Our selection of the best craft, design and interiors books of 2010.
Best design books of 2010
Etcetera by Sibella Court Murdoch Books Dh99
The Australian stylist Sibella Court refers to herself as a "bowerbird" - a collector who loves to gather treasures for her nest. She acts as curator and guide, using her trademark "slapdash styling" to teach us that the art of creating a beautiful home is about collecting the things we love and displaying them with imagination and flair, rather than simply copying a "look" from a magazine. With Court's passion for colour, quirky objets and her obsession with all things natural history related, this is the biblio equivalent of delving into a cabinet of curiosities: there's something unexpected and wonderful at every turn. It was recently voted Best Designed Book of the Year at the Sydney Writers Festival and justifiably so; from the letterpress fonts to the stunning photography and scrapbook-style layouts, it's a delight.
Stitch! by Cath Kidston Quadrille Dh88
Following the success of Sew! and Make!, the designer and businesswoman extraordinaire has now turned her attention to reinventing the art of needlepoint. Apart from the irritating exclamation mark in the title, this is a lovely book, packed with 30 simple cross stitch and needlepoint projects with easy-to-follow instructions. Forget the stuffy image of the craft; these projects are funky and fun, often incorporating Kidston's colourful, retro fabrics. Beginners will be relieved to learn that it's easy to get started; the stitches are worked on a basic canvas grid made up of squares and the book comes with a kit containing everything needed to make the cute zip-up purse shown on the cover.
Made at Home by Lisa Stickley Quadrille Dh99
The London-based textile designer Lisa Stickley has reinterpreted simple sewing projects for the home in her first book. Using her trademark vintage fabrics, the beautiful photography and whimsical illustrations give every page her individual look - retro with a modern twist - and her use of the lower case throughout is reminiscent of the quirky, nostalgic sayings that adorn her designs. The book has a helpful "basic techniques" section, with step-by-step sewing projects for each area of the home - all of which can be completed in a weekend. Stickley also has an infectious enthusiasm for detail: "for an extra posh napkin it is nice to add a buttonhole to one corner," she writes. "I first saw this done on a British Airways napkin from the 1960s; it is a great idea, especially when wearing a white shirt and eating spaghetti." How true.
London Family Style by Coco Tashima and Hisashi Tokuyoshi Paumes Dh117
This latest in the Edition Paumes series of lifestyle books gives us a fly-on-the-wall insight into the lives and homes of 18 creative families living in London. The interiors featured in this book do not belong to the rich and famous; just interesting, arty but ordinary people - musicians, ceramicists, designers and sculptors - who have used imagination and creativity to turn houses into comfortable, beautiful homes. Of course, there are plenty of ideas to steal and gorgeous rooms to ogle, but the rooms are never unrealistically perfect or overly styled. Instead, they're real; full of clutter, colour and love. Like the rest of the Paumes publications, this book is written in Japanese but the names of the homeowners are in English and the photographs tell the stories better than words ever could. In fact, the Japanese captions simply add to the charm.
Plants and Places by Angie Lewin Merrell Publishers Dh146
The artist and printmaker Angie Lewin has collected 80 of her nature-inspired prints here, together with collages, textile designs, drawings and paintings from her sketchbooks. Inspired by the salt marshes and cliff tops of the English coast and the Scottish Highlands, Lewin's designs depict these contrasting environments and the various plants that grow there. The book is divided into chapters according to natural themes: coast, woodland and hedgerow, river and loch - and text is kept to a minimum throughout, giving Lewin's striking designs plenty of space to breathe. From wood engravings and linocuts to silkscreen printing and lithographs, all of her processes are explored in real detail and we're left with a beautiful book that is as easy to dip in to at random points as it is to read from cover to cover.
My Cool Caravan by Jane Field-Lewis and Chris Haddon Pavilion Dh87
Reading this book is enough to make anyone want to pack up a picnic and take to the open road in a super-stylish home from home. It's a celebration of the coolest caravans around, full of fabulous photographs of quirky interiors. From the kitsch, 1950s- style "Constance" caravan to the sleek "Shasta" caravan (decked out like an American diner complete with a retro "hot dogs" sign), many of the featured caravans have unusual elements: one boasts a crystal chandelier and expensive designer wallpaper on the ceiling, while another, which used to be an undertaker's van, is now a cheerful, canary yellow hideaway. One niggle: it's a shame that the owners of the caravans are only shown in a few of the shots. If their eccentric rooms on wheels are anything to go by, they must be an interesting bunch.
Romantic Style by Selina Lake and Sara Norrman Ryland Peter Small Dh117
If you're a fan of faded florals, white-painted shabby-chic floorboards and dainty vintage china, this guide to perfect feminine style is for you. In the introduction, romantic style is presented as "the interiors equivalent of the Slow Food movement" - Lake and Norrman advocate slowly building up the various elements for a room, instead of rushing out and buying everything for one particular scheme - a very relevant philosophy in our post-recession climate. The book takes a room-by-room tour of all things pretty, outlining the key ingredients of the romantic look along the way and dispensing useful decorating advice. The close-up shots are delicious - a sparkling necklace, a piece of lace, a fresh peony in fuchsia pink - and there's a handy directory on the back page to explore further.
Casual Living by Judith Wilson Ryland Peter Small Dh117
The interiors expert Judith Wilson explores fuss-free but gorgeous homes by focusing on three aspects of casual style: city, country and seaside. The rooms shown are beautiful of course, but also inviting, cosy and achievable. The emphasis throughout is on comfort - something we all seek at home in this age of stressful, fast-paced living. There are soothing, tranquil bathrooms, relaxed living rooms and practical but welcoming kitchens - all beautifully shot by the photographer Polly Wreford. This book inspires us to create homes that are more than just places to live; we're encouraged to make cocoons for ourselves where we can unwind and re-charge our batteries without worrying about fashion fads, formality or convention - a refreshing take on interior design.
Farrow & Ball Living With Colour by Ros Byam-Shaw and Jan Baldwin Ryland Peter Small Dh175
The design experts Ros Byam-Shaw and Jan Baldwin take us on a tour of elegant painted interiors in this smart coffee-table tome. The first half of the book features photographs of 16 houses, all painted with Farrow & Ball's chic paints; from tiny country cottages to sleek city flats and there's a real mixture of contemporary and traditional schemes, demonstrating the versatility of F&B's famous palette. The second half of the book is divided into five chapters, according to colour schemes: neutral, all white, bright, bold and dark. The book explains how to use colours to give a home atmosphere, character and charm, but because the colours featured are all from one particular palette, it's not really a full exploration of colour as such - there are no bright pinks or oranges, for example. But the tasteful Farrow & Ball shades are so visually appealing that all is forgiven.
The Homemade Home by Sania Pell Cico Books Dh99
Unlike your run-of-the-mill craft book - full of twee, cutesy makes - this coffee-table essential from the textile designer and stylist Sania Pell is bang on trend. Detailing 50 thrifty but chic projects, there are no lavender hearts or knitted owls in sight. Instead, Pell teaches us how to make elegant appliquéd throws, fashionable fabric-covered coat hangers and stylish stencilled furniture. Her step-by-step instructions are clear and concise, making the projects accessible to beginners as well as more experienced crafters. There are ideas for every room of the house, plus useful suggestions for homemade gifts. Surprisingly, considering the impressive results, none of the projects requires expensive equipment or materials; it's amazing what can be achieved with some hand-me-down furniture, a few buttons or beads and a tin of leftover paint.