April 25 2018
Books in the home are a given. They are almost as much of a staple as a sofa and kitchen table for me. A home feels somewhat incomplete without them.
I could quite happily talk at length about my love of printed literature, be it novels, cookbooks or autobiographies of fascinating characters. For this article though, I share some of my favourite hardbacks that are just perfect coffee table books. Anthologies that indeed contain captivating content and sublime photography, but with covers and titles that might make somebody pause as they walk by.
For me, this is the ultimate mark of success for a coffee table book – if it makes you stop in your tracks, and sit down on the neighbouring sofa to flick through its beautiful pages and momentarily forget what it was that you were meant to be doing!
My coffee table at home is absolutely full of coffee table literature – carefully stacked and arranged. But these are the ones that I always recommend to friends and family.
Country by Jasper Conran – this large-format has been my favourite coffee table book of all for a number of years. A lifestyle piece, throughout, Conran talks about the allure of countryside living using his own experiences – personal and those from projects – to speak in a very honest, emotive way. It’s a delight to the eye and a wonderful read also.
Picasso Portraits by Elizabeth Cowling – I came across this hardcover catalogue on one particular trip to the National Portrait Gallery in London. It is a treasure trove of not simply art, but books-to-be-read in its little shop. I love the cover of Picasso Portraits because it is so serene and unlike the colourful cubism that inevitably pops into ones mind when thinking about Picasso. It was co-published with the Museu Picasso in Barcelona and it brings together various modes of portraiture, from formal and posed to those much less staged and a touch jovial.
Architecture by Hand by Spencer Fung – Spencer Fung is a designer whose work I truly admire. Of course most architects are incredibly technical and sensitive to light, space, environment, landscape and orientation, but I find that his intuition for such things is quite remarkable. His book is so full of texture and craft, and is illustrated with his own sketches and watercolour studies. When I open these pages, I feel utterly immersed in natural beauty and his true artisanal spirit.
One-Hundred and One Beautiful Small Towns in Italy by Paolo Lazzarin – this hardback is often-cited, though for very good reason. I adore Italy. My family and I have spent much time there over the years, and I turn to Italy for design inspiration that I can reinterpret through a classic English lens. Whenever I see the cover of this Italian tome in my sitting room, it encourages such a calm and happy feeling. Its 276 pages cover 101 Italian towns - a number of which I have since travelled to – at pace that’s slow and with full-page, breathing-taking photography for company. Moreover, it is an expertly researched and thoroughly informative.
Sailing – Boating Photographs from Around the World by Onne van der Wal and Herb McCormick – coffee table books resonate all the more when there is a personal connection. And for me, literature related to the sea and to sailing has such depth. We are keen sailors and love to sit down together and flick through the pages of this 11x14” piece. The photography is taken by Onne van der Wal who is both a world-class photographer and sailor. He shares the joy, exhilaration and serenity that come with sailing. It is published by the art book legends, Rizzoli who are based in New York and so it has a definite touch of gloss and pizzazz too.