I think one drawback of being a bibliophile is that I can’t bring myself to use kindles or e-books and I really don’t enjoy giving away books once I am done reading them. I collect and am comforted by books. My house is stacked with them and I need to be kept at least 50 ft away from a bookstore or I am at risk of spending hundreds of dollars.
However, it has come to my attention that my coffee table book collection is lacking (which is slightly embarrassing to confess on a design blog). I have only a couple design books, a few ones dedicated to artists I admire, and one that is dedicated to paintings of diners across America, but am far from a collector in this genre (nothing compared to my array of fiction). But now as I have progressed through my living and dining room makeover, I realized I need to start acquiring these books for my shelves. I want coffee table books to display as decor, to express my tastes and interests, but I also want them to offer continuous inspiration for my home and my soul.
I just have one burning question: how often do YOU check out your coffee table books? Once a month? Once a week? DAILY?? These books are far from cheap, so do you devour their content or is their presence as decor enough?? I need to know.
In the interim, I have rounded up some all-time EHD favorites (many of which I am itching to buy…):
1. STYLED by Emily Henderson: This is the very first design book I ever bought. I ended up giving it to my mom but I find myself constantly wishing I had a copy of it lying around so I might need to perform a search and rescue and bring it home to me. The style quiz is still the most genius idea and it’s full of the best styling tips and beautiful interiors (OH AND IT’S WRITTEN BY MY BOSS :)).
2. My Small Space: Starting Out in Style by Anna Ottum: I want this book very badly. I have a small space and love looking at how real people style small spaces so know I will reference it constantly.
3. The New Bohemians by Justina Blakeney: Justina’s book is full of inspiring interiors bursting with life and color. Her style inspires me to not be afraid of leaning into Bohemian and to embrace LOTS of color.
4. Living with Color by Rebecca Atwood: All of us at EHD agree this book by Rebecca Atwood is beautiful and so inspiring. It makes bringing color into your home feel less scary and totally worth it. It’s also just straight-up eye candy to look at.
5. Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating by Lauren Liess: If you love minimal and traditional aesthetics, you will find so much inspiration and helpful tips here. This book also helped inspire the mountain house. From Emily: “Her design style is classy, classic and warm in a way that feels like you’re nooking into the corner of your favorite couch or chair drinking coffee out of an extra-special mug. She has given me ideas and inspiration on so many weekends.”
6. Elements of Style: Designing a Home & A Life by Erin Gates: This is another classic that Emily loves. It chronicles how designing a home can be an outlet of personal expression and an exercise in self-discovery — an aspect of interior design that is so important.
7. Get It Together!: An Interior Designer’s Guide to Creating Your Best Life by Orlando Soria: Orlando’s book is hilariously written and so so good. It has both life advice and interior design tips and tricks, so it’s not only inspirational – it’s also a great read.
8. Beautifully Organized: A Guide to Function and Style in Your Home by Nikki Boyd: For those who love neatly organized and crisp homes, this book will give you all the clean white homes and org porn you crave.
9. Wild Interiors by Hilton Carter: Plant lovers rejoice. Wild Interiors makes me want to become a plant mother who actually knows how to take care of her plant babies. All the interiors in this book are so beautiful and calming.
1. Commune: Designed in California by Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, Pamela Shamshiri, and Ramin Shamshiri: This is another EHD favorite. From Emily: “Commune is a design firm that I admire immensely, so I pour over this book and have for years.” It’s basically an EHD right of passage to buy this book, so it’s on my list for sure.
2. The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living by Nathan Williams: Emily referenced this book a ton when designing the mountain house. From Emily: “This book is full of hipster porn, in the “handmade modern” vibe (I mean, I need to trademark that RIGHT NOW). It’s like Amish-meets-super-rich and I want to be both of those things”
3. Remodelista by Julie Carlson: Remodelista does it again. From Emily: “I think I can say with all my confidence that Remodelista is my #1 source of digital design porn on a daily basis. Their book, even though it’s years old, feels fresh, modern and timeless. (I also love their new organizing book).”
4. Surf Shack: Laid-Back Living by the Water by Nina Freudenberger: This one reminds me that I need to work my ass off so I can have a beach house one day. It’s also a favorite of Emily’s. From Emily: “This book is amazing. It’s full of more real homes that, ahem, are not “shacks” in any sense of the word but instead have so much inspiration and ideas that take the fussiness out of design. It’s not totally boho but instead builds a lovely bridge between relaxed and cohesive. It’s BEAUTIFUL.”
5. Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone: This absolutely gorgeous book explores real homes and breaks down the details of the rooms and offers helpful tips on how to bring these elevated elements into your own space.
6. Axel Vervoordt: Portraits of Interiors by Michael Gardner: Each page in this book is stunning. It features seventeen homes and demonstrates how Axel Vervoordt incorporates nature, art, and timeless interiors in his designs.
7. The Big Book Of Chic by Miles Redd: Okay, this is like the bible for interior design lovers. The cover is deceiving, because you would never know the insides of this book are dripping with the most magnificent interiors. It’s a splurge, but it would be a great gift.
8. Monochrome Home: Elegant Interiors in Black and White by Hilary Robertson: There is nothing boring about a Monochrome Home, trust me. From Emily: “This book is STUNNING. Hilary Robertson is a master stylist and editorial storyteller and this book is full of inspiration without any color in a good way. “
9. The Finer Things by Christiane Lemieux: This is another one of Emily’s favorites that she references a lot. It recognizes the hallmarks of timeless, heirloom-quality pieces and has a TON of information on furniture and textiles.
In addition to design books, I want to incorporate more artistic books in my home as well because I strongly believe that art, fashion, and interior design are extremely intertwined. Here are the ones I have my eye on:
1. Egon Schiele The Paintings by Tobias G. Natter: Egon Shiele’s paintings are bizarre and border between madness and genius. I am very inspired by his work, even though I am no painter, because it is so raw and personal.
2. Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives: I am a huge fan of real photographs of real people living their lives – so a book that unveils unpublished photos is very intriguing to me.
3. Wilshire Blvd by Adrian Gaut: I used to live a block from Wilshire Blvd so it is a part of Los Angeles that I feel very nostalgic about. Adrian Goat highlights the architectural details that are so unique to this area and it’s very “LA.” in the best way.
4. Pieter Bruegel the Elder (The Library of Great Painters) by Wolfgang Stechow: This one is Jess’ rec and she says it has a really pretty, light blue and textured linen under the cover, so it looks great on shelves. Plus, Bruegel’s paintings are classically beautiful and so pleasing to look at.
5. Louis Vuitton: The Birth of Modern Luxury by Paul-Gerard Pasols: I want this one so badly. I am currently watching it on eBay waiting for the right price because I really don’t want to spend over $100 on a book. I love the LV designs from the ’90s and would devour this book.
6. Basquiat by Leonhard Emmerling: Jean-Michele Basquiat was a graffiti artist in the ’80s and his work is SO COOL. I wish I knew more about his work so I’d love to pour over this book.
7. Body: The Photography Books by Nathalie Herschdorfer: Body celebrates the human form and rejects the current culture of body shaming. I am extremely passionate about body positivity so this book is one I’d love to dive into.
8. Capri Dolce Vita by Cesare Cunaccia: The cover of this book is clearly beautiful but what’s inside is even more stunning. Capri is a resort island dating back to the height of the Roman Empire and this book displays its ancient charm (making me wish I could travel there immediately).
9. Kahlo by Andrea Kettenmann: Who doesn’t love Frida Kahlo?? I have one book of her work and reading about her process is so interesting and inspiring. Her paintings are weird and self-aware and I am a huge fan.
10. Portraits of the Renaissance by Nathalie Mandel: I find vintage portraits so charming and intriguing, so I’d love to sift through this book.
11. Supreme Models by Marcellas Reynolds: Black women have revolutionized fashion and this book pays tribute to the most iconic black models in the fashion industry.
12. Art House by Chara Schreyer & Gary Hutton: Art and interiors are symbiotic and this book celebrates just that.
That’s all from me, but I’d love nothing more than to hear your favorites so drop them below. Happy shopping and happy Friday sweet friends. xx
Opener Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: A Basement-Turned-Office Reveal (+ 7 Steps For How to Pull Off “Edgy Neutral”)
I put half of these in my Amazon cart for later!! The category of beautiful coffee table books I LOVE isn’t here though – gardening books! Gardenista is a great one to start with, but there are so many for the plant lovers out there. 🙂
Unfortunately it makes a terrible coffee table book because the binding is consistently terrible, but I got a used copy of The High Line and other than the binding it’s great. Covers each of the sections through all the seasons, and discusses the choices made and how it’s evolved so far. The High Line itself is a real masterpiece of landscape/architecture/garden/design
Same! Any recs?
