Susan Weber

Curator; Academic; Writer; Editor / Interior Design / United States / Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture

Books Every Interior Designer Should Read

All my life, I’ve been “into” interior design in one way or another. It began with looking at the so-called shelter magazines, moved on to watching my mother make decorative choices for our home, to deciding in college that this was an area that went beyond “pretty” and revealed unsuspected facets about my world. To discover, explore, and try to understand the cultural meanings of what would become to be known as material culture would become the governing intellectual passion of my adult life. . . . View the complete text
12 books
Peter Thornton

An important source for historical information on interiors by an internationally renowned expert in the decorative arts, with the added plus that a large number of the illustrations were made at the time when the decoration was more or less new.

Penny Sparke et al.

A fascinating anthology of essays exploring the design of the modern interior, this ambitious book explores what it means to inhabit the modern world—the ideas behind modern interiors and how they shape our modern culture—and covers work created in Europe, the U. S., Australia and Japan.

Penny Sparke

Explores the life of the mother of modern interior decoration in the 20th century. This monograph highlights 29 of Elsie de Wolfe’s commissions, ranging from those for financier and collector Henry Clay Frick to Hollywood star Ethel Barrymore. De Wolfe believed that “an atmosphere of beauty could cure a world of ills.” Most important, she decluttered the Victorian interior.

Thomas Jayne

Covers our greatest interiors—from the Tea Room at Jefferson’s Monticello to an Albert Hadley modern sitting room.

Peter Thornton

A brilliant survey of four centuries of Western design history that ranges from the High Renaissance in Italy to the origins of the modern movement in 1870. Thornton himself refers to it as “a straightforward account of how style developed in the decorative arts between 1470 and 1870. It is primarily written for students of design history. . . .”

Mario Praz

A particular favorite of mine and the bible for design historians who wish to trace the history of interiors from Pompeii to Art Nouveau. It is crammed with 400 paintings and watercolors, mostly from 1770 to 1860, that illustrate interiors from Europe, Russia, and the U. S. with commentary and insights from this renowned and extremely literate scholar.

James Archer Abbott

The first survey of the evolution of the celebrated interior decorating house Maison Jansen (1880–1989), founded by the Dutch-born Jean-Henri Jansen, which became the most famous and influential decorating house of the 20th century. With offices or boutiques in 11 different cities, including New York and London, the firm, best known for its French neoclassical revival style, was patronized by some of the greatest celebrities, world leaders, and financiers of the 20th century.

Sarah Schleuning

A lush, lavish, and beautiful exploration of the French interior during the 1920s with more than 200 plates selected by Sarah Schleuning, a curator at the Wolfsonian Museum in Florida. The accompanying essay by Jeremy Aynsley is a model of its kind. Also included are designers’ biographies and a brief bibliography.

Christopher Wilk Editor

Edited by Christopher Wilk, the curator of the exhibition of the same name held at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2006, and with major contributions from highly regarded design experts, this book is lavishly illustrated and looks at the designed world from 1914 to 1939 as the key point of reference for 20th-century architecture, design, and art.

Judith Gura

A two-volume work by a former BGC master’s degree student, Judith Gura. It provides a photographic overview of the nearly 100 designers who have played an innovative role in decorating New York City interiors for more than five decades. The work of such legends as Eleanor McMillen Brown, Billy Baldwin, and Mark Hampton can be found as well as that of lesser-known but equally innovative designers. The third eagerly awaited volume in this series will cover contemporary designers.

Pauline Metcalf

Explores the fascinating life and talents of Syrie Maugham (1879–1955), wife of Somerset Maugham, fashion icon, interior designer, and mover and shaker in the world of interior design. Particularly noted for introducing all-white rooms and understated interiors mixed with 18th- and 19th-century furniture, she had an enormous influence that ranged from Hollywood film sets to Britain’s royal family.

Pat Kirkham Editor

Published by the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) in conjunction with its landmark exhibition in 2000–2001. Edited by Pat Kirkham, a member of the BGC faculty, this truly groundbreaking study examines a broad range of women designers, from the most famous (Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Donna Karan) to those anonymous women who worked in many different fields, including textiles, graphics, ceramics, furniture, fashion, and jewelry and contributed to 20th-century American culture.

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