Gifts on the table

December 04, 2010|By Dennis Hockman, ChesapeakeHome

Over the years, I've collected hundreds of coffee table books on interior design, architecture, home improvement, landscaping and the decorative arts. Beautifully photographed, informative, and inspirational, many of the books would make the perfect present — or even a gift to yourself. Here are a few of my favorite new releases.

For the design aficionado

'Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator'

Rizzoli 2010, $65

Known to some as the "Dean of American Decorating," many Baltimore natives remember Billy Baldwin as the guy Aunt Tilly hired to help decorate the parlor. Born and raised here, Baldwin decorated Henry Ladew's residence, among many others. After leaving Baltimore, he became a favorite among the New York elite and designed interiors for such people as Cole Porter and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Adam Lewis' new biographical account, "Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator," is the first book that gathers a full range of images illustrating the breadth of Baldwin's career. Famous for his classical taste, streamlined modernism, and brilliant use of color, Baldwin had an uncluttered, dramatic style that reinvented chic with such verve that it still inspires the work of furniture and interior designers.

For the entertainer

'Bunny Williams' Scrapbook For Living'

Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2010, $60

A renowned interior designer and garden expert with roots in Virginia's horse country, Bunny Williams has been one of the country's top interior designers for over 30 years. The comprehensive scope of Williams' "Scrapbook for Living" includes not only decorating advice but also tips for organizing, living with pets and throwing parties.

Just out for the holidays, the book takes readers on a room-by-room guided tour of some her favorite houses. In the introduction, Williams recalls the homes in which she most enjoyed being a guest — those that made her feel comfortable. Her book is an ode to the magic of these houses, to the details that transcend decorating and become something more.

As much about making life more comfortable and enjoyable as it is about design, Williams' "Scrapbook" takes the pretense out of decorating without diminishing the simple, life-enhancing beauty that houses, at their best, can be.

For the traditionalist

'Christmas at Historic Houses'

Schiffer 2010, $45

Baltimore, Annapolis, Frederick, the Eastern Shore, our nation's capital, and the surrounding areas boast thousands of historic houses as well as newer homes with designs rooted in architectural tradition. As such, the way many homes are decorated for Christmas reflects our past.

"Christmas at Historic Houses" presents 30 historic houses from all over the country with more than 400 color photographs of traditional Christmas decor. The book features Washington's Tudor Place, once the home of George Washington's granddaughter, Martha Custis Peters, and Riversdale House near College Park, a plantation built by George Calvert, a grandson of the fifth Lord Baltimore, offering a glimpse of how they might have celebrated the season.

Great for inspiring your own decorating, as a hostess gift for a historic homeowner on your list or simply to display for the holidays.

For the innovator

'Greening Modernism'

Norton 2010, $60

While "Greening Modernism" is more academic treatise than coffee table book, it does offer an accessible resource for understanding how and why green buildings can play a dominant role in addressing the global energy and environmental crises.

Based on sound economic analysis, the book shows how the tenets of modern design are eco-friendly and pragmatic. Author Carl Stein, nationally recognized for his contributions to the field of sustainable design, explores the cause/effect relationship between individual building design decisions and natural resources.

Rather than focus on specifics like bamboo floors and low-VOC paints, the book takes a big-picture approach to sustainability. Geared toward practitioners and students of architecture, engineering, planning and environmentalism, "Greening Modernism" is delivered in short, easy-to-digest sections, making it perfect for homeowners interested in scratching more than the surface of green design.

For the gardener

'Garden Bouquets and Beyond'

Rodale 2010, $35

Timely and practical, "Garden Bouquets and Beyond: Creating Wreaths, Garlands and More in Every Garden Season" presents tips and ideas for do-it-yourself floral design alongside the stunning photography of Steven Randazzo.

Drawing on her lifelong experience in gardening and floral design, Suzy Bales offers tips and suggestions for cutting flowers and foliage from the landscape to create beautiful, seasonally appropriate arrangements. Her advice includes when to cut and how to arrange, and using flowers, leaves and vines in many types of arrangements.

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