I loooove Botanical Style by Selina Lake, which blends plants and flower with styling. It always motivates me to get out in the garden more.
Ohh I love coffee table books! I agree, my collection is somewhat lacking, but I have discovered buying them used online for great deals. Now I just keep an eye on ones I’m interested in, and when I find a good deal I order them. I’ve gotten some amazing ones for under $10 this way! And I actually look at mine a lot– my kids end up spending a lot of time in our living room area bc it’s near the art supplies, so I end up flipping through them pretty frequently. A Bill Cunningham retrospective and Grace Bonney’s In the Company of Women are two particular favorites.
Yes, another vote for In The Company of Women. I find it inspiring and I bet all the women bosses to be here would too.
I love the Humans of New York book (there is another one coming out now, too) and the Accidentally Wes Anderson book is definitely on my Christmas list
When I moved to Bangkok from Texas, I bought Jim Thompson: The Thai Silk Sketchbook, which will be a beautiful memento to remember Thailand whenever I leave.
During a trip to the UK a couple years ago, I bought a signed copy of A Sketchbook of Edinburgh.
Whenever I visit I place I love, I’ll probably buy a beautiful book to remember it by.
I love this idea!
I’m not much for coffee table books– my coffee table usually has a stack of whatever I’m reading instead, which at this moment is a combination of magazines, fiction, and nonfiction.
The two coffee table books that I actually flip through occasionally are Gardenista and landscape architect Scott Shrader’s “Guide For Outdoor Living.” His spaces are often ridiculously aspirational (we’re talking sculpted marble pool coping here), but I love how he makes them feel grounded & lived in, and as a bonus, he’s often brought in when the architect & interior designers are brought in, so his designs have a great cohesive indoor-outdoor flow since they’re coordinating finishes & sightlines right from the start. Bonus: he’s also conscious of water use without his landscapes screaming “I’M A XERISCAPE!!!!”
Had to double-check the Shrader title– it’s “The Art of Oudoor Living.”
Check out goodwillbooks.com! Always free shipping and they often have promo codes, too.
Oh I will!!! Thank you so much for this rec! xx
I use thriftbooks.com too and it’s free shipping over $10!
Check out goodwillbooks.com for amazingly unique and affordable coffee table books. Always free shipping and they often have promo codes, too.
I am so sad I didn’t hear about this until now. Thank you!
I’ve bought many books in person at Goodwill, but had no idea about goodwillbooks.com, I now have a very full cart! Thanks!
I’m an art historian who has spent most of my adult life working in museums and I have found it kind of strange to see how our catalogues are used as home decor. I’m so grateful for the boost in sales but I also worry about how few people actually read these books, especially when they are sometimes chosen for the cover or spine color rather than content. I hope that their presence can help people feel more open to visiting museums, discussions art, and collecting or crafting art at whatever level they feel comfortable with.
I read them! I get them when I see exhibits I love and can’t afford the art or wouldn’t really hang it in my home because it is more of a museum type thing. I have one that I bought directly from a local artist of her artwork of the area. I have another that was bought at an art gallery that’s more formal—it was from an Inuit art exhibit I went to that featured two rather famous (dead) Inuit artists. It has fascinating commentary on the techniques and styles as well as the history of the use of different techniques as well as the lived context of the artists at the time. I’ve absolutely read it cover to cover. I don’t go back and fully read it every time I look at it… usually I just get absorbed with the art itself…but I do read the captions again sometimes.
I’m a little surprised and disheartened to see so many Amazon links when bookshop.org or Indiebound could have been used at least somewhat.
Can’t you just buy these books via your preferred bookshop? No one is forcing you to use Amazon. Why must every post be turned into something for people to leap on a soapbox about?
Lee, it’s not “leaping on a soapbox” to remind folks that there are better (for the world) alternatives to Amazon when it comes to shopping for books. From what I know of the EHD team, I imagine they’ll agree.
