Monday, 4 February 2013

bedtime reading - The Iconic Interior

This book isn't exactly bed time reading, it's scale and size requires a study surface or at least a comfy chair with a side table to accommodate it comfortably. Published last year by Thames & Hudson, it's the joint work of writer Dominic Bradbury, a prolific design writer and author of many interior and architecture books and Richard Powers, one of the best architecture and interior photographers working today. Between them they have produced an essential book on the history of interior design.

Strick House (Oscar Neimeyer) Santa Monica, LA

The book features 100 interiors by a wide range of designers, architects, artists and fashion designers throughout the twentieth century and right up to 2010. Styles range from the minimalism of John Pawsons early 90's London house and functionality of Dier Rams 70's residence in Frankfurt, through to the mind-boggling opulence of Tony Duquette's 'Dawnridge' and the modern eclecticism of Matthew Williams' home. Almost all the great designers are represented as well as some you may be less familiar with and those featured hail from all over the world, although with only a couple of exceptions the focus is definitely on western icons. Inevitably there are omissions due to the limitations of featuring only 100 interiors, but those chosen really do represent the widest range of styles and ideas of their time.

Hollyhock House (Frank LLoyd Wright) Los Angeles

80 of the interiors are featured in depth (the other 20 feature in an extended introduction) in chronological order and each with a short biography of the designer, accompanied of course by spreads of photographs. Richard Powers' stunning images ensure every detail is captured, meaning you could literally spend hours poring over the photographs alone. What really makes this an outstanding book though is the combination of these images with the concise but incredibly informative text. Bradbury investigates the methodology of the designers as well as the history of their houses and includes first hand contributions form many of the designers. His writing style is informative and engaging making the read a very pleasurable one. In this respect not only is it a great resource and inspiration, but you can dip in and out of the book on a more casual level as well, making it a great purchase for both interior designers and avid readers of magazines like Elle Decoration.

Villa Fornasetti (Piero Fornasetti) Milan

Many of the interiors featured are of course way beyond the scope of us mere mortals (especially us renting mortals, I can't see many landlords being open to a full on red Fornasetti inspired bedroom) but there is plenty to inspire in the way of styling. Donna Karen, Ray & Charles Eames and Jonathan Adlers homes in particular are great examples of well styled spaces. Every page abounds with inspiration on colour palettes and if you're looking for inspiration on how to display your objet d'art look no further than Henry Moores Perry Green house or Jean Cocteau's slightly surreal French home. If you're merely curious (and who isn't?) the book also functions as a sneak peek into how the other half decorate. Fancy a look around Coco Chanels 1020s Paris apartment, or Christian Louboutins opulent Chateau? It's all here.

Dawnridge (Tony Duquette) Beverly Hills

The only criticism I have (and there really is only one) is that the text is infuriatingly small. The main body of it is a little challenging, the biographies even more so but the captions are almost unreadable at normal distance. Given that this is an otherwise superbly produced book it's a little disappointing to say the least and given that the text is given as much weight as the photographs I'm at a loss to explain why the books designers decided to print it this way.

That aside, this book is nothing short of essential for anyone interested in interior design and it's bound to be a lasting inspiration.

Jonathahn Adler/Simon Doonan Apartment, New York

With many thanks to Richard Powers for permission to use his images in this post, visit his website here to see more of his work.

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