Monday, October 21, 2013

Newest Design Inspiration in Print: Part One

Part One of My Annual Picks of the Most Exciting New Style and Design Books:  The Best of the Best Fall/Winter 2013—the Books to Buy and Keep Forever 

I’ve reviewed and read and pondered and studied all of the newest design and style books from dozens of publishers.

This week, you’ll learn more about the sensationally inspiring new Axel Vervoordt book; a lavish and superbly edited book by Timothy Corrigan on the restoration of his French chateau; and you’ll see why you must collect the staggeringly chic new book by Stephen Sills, and a totally original and new book by François Halard.

I discovered the marvelously understated (and powerful) book about William Hodgins (by Stephen Salny). Hodgins, of course, is the great Boston designer. It’s a secret delight. I'll tell you more about that next week. It's most luscious and detailed.

And California is represented strongly by Suzanne Tucker’s second book. Jennifer Boles alphabetizes design.

And there are the philosophical houses of Tadao Ando. And more.

Come with me to see what’s important now in the design world, and whose words and photography you’ll want to keep close. 

Axel Vervoordt

You’ll want all of these new books for your design library.

Each year at this time I study and read and ponder and evaluate all of the new style and design books for fall.

With highly collectible books by Timothy Corrigan, Thomas Pheasant, François Halard, the archive of Alexander Liberman (next week), and a fantastically inspiring new volume by the electric Axel Vervoordt and his son, Boris, with Michael James Gardner.

This fall is a feast, a season of pure delight for book lovers.

The new books I’ve selected are crunchy! Readers can chew on each page—and devour word-by-word, every concept, hundreds of images. 

1. AXEL VERVOORDT: LIVING WITH LIGHT under the direction of Boris Vervoordt. Foreword by Axel Vervoordt. Text by Micharl Gardner. Photography by Laziz Hamami (Flammarion).

This inspiring and highly expressive volume is a series of interiors around the world—that present very clearly the concept of light and their effect on interiors.

But in particular, it is an extraordinary tour de force of interiors in London, Tangier, Antwerp, and the remote coast of western France. 

Living with Light explores Axel Vervoordt’s philosophy of living in harmony with natural elements--light, as well as water, metal, wood--and blending the power and influence of nature with the inspiration of art. The art of harmonious living is presented in this new book through fifteen bespoke interiors throughout the world, recently designed by the design team of the Axel Vervoordt Company. 

Vervoordt’s vision is a search for absolute harmony, beauty and serenity. In a range of dramatically different houses—a paneled London townhouse, a light-filled villa overlooking the Mediterranean, several yachts, and Boris’s apartment, the firm creates spaces and interiors which not only reflect these values and shine with purity, authenticity and genuine soul. They capture, reflect and reinforce the personality and individuality of their owners and inhabitants. The Company’s biggest aim is to ensure that people feel happy in their homes. 

The Vervoordt book writer: Michael Gardner is an American writer and essayist. He collaborated with May Vervoordt on the cookbook, At Home with May and Axel Vervoordt (Flammarion, 2012) that I admired so much and recommended last year. 

For its depth of design, and higher ideals, this book is the first to collect.

This year, his voice and ideas (and those of Boris and Axel and their whole team) come through clearly. Axel Vervoordt: Living with Light (Flammarion, 2013). Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Gardner currently lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.

There is a lot to learn from this book—furniture placement, color, art, simplicity, and modesty, collecting for example—and the text and images offer in-depth information and ideas. 

2. AN INVITATION TO CHATEAU DU GRAND-LUCE by Timothy Corrigan, with photography by Eric Piasecki (Rizzoli New York).

I’ve known Los Angeles interior designer Timothy Corrigan for ages, and have always admired his style, his generosity, his careful tending of elegance and comfort in interiors from Satan Barbara to Qatar, and from Paris to Beverly Hills.

Ten years ago, Tim acquired the Chateau du Grand-Luce in the French countryside, west of Paris. It was a gently crumbling wreck. Historic, a jewel of the Loire Valley, a mere shadow of 18th-century magnificence. 

After more than five years of meticulous restoration, he got to work on his great vision for the interiors—and the gardens.

