The appeal of shelter magazines and design books, for the most part, is that they afford us a peek into how other people live. They show us environs that more often that not we can only dream of having. They transport us to us French chateaus or Moroccan riads or dreamy cottages by the sea. We are invited into the homes of aristocratic families and tastemakers and are given tours of rooms and libraries and gardens, all from the comfort of our own sofas.
If like me you enjoy this kind of armchair interiors voyeurism (and because we can’t really travel to say Brazil right now to see a Dorothy Draper-designed resort that seems to have inspired the set of Nurse Ratched) prepare to spend hours and hours being transported by these books:
The Live of Others: Sublime Interiors Of Extraordinary People by Simon Watson
The photographer Simon Watson has long trained his lenses on interiors. He is a master of capturing the personalities of homeowners through his atmospheric photography. In his book The Lives of Others, he takes us on a journey to homes in Italy, Austria, Spain, Morocco, Ireland and France. Homes that have history and a sense of place, which he captures ever so magnificently with his poetic eye for composition and lighting. “Just as you have to carefully read a story before you can retell it in your own words, you must first look at something very closely before you can photograph it. I believe this is one of Simon’s great skills: he is the visual equivalent of a good listener…,” wrote the editor Tom Delvan in the book’s foreword.
The homes in the book are not what you would normally see in other design tomes where every square foot is design to death. In fact, it is very much the opposite. The Lives of Others celebrates spaces that are lived-in. It revels in the patina, cracks and fading character of rooms loved and used. It embraces how a homeowner casually puts together bibelots and mementos. Worn patches on beloved armchairs and wallpaper peeling in corners are celebrated just as much as the majestic rooms of the Duchess of Alba in Madrid or the magnificently tiled Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
Interior Voyages by Matthieu Salvaing
The French photographer Matthieu Salvaing has a long association with the worlds and personalities associated with architecture, fashion, film and interior design. He previously photographed and wrote a book on the work of architect Oscar Niemeyer. He has taken portraits of fashion’s most iconic figures like Karl Lagerfeld, Ines de la Fressange and Betty Catroux. He worked with Wong Kar Wai on the visually stunning film 2046. And he has also photographed homes and interiors all over the world some of which make up his latest book Interior Voyages.
While travel is still largely restricted, why not get transported to places far and wide, via Salvaing’s photography? There’s the 19th century holiday house of Jean-Francois Lesage (of embroidery house Lesage) in India that is decorated with local furniture mixed with European accents. In France, there’s Chateau Vilmorin with its windows framed by climbing roses. It has been owned by the Vilmorin family since 1815. In Mexico, we are treated to a house with festive colors and dazzling tilework, while in Beirut intricate stone and wood carvings give us a decorative history lesson. Dorothy Draper’s iconic Hollywood Regency style is resplendent in the former luxury resort hotel Palacio Quitandinha in Brazil.
Until we can travel freely once again, flipping through Interior Voyages will satisfy our wanderlust for now.
Be My Guest: At Home With The Taste Makers by Pierre Sauvage
Ah, to sit at a dinner table with friends once again!
Pierre Sauvage, the owner of the design firm Casa Lopez, proposes that we be entertained by his book Be My Guest while we wait out the effects of Covid. He has enlisted the help of his many stylish friends to open up their homes for us. He’s asked them to set up place settings with an array of plates, glassware, flowers and candles – because who wouldn’t want to dine in style? And he’s asked them to share their favorite meals and recipes so we can recreate them in our own homes. Gorgeous photographs of homes and feasts coupled with nuggets of entertaining wisdom will make you long to be a guest at the homes in the people featured in the book. “I want to share my love for a particular style of art de vivre, and above all for the friendships that are forged through a passion for entertaining,” wrote Sauvage.
Partake in a poolside lunch under a cloud of foliage and flowers at Christian Louboutin’s escape in Portugal. Enjoy some onion confit followed by couscous in Linda Pinto’s trés chic Paris apartment. Relax and enjoy cocktails in the chinoiserie room at Jacques Garcia’s chateau Champ-de-Bataille. Have a dessert of lemon tiramisu in the circular light blue dining room of Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani while admiring their collections of objet d’arts.
And lastly, spend the holidays at Sauvage’s own home with its enormous Christmas tree and a festive table decorated with the colors of the holidays.