Let’s not forget that this is a free blog and affiliate links help keep the lights on
I find most of the design and other books I’m seeking at Target.com for the same prices as Amazon. The shipping is free with my Red Card. I feel better about Target than Amazon overall so this works for me.
No style books or book styling here! The books on my coffee table are what I’m currently reading – a stack of library books, a few new cookbooks and a daily devotional. Oh, and coloring books and a box of colored pencils!
Love that! I hope you mean coloring books for adults cause I love coloring books from time to time to ease my anxiety and I hope I am not the only one lol
Photobooks abound in my home. The one that has had a place of honor since I bought it is Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness. The photographs and content are nothing short of stunning. Do yourself and everyone who comes to visit your home a favor and buy this book, give it pride of place, and know that it will not only be cherished but a collector’s item.
I’ve amassed quite a collection of coffee table books and, yes, they’re not purely decorative. They are for inspiration. I turn to my design books all the time and always find a new idea or something I hadn’t noticed before. I own a good number of these. I do still flip through the books by Emily and Justina Blakeney. Christiane Lemieux’s book, The Finer Things, is an excellent resource.
The ones I like that are not on your list:
1. Modern Mix, by Eddie Ross
2. English Houses: Inspirational Interiors, by Ben Pentreath
3. Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books, by Nina Freudenberger
4. Travel Home: Design with a Global Spirit, by Caitlin Flemming
5. Zuber: Two Centuries of Panoramic Wallpaper, by Brian Coleman
6. Library House, by Thomas O’Brien
7. The Less Is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing Your Small Yard, by Susan Morrison
8. Cabana Anthology, Martina Mondadori Sartogo
This is honestly my favorite section of my local library. I can’t afford all of these coffee-table design books that I want to read, so I instead check them out at the library 🙂
great idea! I don’t go to the library (maybe I should??) but I do look for coffee table books EVERY time I enter a used book store. It’s where I’ve purchased all of the ones I have acquired so far!
You should definitely go to the library! That’s where I get all my books. I only purchase tried and true favorites or new releases by favorite authors that I can’t possibly wait to get my hands on.
As an older reader and bibliophile, I reccomend that the library and digital reading device (kindle et al) be used for fiction or everyday reading . I’ve even started checking them out from the library straight to kindle during Covid. You can always buy a hard copy of a beloved read after devouring it electronically.
Why? I’ve finally maxed out a pretty large house (hubby cracking jokes about reinforcing the second floor) and have had to start divesting myself of fiction while holding back design books, museum catalogs and artist monographs. In the long run, you’ll want all these “picture” books and a few beloved novels and travelogues to economize on space over a lifetime of collecting.
Agreed! I have way too many books, some of which I’ve had for 10+ years and have never read. I’m now reading them, taking notes and selling them on Facebook. This will make our next move, whenever it is, much easier (with fewer complaints from my husband!).
You MUST go to the library AND participate in recommending books for them to add if you don’t see what you want! I find that some books I am satisfied with returning and wouldn’t reread, but others draw me in and if I have to check it out more then once- I consider adding it to my collection. A library habit curbs my tendency to splurge purchase, encourages me to spend money on books I really love, and supports authors in creating more work I’ll likely adore. Slowing down also reminds me to purchase from my local bookshop and turn them on to a new book if they don’t already carry it. Win-win-win-win
My coffee table is stacked to the gills with Berenstein Bears books.
Patiently awaiting my pre-orders for Amber Interiors book, Made for Living, and Resident Dog (II): Incredible Homes and the Dogs Who Live There by Nicole England. No idea what that last one will be like but the cover with Kelly Wearstler’s house/dog is great!
I keep one open at a time, read a bit, and leave it open on the page I left off on until I eventually read the whole thing, then switch to the next book.
Wow thank you for bringing to my attention that design books with dogs in them exist!! I am beyond happy that that is a thing.
Surf Shack seems to be hands down the favorite book to use when styling a room- I have seen it in countless online home tour pics and magazines, it’s gotten to be like Where’s Waldo- and each time my husband is all “there’s your book!” Sadly not because I wrote it, just because I too own it and like to display it prominently because it’s just sooooo chill-chic 🙂
I used to pour over my coffee table books, but rarely do lately. I gave away a bunch I had in the 80s and 90s, and then bought books mostly about Craftsman design, in the early 2000s, since I bought a Craftsman home. More recently, I’ve purchased art and fashion coffee table books, frequently from museums with special exhibits. I’m thinking I need a few new design coffee table books after this post. I particularly like ones with great covers. I’m drawn to “Living in Color” and “Wild Interiors”, but I really like the sound of “handmade modern”, so I think I have to get “The Kinfolk Home”.