The brilliance of this book is that it is gorgeous—and Timothy invites the reader to come and stay at the chateau, to dine beneath the trees in summer, to picnic and collect mushrooms in his forest, and to gather around a large table for a winter feast. The reader is there. He takes us by the hand—to markets, to sip, to greet his friends, to be in his world. 

With the highly talented photographer Eric Piasecki, Timothy has documented each corner of the chateau, every sunbeam that falls through the tall windows and captured the changing seasons, the light of evening, the weekend walk through the gardens, a dinner in the Orangerie, and drinks in the library. I know Timothy—and was captivated and mesmerized by the intense detail of this encounter with beauty.

Francophiles will swoon. I did. I’m still dizzy. It’s a magnificent achievement. 

3. FRANÇOIS HALARD by François Halard, with a preface by Pierre Bergé (Rizzoli New York). 

François Halard has been shooting people and interiors for four decades, sometimes working with editorial direction for a magazine like Vogue, but equally photographing and capturing his own private projects, hanging out with Yves and Pierre and Cy and the Duchess of Devonshire. He’s shot La Maison de Verre in Paris, and La Malcontenta, and the studio of Richard Avedon and Roger Vivier.

The Halard book—the design fetish book of the season, truly—distills his pick of the best images, sometimes-just one or two, of these personal shoots. There’s the Cy Twombly Rome palazzo, Villa Noailles, Axel Vervoordt’s, and his own hideaway in Arles. Some of the houses he captured—Casa Malaparte, Villa Kerylos, and Albert Frey’s Palm Springs house—are ones that linger in the memory. The images of his Arles house—fuzzy, blurred, off-kilter, abstract—look as if he shot them in a kind of fever state, swept up in a reverie if beauty, time passing, a passion for classicism.

It’s all very unexpected, far from ‘canned’ and expected design, and he takes readers on an excursion, examining the ideas of creativity, poetry and mystery in rooms. 

And there is a surprise for John Dickinson fans. There’s a startling spread of black and white images taken in San Francisco in the seventies, of a selection of John Dickinson furniture—and details and close-ups of his famous black Jaguar showing the steel nameplate on the driver side. Clever Halard!

Highly recommended. 

4.  STEPHEN SILLS: DECORATION by Stephen Sills, with a (brief but meaningful) foreword by Karl Lagerfeld (Rizzoli).

I’ve always been impressed by the intelligence, refinement and originality of Stephen Sills interiors. Each piece of furniture, every framed artwork, and all surfaces are considered, accepted, placed, and presented and composed with a precision and a sharp vision that are rare in the world of design. He understands antiques and paintings—and the effect and emotion they bring to rooms. He never overdoes it. Among his clients: Vera Wang, Anna Wintour, Tina Turner, the Newhouse family, and notable art collectors around the world.

There’s not a lot of text or information (I’d have liked to see more credits and detail of antiques, art, furniture and decorative objects).

Sills' book—for the observant—is a course in how to design. He begins with balanced and distinctive interior architecture, builds on subtle color palettes, and with the background in place, Sills choreographs furniture groups, tables, beds, and the necessities of daily life. How fortunate are his clients (and clearly they so adore him that the keep him close, and keep him working on one apartment and house after another). Cheers to Stephen Sills. He is the best of the best. I’m looking forward to meeting him at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show this week. Highly inspiring. 

5.  LOUIS BENECH: TWELVE FRENCH GARDENS Preface by Erik Orsenna, of the Academy Française, Text by Eric Jansen, Photographs by Eric Sander (Publisher is Gourcuff Gradenigo).

This book presents French gardens designed by Louis Benech, from the Jardin du Soleil et des Nuages at the Château de Villandry to Square Nicolas Forestier in inner- city Paris, via an estate in the Sologne, a Normandy manor house, a Breton flower garden, an exotic oasis in central Paris, a project in the footsteps of Russell Page in Burgundy, and the gardens of the Château de Pange, officially recognized by the French Ministry of Culture as a ‘jardin remarquable’. 

In their wide diversity, these elegant and elegiac gardens designed by Louis Benech reflect the many facets of a remarkable talent that has earned Louis Benech worldwide recognition. 

