probably won’t visit again soon, except via the gorgeous photos in the book. I read your review on the other post and like the idea of the “anonymous” writing contributors too. However, I would probably give this book as a gift to a young friend who just decided to branch out on her own and start a design firm in northern CA. Thanks.

    • I’ve been itching to go back, too, Alexandra, but it looks as if it will be late next year at the earliest and the canal-veined city is always pulling at me like the tides. Thanks for taking the time to comment; you are entered into the competition so stay tuned for news!

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