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Design Books to Inspire Springtime Renewal, Indoors and Out

By Jeremy Allen

A Beautiful Mess: Celebrating the New Eclecticism 

Marie Kondo’s maxim of minimalism has been the law of the land for the last few years, but the design journalist Claire Bingham proposes a different approach. She praises a degree of disunity in “A Beautiful Mess: Celebrating the New Eclecticism” (teNeues, US$55, 192 pp.). “Orderliness is overrated,” she writes. “Scuffed, stuffed or full-throttle pattern clash — repeat after me: ‘Bless this mess.'” It’s an apt mantra for an age of anxiety, and it comes into focus via the kaleidoscopic homes of tastemakers like Victoire de Taillac of the beauty brand Buly 1803 and the designer Sussy Cazalet (a wall-spanning chalkboard has pride of place in her living room).

The New Chic: French Style From Today’s Leading Interior Designers

But charming eclecticism isn’t the only order of the day. Marie Kalt, the editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest France, champions the enduring allure of Parisian restraint in “The New Chic: French Style From Today’s Leading Interior Designers” (Rizzoli, US$65, 240 pp.). The book anoints 12 designers who “all uphold a kind of classicism ... without ever losing sight of that elusive attribute called ‘chic.'” The interiors featured — including a clean, tonal living room designed by Joseph Dirand that is punctuated with a bright blue Basquiat, and Dorothée Boissier and Patrick Gilles’ bedroom in a romantic palette of cream and rose — refresh Haussmann-era moldings and parquet floors with reverence.

The Red Thread: Nordic Design

Likewise, pride in tradition is the cornerstone of “The Red Thread: Nordic Design” (Phaidon, US$80, 288 pp.), an encyclopaedic exploration of the spare, naturalistic furniture and objects long associated with the region. The book’s title is taken from a Swedish phrase alluding to a tie that binds — be it a shared history or an aesthetic ideal. Here, it means a deference to clean lines, uncomplicated silhouettes and a purity of purpose, as seen in Poul Kjaerholm’s famed PK91 folding stool (1961), Alvar Aalto’s sinuous Screen 100 (1936) and Bertel Gardberg’s unfussy Lion cutlery (1958).

The Seaside House: Living on the Water 

Simplicity — or at least a desire to escape the complexities of city living — often leads homeowners to the sea, as richly rendered in Douglas Friedman’s photographs for “The Seaside House: Living on the Water,” by Nick Voulgaris III (Rizzoli, US$55, 240 pp.). The book tours 21 shingled, clapboarded and wood-panelled properties with the kind of laid-back charm that befits places where guests run barefoot. While many of the interiors are done in the serene blues typical of waterside homes, colour-saturated houses like Tommy Hilfiger’s in Miami provide a refreshing shock to the senses.

Ibiza Bohemia

If you prefer your seaside getaway with a bit more glamour, “Ibiza Bohemia” (Assouline, US$85, 300 pp.) is a deluxe, shocking-pink dive into the Mediterranean’s storied playground. Maya Boyd, a travel writer, teams up with the fashion stylist Renu Kashyap for what amounts to an eye-popping photo album of bright interiors, bougainvillea-covered verandas, sun-kissed locals and cerulean stretches of sea.

Entryways of Milan

A peek into another rarefied world can be had in “Entryways of Milan” (Taschen, US$70, 384 pp.), a tour of 144 modernist entrance halls just beyond the city’s unassuming exteriors. There’s a map pointing out all of the sleek “ingressi,” as they are called in Italian (the book is bilingual), but a spontaneous flipping through the pages of marble, travertine, stone and glass passages is journey enough. It’s all about creating an indelible first — and last — impression.

Three Green Reads

The same can be said for gardens, which are celebrated by three distinctive new releases. “The Garden of Peter Marino” (Rizzoli, US$85, 256 pp.) showcases the grounds of the architect’s Hamptons estate, which are studded with whimsical sculptures by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne. But perhaps no artist is more associated with lush landscapes than Claude Monet, and his gardens at Giverny, France, will surely find a new generation of fans with “A Day with Claude Monet in Giverny” (Flammarion, US$35, 224 pp.), a compact, slipcased volume. Or, if you’ve seen one too many waterlilies, consider the wormwood, hawthorn, lady’s smock or other vegetation in “Botanical Shakespeare” (Harper Design, US$23, 208 pp.), a comprehensive guide to the flora that appears in Shakespeare’s work.


It’s spring cleaning season, when direct sunlight on our possessions often produces the desire to renovate, rip up the garden and recover the wicker cushions. Some of the season’s new design books are especially inspiring.