Find decor inspiration from these books that cover design history, the origins of colour and the vibrant work of interior designers and architects around the world

Much as we do enjoy browsing Pinterest and Instagram for decor ideas, there is just something quite so serendipitous about finding inspiration from design tomes. Whether you’re revisiting a cherished volume from your own shelves or discovering new reads in a well-stocked bookstore and in your favourite library, you might just chance upon that next great idea for your next home renovation.

Besides getting ideas for colour schemes, or being acquainted with design styles or the work of notable architects and designers around the world, there are plenty of reasons to pick up these inspiring reads; and yes, they can make excellent additions for your #shelfies too.

The best of these books are both beautifully presented and wonderfully written in ways that intrigue curious minds and stir up that desire to delve deeper into the realm of design. Take a page (pardon the pun) from these volumes nominated by editors from Tatler Homes as their favourite reads, and cover a wide variety of subjects.

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Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval

I love the origin story of how this book came to be—it’s inspired by the Instagram account of the same name, which gathers serendipitous discoveries of inspiring places and spaces around the world that appear almost as if they were meant to appear in a Wes Anderson film.

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It’s interesting to see the different interpretations of the American film director’s aesthetic by his fans. Plus, every other page is also highly wanderlust-inducing. This is really a book to slowly savour and flip through whenever I’m in need of some vibrant design inspiration. The tome also comes with a foreword written by the director himself, and the book does include a few locations photographed in Singapore that will give you more reason to look at these everyday sights with new eyes; an easy testament that shows inspiration can truly be found everywhere.

—Hong Xinying, regional managing editor of Tatler Homes 

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The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair

I do have an incorrigible habit of collecting shelves of books—both fiction and non-fiction tomes—even before I’ve finished reading my current selection. While that Japanese concept of tsundoku (‘piling up’ books) is something I’m well-familiar with, there are certain volumes that I find myself returning to time and time again.

The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair is one of such books that I enjoy perusing just a chapter or two at a time and I’m pleased to find new nuggets of information at every reading session, and thereafter I find myself sucked into an information wormhole looking up more details about each hue online. 

While the book does not offer much in the way of practical tips or colour pairing ideas, I appreciate how it still presents an interesting glossary of ideas that might make you reconsider how you employ various shades in different spaces and realms of your life. I also love how the book is presented, where each page features the tone described and can be visible from the side so that you could easily just flip to the serene shades when you’re feeling just a little blue or the brighter hues when you’re looking for sunnier pigments to discover.

—Hong Xinying, regional managing editor of Tatler Homes 

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Elemental by Fiona Barratt-Campbell

I was recently gifted a copy of Elemental, authored by British interior designer Fiona Barratt-Campbell and described by its publisher Rizzoli as a “definitive master class in interior design”—and it’s become one of my favourite coffee table books. Elemental is for anyone who’s keen to feast their eyes on spectacular interiors—and also pick up some design tips from a pro.

Barrat-Campbell, who is the founder of London-based Fiona Barratt Interiors and furniture brand FBC London, is known for her use of bold textures and silhouettes—and always with a sense of modern, timeless elegance. The book showcases her signature aesthetic through a variety of past projects: think historic country piles and sleek city apartments across her native UK, as well as overseas. A read of Elemental is the perfect way to while away an afternoon—and the book, of course, would make for a beautiful addition to any coffee table.

—Andrea Lo, editor, Tatler Homes Hong Kong 

Elements of Architecture by Rem Koolhaas and Irma Boom

I’ve always been a fan of the architect, Rem Koolhaas’ multi-faceted work and an even bigger fan of book designer extraordinaire, Irma Boom. These two greats come together in one rather large tome, Elements of Architecture which clocks in at 2,600 pages and 4 kgs. This landmark book follows up on Koolhaas’—and the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s—research for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and reexamines architecture’s basic elements by going back to its fundamentals.

Chapters have laconic names—ceiling, floor, window etc—and painstakingly examine each individual element through its history, from origins to current technological advances. Koolhaas himself also introduces the material with a preamble which sets the tone and clues the reader in on how to approach the material. 

Like all Boom’s books, the Elements of Architecture has a twist with an innovative split spine that allows the pages of the book to fall flat despite its thickness. Because this allows the book to fall open naturally to the centre, Koolhaas’ aforementioned introduction can be found in the middle. Boom also deploys a number of wayfinding tricks to make navigating the dense book easier. This includes having the outer edge of the page colours reflect the subject matter, sometimes literally as with the terracotta red of Roof, a reference to tiles, and sometimes more figuratively, such as the muted shade of beige used for Corridor. 

Not a book for the fainthearted, Elements of Architecture certainly has a presence and an authority that makes it a collectable object—with a substantial weight and ambition matched by the talents of Koolhaas and Boom.

—Jennifer Choo, editor-in-chief, Tatler Homes Malaysia

Woman Made: Great Women Designers by Jane Hall

I recently managed to get my hands on a copy of Woman Made: Great Women Designers by British architect Jane Hall, and it has been such an eye-opening read. Published by Phaidon, the A to Z-style book features a compendium of works by more than 200 women across 50 countries.

Behind the striking mint leatherette cover lies pages that pay homage to women in design, who have often been overlooked and underrepresented. The female designers featured are an interesting range; they vary from design icons the likes of midcentury American designer Ray Eames and Milan-based designer Nathalie du Pasquier of Memphis Group fame, to modern designers like lighting maven Lindsey Adelman to British interior designer Ilse Crawford. In an interview with Dezeen, Hall revealed that she deliberately listed the names out in alphabetical order and not chronological, so as to “create really interesting juxtapositions” that allows the readers to “see objects outside of the time in which they're presented”.

The array of works featured is equally varied. From Eames’ iconic lounge chair to British designer Faye Toogood’s Roly Poly chair, the diverse range of designs offers an insight into the contribution of women designers to the world’s design oeuvre throughout history til today. 

—Cheryl Lai-Lim, writer, Tatler Homes Singapore 

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