Book List of the Week

Contemplating the Past and Looking into the Future: David Easton’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter November 8, 2011

David Easton

Interior designer David Easton (New York)

Book list

David Easton comes to books the same way he does to interior design—from a richly textured background threaded through with his own inimitable instincts. After earning a degree in architecture from Pratt Institute and then making full-scale furniture drawings for modernist Edward Wormley, Easton worked for the firm of Parish-Hadley (where he was “seduced by decoration”) before establishing his own practice in 1972. As one of the most in-demand interior designers, he became noted for his neoclassical approach to architecture, interior decorating, and furnishings.

Through the English-style interiors that he created for his many high-profile clients and through his purchase and transformation of Balderbrae—his home in Suffern, New York—his was perhaps the most emblematic voice of interior design during the 1980s and 1990s. In recent years, he has evolved a more streamlined, contemporary vision. “The aesthetic of those wonderful European houses is past,” he recently told Architectural Digest.

One of the many factors that helps explain Easton’s evolving aesthetic views is his apparently insatiable interest in books. (Of his reading habits he says, “I’m in the process of reading probably five books right now. I get going on one, then pick up another, but eventually I get through them all!”) He has more than 4,000 volumes in his library, and those volumes cover the widest possible range of topics—spanning history, religion, architecture, furniture, religion, travel, and reference books.*

This interest in the wide ranging and eclectic is, not surprisingly, also evident in the book list he submitted to Designers & Books. There are many books on architecture and interior design, both classical and modern, among them, David Adler: The Architect and His Work by Richard Pratt; Dunbar: Fine Furniture of the 1950s (which focuses on Edward Wormley’s designs); La Maison de Verre by Dominique Vellay; and The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr. Easton also selects a book on “one of my favorite classicists” in landscape design, The Gardens of Russell Page by Marina Schinz and Gabrielle van Zuylen.

For business and also personal travel, over the years Easton has logged hundreds of thousands of miles on planes, and his book list reflects an interest in people and cultures spanning the globe. On his list are Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia; Meerlust: 300 Years of Hospitality (South Africa); and Imperial Delhi.

Timeless Elegance, 2010 (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Reflecting an interest in a different sort of culture and a different kind of place, A Clockwork Orange is on Easton’s list, with his comment that the book is “looking into the future—good, bad, or indifferent.” When we suggested to him that the book might perhaps be an unexpected choice, Easton told us: “I am a huge fan of science fiction, and as disserving as this book can be, it certainly tells the future of an overcrowded world, which is fast approaching us.”

What’s on his current reading list? The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux, Balfour: The Last Grandee by R.J.Q. Adams, and Paris 1919 by Margaret Macmillan. And where does he find the books that end up on his to-read list? “Either in my reading of newspapers, or when I browse at bookstores. Friends also seem to know what I like, and I often receive books as gifts from them. My favorite bookstores in New York (sadly, almost all the ones I really loved have disappeared) are Archivia on Lexington Avenue, Rizzoli on 57th Street, and, of course, Strand, on Broadway and 12th Street. In London, I go to Haywood Hill at 10 Curzon Street; and in Paris, Galignani at 224 rue de Rivoli, and Lardanchet at 1 rue du Faubourg, St. Honoré.”

Easton’s book of his own work, Timeless Elegance (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2010), features 18 projects and includes black-and-white pencil drawings and watercolors as well as photography depicting the development of each project. Designers & Books had the chance to asked Easton what the process of putting together the book was like.

“At first it was a very hard decision to do the book at all— I didn’t want it to be a collection of pretty pictures—I wanted to show the process, the detail that goes into a project from beginning to end. I wanted to include drawings, floor plans, rough sketches, etc., that show the design process and how we put a project together. I have not seen many books that do that, so my inspiration was really something that existed in my mind.

Study drawing for a library in a private residence, Dallas, TX, 2005

Getting ready to enter the holiday gift season, we asked Easton about giving books as gifts. "My favorite book to give at any time of the year is Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins—a wonderful story about the privileged world of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two Americans living in France in the 1920s.”

* New York Social Diary – David Easton, April 20, 2007

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