6.  THOMAS PHEASANT—SIMPLY SERENE by Thomas Pheasant, Foreword by Victoria Sant, Contribution by Jeff Turrentine. Principal Interior Photography by Durston Saylor (Rizzoli International).

Thomas Pheasant is a purist. He’s a classicist, and he is a perfectionist. His eye and heart and mind come together in this lovely volume, with rooms of grace, calm and quietude. 

Pheasant, with offices in Washington DC and Paris, here offers his very compelling point of view that favors minimalism over crass color, and tamps down silhouettes and color to an elegant reductivist beauty. 

Black and white photography is a revelation on these pages. This is a book that lingers in the eye. Most impressive. 

7.  TADAO ANDO: HOUSES by Philip Jodidio (Rizzoli New York). 

In detail, Jodidio (author of countless books on international architecture) takes us around the world to view up-close Ando’s remarkable body of work.

There’s the Invisible House in Treviso, Italy, a house in Chicago, a penthouse in Manhattan, a house in Malibu, a never-built Golden Gate Bridge House for a San Francisco site (I beg one of the new tech zillionaires to build it), and a house in Sri Lanka, and a remarkable house in Monterrey, Mexico, in a dramatic mountain-view site. 

Most of the houses are in Japan, and they include teahouses, a glass block house, an atelier in Osaka, a coastal house along the fragile Japanese foreshore, and concrete houses squeezed into small city lots. 

Ando says, “I attempt to create architecture that is characterized by abstracted natural elements such as light.” This thrilling theme of light appears so strongly in Ando’s book, just as it does in Axel Vervoordt’s book. Please take note.)

Ando also notes, “I imagine spaces that breathe and take on different expressions with the ever-changing fragments of nature, such as wind or framed vistas. The breath of nature can be felt more strongly and vivaciously the more reticent the space providing its backdrop. This is what drives my pursuits to find geometries formed by simpler and fewer elements.”

This Ando book is a must for all architects, and for designers who want to expand their knowledge, their mind and their higher aspirations. 

8.  THE INSPIRED HOME: INTERIORS OF DEEP BEAUTY By Karen Lehrman Bloch with a Foreword by Donna Karan (Harper Design).

New York writer/ editor/author has a certain and constant focus—and with this new book she presents her ideas of authentic, uplifting, elegant, and enduring beauty.
She uses the elements of nature as guideposts, and lists a series of pointers to inspire the reader. 

Interiors—all of them with a clear spiritual component-- include those of fashion designers such as Donna Karan, Alberta Ferretti, Luisa Beccaria, and Consuelo Castiglioni, the founder of Marni; top stylists and artists including Lori Goldstein and Michele Oka Doner; and renowned interior designers like Darryl Carter, Vicente Wolf, and Juan Montoya. 

Karen Lehrman Bloch’s concepts include:

Feel visually. We must say, “This piece touches me, moves me, inspires me.” We should re-learn how to feel visually,” says Bloch.

Reject perfectionism. 
Nature is not perfect: things don’t line up precisely; things are nubby, not smooth. As a result, the imperfections of an object, fabric, or person are often what make them real to our brains,” said Bloch. 

Edit, edit, edit. “Minimalism doesn’t have to feel austere, sterile, or soulless. It’s easy and affordable to create a sensual simplicity, one that calms us by embracing the simplicity of the natural world,” said Bloch.

Create good flow. “The essential rhythms of nature are steady, yet unpredictable. One of the most common mistakes in trying to create a tranquil space is to think that everything has to be similar or “neutral.” But nature is neither neutral nor bland,” said Bloch in this book.

Cultivate true elegance. “ Elegance feels simultaneously fresh and grounded, innovative and grand. Because nature is profoundly elegant, elegance can have an immediate effect on our psyches. We can’t help ourselves: elegance breeds elegance,” Bloch said. 