Have a ton of design, art & travel related coffee table books. Most came from my late mother in-law and father in-law. He was an Art/History major who painted & worked in Graphic Design, she was an Interior Design major and later worked in the Book Department of a major department store, many of them are from the 1970s. Don’t actually look at them very often, but enjoy them when I do, and I will re-arrange them on the coffee table and display areas occasionally to encourage someone to pick one up that they hadn’t noticed in a while. We did have even more that had to toss due to damage from not being stored properly. Reminder to take care of your books, don’t be like us.
About never, to answer the question – my (small) coffee table is a designated empty space! We put stuff on it while we’re using it (mugs, drinks, kids playing stuff) but it gets cleared off right after. As far as books, I love fiction but don’t reread much, so we have a couple full bookshelves and a constant rotation going through the library. I’ll request design/decor books via the library from time to time and enjoy looking through, but have never bought one until just recently because I wanted the preorder bonus class! Even Habitat, which I loved poring over and follow LL closely, I haven’t pulled the trigger on though it’s been in my saved for later for like three years. I’ll probably just request it again if I want to see it. Most of my design stuff is saved online in pins.
Thanks for the recommendations! A friend has a large coffee table / interiors book collection. Every morning she spends a little time over her cup of coffee perusing them and drawing quiet inspiration from the images. It seems a lovely way to start one’s day. I’ve noticed it helps her stay true to her own creative vision. Sounds like you would enjoy that too and also take delight from having them visually near.
I also want my coffee table books to tell people something about me and my home. I have “The Art of Feminism” and one that is a collection of photographs from the Civil Rights movement. I am also looking for a print/lettering that acknowledges the Native lands on which my home sits. In the past few months, I’ve realized that I am looking for ways to telegraph to guests what exactly it is that my partner and I stand for. I think coffee table books are a wonderful way to do that!
Love this thought.
My current fave is New York Design at Home with Robert Stilin running a close second. I also like both of the earlier books from Thomas O’Brien.
Forgot to note that the home design books by the Monocle Magazine team are also good, but their imagery is smaller than the typical coffee table book because they include so many different properties: https://monocle.com/shop/print/books/
Taschen has some of my favorites. The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is a classic. And there’s another called Circus! that I particularly like. Each book is just a beautiful object in its own right, and a pleasure to page through.
Oh, and also Carl Jung’s Red Book! Just a strange, beautiful, and entrancing book–equally good for reading, displaying, or paging through absentmindedly while you talk on the phone.
My personal preference for coffee table books, is art books from shows I’ve been to. They act as something of a souvenir and offer me a more affordable way to bring home that art. I may not look at it all the time, but often the cover does contain art, so even seeing the cover is nice. I will show friends when they come by because I’ve probably mentioned going to the show to them. And I’ll look at it on occasion, not overly frequently but on occasion I’ll see it there and take a look while I’m drinking tea or something. But I’m not overly upset about the cost because I’ll honestly keep it for ever.
Great suggestions though, I’ve added a few to my wish list to look at.
I check out interior design books from the library regularly. And if I like it enough, then I buy it.
But what has fed my collection is Library Sales. Love them! They typically happen once or twice a year and they sell off older and excess stock. I am very sure that I have never paid more than $2 or $3 for a book that originally sold for $50. I have left with an armful at a time. Those I like, I keep. Some get donated. I have hundreds and love the look of them on my shelves. I stack them horizontally. But not on the coffee table!
Could you please refer your readers to a source of books from indie bookshops across the United States, so their shopping dollars can go to owners and operators of independent bookshops, which are critical to the cultural life of our cities and towns, rather than lining Jeff Bezos’s pockets (which are already way more than filled)? It’s really disheartening to see so many Amazon links.
Yes the books are likely to be more expensive, but for those who can afford it, they can consider that they are making a donation to the vibrant cultural life of a neighborhood.
Or, simply shop local in your local bookshop in person!