[Photographs by Tim Street-Porter © Rooms to Inspire in the City Rizzoli New York, 2010.]
Whenever I see a handsome secretary, I think of Katie Denham. Two years ago, when I asked her about "forever" pieces that are great investments, she talked about old secretaries, not pricey sofas or beds. Secretaries can last for centuries, and as Katie says, the timeless vintage and antique versions pair nicely with a slipcovered IKEA sofa. You might say estate sale or hand-me-down secretaries bring weight to a room -- literally and stylistically. They also function beautifully in a tiny apartment, storing books and serving as a bedside table or dining surface for one (think Grant K. Gibson). The only fault I can find with the classic secretary is that it typically can't accommodate taller art and design tomes.
[Image via House & Garden, from the Kate Spade Domestic Bliss story.]
Titles I do plan to buy for myself or give as gifts? Here's a little review.
[Book images via Anthropologie.]
Vera: The Art and Life of an Icon is on the short list. It's a joy just to flip through the pages and look at Vera Neumann's art. However, for anyone with a serious interest in textiles or design history -- even the history of women in the workforce -- the book has lasting appeal. Before embarking on a career as a textile designer, Vera studied at The Cooper Union and the Traphagen School of Design. Her life nearly spanned the entire 20th century and she is now seen as a pioneer because she brought color and pattern into linen closets across America. On a deeper level, too, many credit her with bringing fresh, modern art to the masses via placemats, sheets, and of course scarves.
By the way, Vera: The Lady Behind the Ladybug, an exhibition of Vera's art and scarves, is on view through May 31 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
The Great Lady Decorators deserves another mention. Beginning by giving Candace Wheeler her due as the first woman to establish herself as a professional interior decorator (yes, she preceeded Elsie de Wolfe, although as Bunny Williams notes in the book's forward, Elsie's flair and imagination really launched the field of interior decoration as we know it today), Lewis offers a candid analysis of the stengths and foibles of thirteen women who shaped 20th century decor.
Including Nancy Lancaster, Ruby Ross Wood, Sister Parish and Syrie Maugham, most in the group were self taught. It's a special thing to have so many images of iconic rooms in one volume. For example, there are samples of Sister's work that previously I've only seen in the coveted Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design. And Jeremiah Goodman's stunning paintings -- twelve original interpretations of the profiled decorators' work -- add a layer that goes beyond beauty because, as Lewis explains, the artist was part of the inner sanctum during the early years of decorating.
Joe Nye's debut book about entertaining, Flair.
[©Flair Rizzoli New York, 2010.]
Apart from the strong photography of colorful, inspiring table settings, what strikes me most about this one is Joe's straightforward, unstuffy approach. The Peak of Chic's readers know that Joe is no snob when it comes to grocery store flowers, carnations included, and here he shares his full range of ideas for working with them.
[©Flair Rizzoli New York, 2010.]
In addition to covering paper at all price points, flowers high and low, and table settings, Joe also offers 21st-century etiquette guidance, so the book sort of serves as a nifty primer, compact enough to travel in a handbag (Joe is a big proponent of visiting brick and mortar shops for ideas). And I still think the chic black-handled flatware and glasses -- the way Joe utilizes black to cut the sweetness of pastels -- will prove to be one of the most chatted about aspects of the book.
[Photograph by Tim Street-Porter © Rooms to Inspire in the City Rizzoli New York, 2010.]
I received no compensation from the publishers or authors of the books discussed here. I did have an opportunity to preview some of the editions, and images are posted with permission.
Update: To see all of Anthropologie's Vera-related offerings, click here.