Building Your Design Library: The Foundation

Posted on August 22nd, by katiekmack in Uncategorized. No Comments

My Top 12 Design Books. Photo by KKM

I love books. I love design. So when these two loves collide it results in a pretty fantastic design library. Over time, I’ve amassed a collection that includes books on architecture, historic preservation, biographies of iconic designers + architects, furniture reference guides, graphic standards manuals, art, fashion, landscape + garden design. I thought I would share a few of my absolute favorites with you, as these books would make a wonderful foundation for building a design library of your own.

I began by literally pulling from the shelves what I felt were the “greatest hits” in my collection–quickly realizing there were far too many books in this towering stack to include in one post. So I will be breaking my selections down into several posts, starting with what I consider twelve absolute must haves for any lover of interior design.

You can judge a design book by its endpapers! Photo by KKM

My criterion for choosing these twelve books was their unique combination of beautiful imagery (for we are a visual crowd!) with great writing. There are endless “pretty faces” when it comes to books on design, but the truly special works are the ones that you find yourself pulling down time and again–due to the quality of their content and compelling points of view.

So here it is–my list with a brief sidebar on why I made each selection–enjoy!

KKM’s Top 12 Design Books

#1 David Hicks: Living With Design (copyright 1979) by David Hicks in collaboration with Nicholas Jenkins

Beautiful tablescapes from David Hicks: Living With Design. Photo by KKM

David Hicks: Royally cool and elegant. His work: Timeless and unapologetic, graphic and unforgettable. His book: You won’t want to put it down.

#2 David Hicks: Designer (copyright 2003) by Ashley Hicks

Ashley Hick’s beautiful book includes pages from his father’s 1968 design scrapbook. Photo by KKM

This book, written by David Hick’s son Ashley, reads like a love letter from a son to his father. Fleshes out David Hicks as a human being, and deepened my appreciation of both the man and his work.

#3 Billy Baldwin Decorates (copyright 1972) by Billy Baldwin

Timeless, welcoming interiors from Billy Baldwin Decorates. Photo by KKM

Since we aren’t lucky enough to have Mr. Baldwin here with us today, and this book feels like an afternoon chat with the designer, as he describes his brilliant approach to interior decoration.

#4 Billy Baldwin Remembers (copyright 1974) by Billy Baldwin

Baldwin gives great insights into his designs in Billy Baldwin Remembers. Photo by KKM

Because twice as much Billy Baldwin is still not enough! His wisdom transcends the passage of time and trend in this fascinating exploration of a multitude of his interiors and his elite clientele.

#5 In The Pink – Dorothy Draper: America’s Most Fabulous Decorator (copyright 2006) by Carleton Varney

My all-time favorite Dorothy Draper interior! Photo by KKM.

Draper was a wonderful female force to be reckoned with, encouraging women to “realize that only in being kind to yourself can you really be kind to others.” She fearlessly paved the way for future designing women, employing her trademark bold colors, grand scale and dramatic flair—along with her outsized personality. Varney’s beautiful book is a vibrant, lovely tribute to Draper and her life’s work.

#6 The House Book (copyright 1974) by Terence Conran

Charming dining room possibilities from The House Book. Photo by KKM

An extraordinary amount of useful information is packed into this terrific book. Reading this one puts a smile on my face and teaches me something new every time I read it. Also, as a child born in the seventies, this 1974 edition is a happy trip down memory lane to the interiors of my childhood.

#7 An Affair With A House (copyright 2005) by Bunny Williams

Bunny Williams’ stunning dining room from An Affair With A House. Photo by KKM

There is a real comfort in discovering people who share your same passions in life. This book is an instant classic, and Bunny Williams’ zest for life and love of home are both palpable and contagious. My favorite part: her recounting of hanging the wallpaper in her dining room herself. She’s a woman after my own heart, and a great example for all designers.

#8 Jeffrey Bilhuber’s Design Basics (copyright 2003) by Jeffrey Bilhuber and Annette Tapert

Jeffrey Bilhuber’s Design Basics is packed with useful information + quiet elegance. Photo by KKM

Quiet, elegant, calm and classic. This book is a perfect reflection of this wonderful American designer. Mr. Bilhuber is an excellent teacher, offering helpful information on everything from building a budget to choosing colors. I am especially fond of the floor materials and color charts he shares in the book, and I continue to use my own versions of these charts in my design work.

#9 Interior Design (Third Edition, copyright 2003) by John F. Pile

Pile’s Interior Design is a great resource. Photo by KKM

This book was actually one of the textbooks in my Master’s program at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, and it offers a comprehensive overview of interior design. Beginning with historical precedents, leading all the way through modern design practices, this reference book is a good choice for anyone interested in the field. I believe a more recent fourth edition of this book is now available.

#10 Domino: The Book of Decorating (copyright 2008) by Domino Editors Deborah Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello, and Dara Caponigro

Domino: The Book of Decorating is both a field guide + a feast for the eyes! Photo by KKM

Fantastic field guide to the A-Z’s of tackling your own interiors. Beautifully organized, and broken down in such a way that the subject never feels daunting. It would be impossible to read this volume without feeling inspired. Three cheers for the three talented editors of this wonderful book!

#11 The Perfectly Imperfect Home (copyright 2011) by Deborah Needleman

Deborah Needleman’s marvelous writing + charming watercolor interiors = modern day classic! Photo by KKM

Speaking of Deborah Needleman, this amazing lady produced a brilliant encore to her work on Domino. The Perfectly Imperfect Home is a book you will treasure. From the exquisitely charming watercolor illustrations, to the brilliant writing that encourages you to create your own unique version of a “perfect” dwelling. Needleman’s book opens with this lovely Billy Baldwin quote: “Any house or room remembered with pleasure has the look of being loved by those who live in it.” I wholeheartedly agree!

#12 Sister Parish Design: On Decorating (copyright 2009) by Susan Bartlett Crater and Libby Cameron

A dramatic Sister Parish interior featuring “glossy aubergine walls.” Fabulous! Photo by KKM

Sometimes, judging a book by its cover really pays off! Any fan of Sister Parish’s work will immediately be drawn to this book’s cover, printed in her Burma pattern, one of her most beloved textile designs. Co-written by Parish’s granddaughter Crater and Libby Cameron, and associate with the legendary firm Parish-Hadley. The authors not only offer insight on Sister Parish, they have also culled great advice from current top designers, including Jeffrey Bilhuber, Bunny Williams and Miles Redd. My favorite chapter is “Decorating on a Shoestring”—it is wonderful to see the creativity and resourcefulness of these clever designers when they were once faced with their own limited budgets!

Phew! Well, that is my list—but be sure to follow your own instincts and interests when choosing books for your design library. The result will be a collection from which you can draw endless inspiration and motivation. Best of luck and happy summer (design) reading!

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