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As our intern Taylor Rondestvedt recently put it, "Books make great nightstands. And side tables. And sculptures. And wall art. Books are the MVP of decorating!" And I couldn't agree more. Some of my favorite coffee table situations, including the one in my own apartment, are airy, nearly invisible low tables piled all over with stacks of over-sized books.
A good design book has a few distinct merits: It's gorgeous out and inside, the kind of tome you'd be happy to curl up and flip through for a whole afternoon. There should be images that inspire, words worth reading, and something to take away for your own life (even if it's just a sense of styles you love). With good art and design books, the persistent desire to tear out pages should be trumped by a revere for the whole unscathed compilation. You can never have too many.
Here are some of our 10 favorite art and design books from the year. Have you thought of visiting your local independent bookstore for those last-minute gift ideas?
1. The Artful Wooden Spoon, by Joshua Vogel
Like one gorgeously-shot, timeless how-to, The Artful Wooden Spoon takes the reader head-on into the world of woodworking and whittling and says, page after page, you can do this too. Hand-carved wooden spoons are in many ways the most accessible and evocative of artisanal goods—they're incredibly useful and their very human scale is comforting. Want to know how to make one? Read.
2. The New Bohemians, by Justina Blakeney
Known for her confident use of colors and textures—not to mention a little bit of weave and fringe and leather and lace—Justina Blakeney has captured so many design hearts with her blog the Jungalow. Her most recent book is an assortment of profiles and home tours of those with a common love of wild style, as good for a read as it is to flip.
3. Life | Style: Elegant Simplicity at Home, by Tricia Foley
Known for her clean, refined, cozy style, Tricia Foley is the author of some ten lifestyle books and head of her design firm; she brings it home with her newest publication, Life | Style, which chronicles the restoration and decoration of her cottage on Long Island. It's page after page of inspiration, and the most amazing ode to the color white.
4. Color: Transform Your Home, by Abigail Ahern
On the flip side, British design blogger Abigail Ahern is known for being a color obsessive, and her book Color is an ode to the power of tone as a design tool instead of an accent. The images are from interiors that have inspired her, ranging from dark and moody copper-flecked kitchens to Kelley Wearstler's living room in shades of precious stones.
5. Wayne Thiebaud, from Rizzoli
Known for his paintings of pies, cakes, and deli counters, the artist Wayne Thiebaud turned 95 in November, and to celebrate Rizzoli released a beautiful monograph celebrating his oeuvre. Featured works run the gamut of familiar to rarely seen, including colorful alien landscapes, portraits, and, of course, other foods. Peppered throughout, essays from art critics and historians underscore his influence.
6. Beekman 1802 Style: The Attraction of Opposites, by Brent Ridge and Josh Purcell
A compilation of images from their upstate farmhouse and shots that ran in Country Living over the years, the Beekman Boys' new book is page after page of clever interior design ideas. Whether it inspires you to hang ceiling medallions on the wall or keep a ceiling of peeling paint just to add character to a space, it's impossible not to feel the creativity.
7. Tile Makes the Room, by Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey
It's no surprise that the focus of this book from Heath Ceramics—famed ceramic designer based in the Bay area—is seduction by way of tile. But knowing the author's goal doesn't ruin the journey. You'll learn how tiles are made and then be led through a host of tiled interiors, from glossy bathroom designs to monumental installations that dictate the architecture rather than simply responding to it.
8. Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere, by Zach Klein
After a Tumblr of exotic, rustic, modern, and minimalist cabin photography made Klein famous, he and friends saw the vision through by building an upstate retreat of their own called Beaver Brook. This book, part 3 after those steps in the Cabin Porn saga, is a collection of stories about the people who fabricated and inhabit in some of the homes that have intrigued so many.
9. Every Room Tells a Story, by Kit Kemp
Known for her thoughtful use of fabrics, a care-free but luxurious style, and for being the Design Director of Firmdale Hotels, Kit Kemp's newest book feels literally woven together, as much a focus on the details, the stitching, the illustrating, and the pairing of textures within each space as much as its a portfolio of her work.
10. Sage Living: Decorate for the Life You Want, by Anne Sage
The subtitle of this new design book by blogger Anne Sage is "Decorate for the Life You Want"—a motto worth taking to heart. The interiors in the book evoke a sense of warmth and innovation, but in a way that feels attainable; you'll find yourself thinking "that's what I want my room to look like!" at every photo. A focus on the lifestyles of each room's inhabitants, plus entertaining and decorating tips, give further grounding to the spaces.
What were your favorite art and design books of the year? Take to the comments.