9.  SUZANNE TUCKER INTERIORS: THE ROMANCE OF DESIGN  Written with Judith Nasatir (Monacelli Press).

On these beautifully illustrated and detailed pages you will find the most beautiful dressing rooms in the world (one for a gentleman, one for a lady) in a superb apartment near Lafayette Park in San Francisco. These ultra-private retreats are for a couple, notable philanthropists, and they are the essence of custom design that Suzanne Tucker is known for. 

In her second book, Suzanne Tucker details a series of residences in California, including a Normandy-style house in Marin County, an Italianate villa in the Montecito Hills, and many residences in prime positions on the San Francisco hilltops.

Of a showcase living room in Marin, she said, “My team and I took a curatorial approach to design and gathered inspiration from diverse sources: Yves Saint Laurent’s remarkable homes, the aesthetic of midcentury France, Maison Jansen, the furniture of Jacques Adnet, and the dramatic views. A custom Jean-Michel Frank style sofa and a massive custom Madagascar-stone-topped coffee table anchor the seating area. In the curved “prow” of the room stands an oval table with a sinuous tree-trunk base by Andrew Fisher, flanked by potted olive trees and antique Sukhothai monks.” 

Tucker’s attention to detail and love of textiles is demonstrated in her description of the interior of a house near Santa Barbara,” bleached Douglas fir ceilings lighten the mood, enhance the sense of height and celebrate the sun flooding in from three sides. An antique Indian elephant blanket adds color at the foot of the bed. A delicate eighteenth-century Italian giltwood chandelier hangs from the ceiling coffers. Custom designed with freestanding columns, the mantel was carved by hand from Italian marble. It’s a restful space, dressed in the client's favorite neutral shades of taupe, gray, and cream. The carpet adds subtle patterning for visual interest, with luscious velvets and quiet textures providing contrast.”

Anyone who loves textiles will want to pay close attention to her selections and her point of view. Admirable. 

10.  IN WITH THE OLD: CLASSIC DÉCOR FROM A TO Z  By Jennifer Boles, with a Foreword by Alexa Hampton. With photography by Erica George Dines and Illustrations by Laura Boles Faw. (Potter Style).

Jennifer Boles, the founder of the wonderful blog, The Peak of Chic, is a longtime friend of mine. We’ve been ‘blog-mates’ for ages, and she often visits San Francisco to see her lovely and talented sister, Laura. We are also fellow Contributing Editors to House Beautiful.

I step back to look at Jennifer’s book objectively—and I find it wonderfully original.

Jennifer takes the reader through 100 entries, including classic dog paintings, butler’s trays, ballroom chairs, bookplates (she’s addicted), and follies, painted floors and ceilings, and the Dorothy Draper look, sunburst motifs, rush matting, tablescapes, treillage and valances. Along the way she offers helpful information, history, anecdotes on famous designers, and zebra prints.

There are mottos to learn from, motifs to copy, and ideas on every page. 

I admire also the way Jennifer has added an extremely insider-y and helpful list of resources, including rare book sources, home fragrance, lighting, fabrics, antiques and auction houses. An essential and highly diverting reference. 

11.  HIMALAYAN STYLE: Shelters and Sanctuaries  By Thomas Kelly & Claire Burkett (Roli Books). 

Travel to remote regions is a great and essential inspiration for designers. This book takes readers on a journey through the elements of Himalayan style, including examples of authentic and historic architecture, sacred spaces and interiors of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and India. The foreword by acclaimed Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman calls attention to the spiritual foundation of Himalayan aesthetics. 

Photographer Thomas L. Kelly and author Claire Burkert present chapters on contemporary style, which also covers museums, gardens, private homes and fine crafts..

Claire Burkert has worked with artisans in southern Nepal, Vietnam, and Tibet to both preserve and promote indigenous crafts. She is a regional representative for Aid to Artisans, a US-based not-for-profit organization. She is based in Kathmandu with her husband Thomas Schrom, a restorer of Himalayan buildings.

I’ve traveled extensively in this region—and this thoughtful book makes me want to go back. Richly inspiring.

I hope you will acquire these books from your local independent bookseller.

I trust you will want to support and encourage your nearest bookstores—and continue to stop in, chat to the bookseller, and make recommendations, requests and comments to enhance the bookstore.

All images used with specific and express permission of the publishers of each book.