Dominique Browning

Critic; Writer; Editor / Interior Design / United States /

Books Every Interior Designer Should Read

Good decorators must constantly feed their heads. They never stop hitting the refresh button. It doesn’t matter whether they’re looking for inspiration or sources, or looking with admiration or disgust. The point is they never stop looking. For that reason, there isn’t a bad design book out there, because every picture has something to teach the discerning eye . . . View the complete text
18 books
Dorothy Rodgers

This lovely, intimate memoir written in 1965 by the wife of composer Richard Rodgers describes the house in Connecticut she designed with the help of a young architect. It gives a rare glimpse into the way an engaged client enters into the design process.

Penny Sparke

Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, invented interior decoration as a profession. She championed the use of chintz, unusual color combinations, and painted and stenciled furniture. She was a colorful, eccentric character, an American actress who became a prominent socialite. She was the author of an influential book in 1913, The House in Good Taste.

David Hicks

I happen to love all of Hicks’s books: On Decoration, On Living with Taste, and On Bathrooms. But the fabric book, written in 1971, pushes the envelope—as he did with his bold, idiosyncratic decorating style—and remains a useful eye-opener today.

Meredith Etherington-Smith

This book fascinates because Vervoordt is such an omnivore; his tastes are huge, and eclectic, and he has an outsized ego to match. But sometimes that’s what it takes. It is amazing—and entertaining—to follow the evolution of what can only be called a modernist baroque style.

Beverley Nichols

Nichols is generally thought of as a garden writer, but his descriptions of renovating his Georgian manor house are equally wonderful. He has a dry, acerbic wit, but one that is overlain with a rich and emotional sensuality. Nichols captures what it means to love and rescue a house. You’ll laugh so hard that I defy you not to read the two other books in this trilogy.

Pauline Metcalf

We think of Hollywood glamour as quintessentially American, but it actually grew out of the style of an English designer credited with designing the first all-white room. She worked in New York, Chicago, and Palm Beach; many of the techniques she employed are still popular today. Maugham was a contemporary of Elsie de Wolfe’s, and though their tastes differed, each left a profound impression on the history of interior design.

Edith Wharton
Ogden Codman Jr.

First published in 1897, as a reaction to the fussy, ornate Victorian style, this book describes a classical tradition in decorating and architecture. It makes an eloquent plea for a return to better principles of design—and expresses those simply and elegantly.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

You will never forget the description of the gem-encrusted tortoise.

Billy Baldwin

A delicious memoir, disguised as a design book, which chronicles the lifestyles of mid-century High Wasp society. It contains a rather astonishing chapter on two visits with Jackie Kennedy. The first took place a week before President John F. Kennedy's fateful trip to Dallas; the other three weeks after he was assassinated. Baldwin was asked to decorate a house for Mrs. Kennedy and her children that she had quickly purchased in Washington. One doesn't stop to think about how difficult it must have been for the newly widowed First Lady, her life shattered, to have had to suddenly move house, and give her small children a new, warm, and secure sense of home. Baldwin's descriptions are sensitive and fascinating.

Thomas Mann
Translated by John E. Woods
John Saladino

John Saladino, a graduate of the Yale School of Art and Architecture, is a highly respected contemporary designer, who also happens to be unusually articulate. His book is full of information about how to work with color, scale, and light.

Billy Baldwin

Baldwin describes the apartment he designed for Cole Porter in the Waldorf Towers as the most outstanding of his accomplishments. In the middle of the 20th century, Baldwin championed an American sensibility in decoration. The lessons he shares—in chapters such as “How to be an expert with pattern” and “What to make of a wall”—are as relevant today as they were then.

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