Barnaba Fornasetti: Fornasetti: The Complete Universe
I’d been eyeing up this volume for some time until, back in August, I was given a copy by my friend/colleague in return for a week of dog sitting her extremely well behaved poodle, Max. (A complete win/win scenario!) In the arena of gorgeous decorative objets, The Complete Universe really is as close to some sort of holy text as you’re going to get. Clocking in at 700 pages, this elaborate and extraordinarily hefty tome covers the world of Fornasetti in its entirety, with over 3,000 images and illustrations of founder Piero’s (and his son Barnaba’s) iconic wares. From silk scarves, ties and umbrella stands to lamps, ashtrays, mirrors and decorated porcelain – they’re all covered. I’ve taken to dipping in and out when in need of inspiration. Mind-bogglingly vast and brilliant.
Miles Redd: The Big Book of Chic
It does what it says on the tin. This book is so very chic. I can’t remember where I first came across Miles Redd, the Atlanta-born, Manhattan-based decorator, but these days I can’t get enough of his interior creations. Chronicling the fantastical settings Redd has pieced together, The Big Book of Chic sifts through the Beaton Portraits, Cocteau sketches and Fitzgerald novels that have influenced his dramatic style. Redd says his book is ‘a personal blend of work and fantasy’ and ‘about dreams coming true’. Turning the pages of this book does indeed feel a bit like attending a dreamy, glamorous dinner party-cum-sleepover. It’s a whirlwind of polished cutlery, silver julep cups, marble bathrooms and giant four-posters. The quotes littering the pale blue pages throughout (from some of my favourite novels no less) are another highlight.
Gert Voorjans: Interior Life
I stumbled upon Interior Life earlier this year, in Daunt Books on the Fulham Road. What a strikingly simple and beautiful cover, I remember thinking. Voorjans is a Belgian interior designer with a richly layered aesthetic I greatly admire; colourful, eclectic, elegant and eccentric, mixing eras and cultures to harmonious effect. He has designed fellow Belgian Dries Van Noten’s retail empire, creating decadent environments layered with decorative pieces from around the globe. This is a huge, dazzling tome, a visual feast of a book, which captures Voorjans’ style and provides a window into his way of thinking. Packed with clippings and mood boards, Interior Life is a work of art in its own right – it features papers varying in thickness, size and colour, Japanese binding and no less than ten colourful bookmark ribbons.
Mirabel Cecil, Hugh Cecil: In Search of Rex Whistler: His Life and His Work
Rex Whistler painted murals, portraits, landscapes and conversation pieces; he created theatre sets, costumes, book illustrations, dust jackets and Christmas cards; he designed advertisements for Guinness and Shell, a Valentine telegram for the Post Office, an Axminster carpet and a Toile de Jouy fabric with views of a Cornish fishing village, among much else. I’m a great fan of Whistler’s work, and this book provides a rich record of the artist’s achievement, as well as a portrait of the man himself. The diversity of Whistler’s creative output inspires me to no end. I’ve recently taken to scouring second-hand bookshops and eBay for crumbling old books wrapped in his beautifully designed jackets, and I jump at every chance I get to visit his charming mural at the Tate Britain. You’ll find Whistler’s pastoral scenes decorating the walls of the Refreshment Room in the basement (now the Rex Whistler Restaurant), which was described as ‘the most amusing room in Europe’ when it opened in 1927.
Tim Walker: Pictures
A classic, of course, and definitely my most beloved big book, Pictures offers a glimpse into the creative process used by my favourite photographer, Tim Walker. Stuffed with sketches, notes, Polaroids and contact sheets, it’s another source of limitless inspiration. Indeed, my much-loved and much-thumbed copy has a ripped jacket and is practically on the verge of disintegrating. Swans, horses, model castles, burning pianos, entire suits of armour covered in pink satin; every page conjures up a feast for the eyes. To my mind, nobody else’s photographs will ever come close to Walker’s – he’s a one of a kind, a magician with a penchant for the surreal. For me, an ideal afternoon would include an hour or two curled up in an armchair with Pictures (and probably a tower of hot buttered crumpets), somewhere deep in the countryside. It’d be raining outside and I’d end up falling asleep with this wonderful book in my arms, dreaming of country houses and peacock feathers, white rabbits and blue elephants…