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Creative Space: 10 Inspiring Design Books

These new titles give us fresh perspectives on tantalizing interiors, architectural ideas and decor details / BY Nathalie Atkinson / June 16th, 2023


Whether they’re about collecting eclectic antiques, cultivating an appreciation of the architecture that surrounds us or colourful kitchens to dream about, these new design titles take stock of how we live, both in our homes and in the world, to impart history and offer tips on making living spaces inviting and unique.

1Joie by Ajiri Aki

The Nigerian American expat from Texas (now founder of French shop and lifestyle brand Madame de la Maison) has been living the dream as a Parisienne for a decade. Her beautiful new book compiles lessons learned about French living and joie de vivre, from how to create a beautiful home and tablescape a dinner party to tips on assessing vintage linens and the best flea market finds, all of which will add je ne sais quoi wherever you may live.


2 Patchwork: A World Tour by Catherine Legrand

French textile designer Legrand spotlights patchwork practitioners by region and country through vivid detail photography of the art form (from samplers and decorative cloth to garments). She finds global commonalities in the dazzling techniques, meanings and faceted heritage of material culture in this centuries-old textile art, seeing new meaning in quilts, wrapping cloths and wall hangings.


3Uncommon Kitchens by Sophie Donelson

The trendsetting former editor of House Beautiful declares her book to be a revolutionary approach to the most popular (and arguably most important) gathering room in the house. Who are we to argue? It challenges accepted ideas around kitchen design (such as relying on generic white), offering both quick and simple advice for small but powerful changes on a budget, as well as total renovation inspiration from glam kitchen profiles with a who’s who of fashion and lifestyle celebrities. Apartment Therapy calls it the one design book you should buy this summer.


4 Garden Futures by Jamaica Kincaid, et al.

To coincide with the exhibition at Germany’s Vitra Design Museum (until Oct 3.), this book celebrates radical gardens around the world. Kincaid, the acclaimed Caribbean American novelist and essayist, reflects on the nature of identity through her own Vermont garden, for example, and stunning photographs catalogue innovative garden concepts like that of late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage in England, the Green Guerillas community gardens in 1970s New York and those in the Choucha refugee camp in Tunisia, which closed in 2013.


5London Tube Stations 1924-1961 by Philip Butler and Joshua Abbott

This absorbing visual chronicle gives historical context to the legacy of Frank Pick and Charles Holden, whose collaborative work in graphic identity and architecture reshaped the London Underground. As subway line extensions required new stations and structures over the years, their enduring designs incorporated art deco, Bauhaus and streamline influences into English vernacular, in what Pick dubbed “medieval modernism.” It’s bygone London transport in all its Modernist glory, with gleaming tiles, bespoke typefaces and the now-iconic 1931 tube map, which they commissioned from underground electrical draughtsman Harry Beck.


6Home by Kate Watson-Smyth

Whether you’re interested in saving space, sustainability or how to combine colours, this British decor journalist and interiors guru’s subtitle, “small home, work from home, rented home” promises to help readers see beyond the floor plan and make the most of the place they call home. With a split-page format and ample illustrations, the Mad About the House author’s book  guides you into configuring space so it suits the way you live (and not the other way around).


7 architect, verb by Reinier de Graaf

This collection of essays and diary musings by the Dutch architect is an impassioned critique of the state of contemporary architecture. He shares anecdotes, history and examples that obscure good design today, skewers the word salad of starchitect speak and holds forth on the relative merit (and downside) of Vancouver’s oft-vaunted livability index.


8The New Antiquarians by Michael Diaz Griffith

For fans of decorators Rita Konig and Luke Edward Hall’s brand of just-cluttered-enough English manor-house quirk, this British art historian’s tome profiles 17 homes from the next generation of collectors who are incorporating traditional antiques into decor in experimental and interesting ways. Their take on contrast, kitsch and ornamentation will give you a fresh perspective. (June 28)


9Brutalists by Owen Hopkins

Hopkins, a British curator and architectural writer, surveys 250 significant historic and contemporary examples of the much-maligned movement, both well-known and niche buildings: there’s the San Diego Library and Chicago’s Marina City towers, as well as the Hôtel du Lac in Tunisia, Viljo Revell’s Nathan Phillips Square and Toronto City Hall and the University of Lethbridge building by Vancouver-born Arthur Erickson.


10Observation is a Constant that Underlies All Approaches by Phyllis Lambert

Lambert, 96, recently won the renowned Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for contributions to architecture. This slender book by the Canadian architect, conservation activist and founder of the Canadian Centre of Architecture in Montreal collects her personal photographs of incidental architectural details and daily observations, taken since the 1950s and never shown before.


THE SCROLL

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