Once when I was working in a large design firm in a high-rise building, the fire alarm sounded. As instructed, we rose from our work and began making our way to the stairwell. Just before I descended the firestair, I spotted an intern frantically gathering every single book they brought to the office since their first day on the job. The intern did not realize that it was a firedrill.
Most designers are serious about their books. I am no different.
Design books not only present us with knowledge, they instruct and inspire us. They reveal places we hope to visit one day, or show us projects we would love to build! Over the years, I have slowly built a collection of design books and I would l like to share a few of my favorites with you.
1. The Sensual Home by Ilse Crawford. This was the first book I bought (in 1998) that was not required reading. I remember being drawn to the clean and simple images that reminded me to live simply. The book asks you to liberate your senses and supports this request by having chapters titled “liberate your senses”, “hearing”, “space proportion”, etc. This book is great for people who love the idea of a life lived fully, but simply. An awesome coffee table book, there is also a useful database in the back of the book that is still relevant in specific areas (plants for health, essential oils for moods, natural fabrics, etc.).
2. Constructing Architecture: Materials, Processes, Structures; A Handbook by Andrea Deplazes (ED.). While there are certainly more technically instructional books around, I liked that this particular book not only introduces the elements of a building, but dissects them further by placing them into one of three categories: typology, tectonics or topology. This book contains architectural systems with accompanying images and diagrams to instruct. It also includes a brief history of most subjects and highlights an architect that used the featured material, process or structure (i.e. Herzog and de Meuron using an opening as a horizontal strip in the House in Tavole).
3. The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. This book, first published in French in 1958 titled La poetique fe l’espace, remains one of my most cherished books. At the time I read this in graduate school, everyone was focusing on BIG architectural moves (skyscrapers, master plans, etc.), and I felt that my idea of focusing on the intimate spaces of home (as the book beautifully and poetically outlines) were silly. Bachelard was a leading European philosopher who through reading this book, confirmed that my ideas about home and memory were significant. As the back cover states, the “Poetics of Space remains one of the most appealing and lyrical explorations of home”.
4. Small Eco Houses: Living Green in Style by Cristina Paredes Benitez and Alex Sanchez Vidiella. This is my most recent purchase. As you may have guessed, there is a scale of architecture/design that I am interested in working in. This small coffee table book surveys over 40 residential projects that creatively tackles the challenges of limited space while maintaining a limited environmental footprint. This book does not use the typical green buzzwords, but instead focuses on building with intelligence and efficiency and building with naturally sustainable materials. While I would love a more in-depth explanation of the featured works, the book does a decent job explaining the general concepts with color images, diagrams and key text.
5. Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney. Every now and then you have to have a little fun and this book reminds us that design should not be too serious. Capturing the DIY spirit of the Design Sponge blog, this book (a gift from my thoughtful husband) is stocked with the cool, colorful and eclectic home projects of various designers. The book includes quite a few great “how-to” projects that instruct you on how to build decorative items such a wall sconce to a headboard to stripping furniture (each project includes cost, time and level of difficulty). There is even a resource guide listed in the back of the book to assist you find your DIY items. A decorators dream guide!