When it comes to decorating books, I’m a firm believer in the idea that one should always start with the classics. Trends come and go, but so many contemporary designs are inspired by the mothers and fathers of modern interior decorating and understanding what they were all about has been key, for me, to developing my own approach and style. Their books are all about story telling, proportion and decoration, about creating an ambiance and a way of living, and each one is so reflective of the character of the decorator. All the designers I place in this category are strong personalities with equally strong visual vocabularies that endure time and continue to inspire – and applying their lessons to modern day living often makes for the most effective approach. Here are the four books I couldn’t have done without.
One of the first books that got me into decorating, I came across Billy Baldwin on my mother’s bookshelf. What struck me initially was that he had this tiny apartment (as did I, at the time,) and yet he still managed to create a fantastic space in which all of the elements worked together to make something so visually appealing. His book wasn’t just about decorating, although he did have this wonderful, snappy style, it was more about living. Yes, he had his iconic pieces such as his slipper chair, but it all seemed to be more about how people interacted, about pulling up a pouf and having a conversation, than perfectly placed pieces. It struck me as a very good place to start.
Dorothy Draper inspired a whole era of design in Hollywood Regency. One of the first professional women to decorate, her iconic spaces created at the Carlyle, the Fairmont and the Metropolitan Museum’s original restaurant around their fountain (where I spent many childhood afternoons,) still inspire countless imitations. At KOTUR we often refer to her bold use of color and geometric patterns (she was famous for her chequerboard floors,) in our collections.
Duquette was a set designer, jewelry designer, costume designer and decorator, and his maximalist approach is something I’ve always admired. Specifically, his contribution to America’s adoption of Chinoiserie, and the lavish sort of lacquer filled, glossy and sumptuous interiors of the 1960’s he produced have inspired me both at home and at Kotur, where we often look to Duquette for a little dusting of magic.
A full set of Hicks’ original, out-of-print books bought at abe.com is one of my most treasured possessions. The debonair British King of Print who reigned supreme in the 60’s and 70’s was known for his unabashed use of color and geometric design, no matter how grand the project he was dealing with. His prints still seem just as of the moment today as they did when they were first produced in his heyday – I have his wallpaper in my son’s bedroom and his printed linen forms the canopy of my bed. Eclectic and unfussy, yet always attention grabbing in the best sort of way, Hicks is a designer I have looked to for inspiration time and time again.
Photo courtesy of amazon.com