Books: Design and Decoration: From the bath to the bazaar

BOOKS ON decoration and design seldom get reviewed, in part because their primary purpose is to beguile through pictures - indulgent and somehow suspect. But that's precisely why such books delight; people are largely absent from their photographs, allowing unnatural perfection and a dreamy, melancholy atmosphere to prevail. Here are some treats for the eye.

Even in Roman times, the bathroom was a place of pleasure - which was why the early Christian Church associated washing with moral turpitude and tried to ban it. The desire to beautify scenes of hygiene has remained strong, as the bathrooms of Pope Clement VII in the Vatican (Pompeii-style frescos), Napoleon (neoclassical murals) and Jayne Mansfield (wall-to- wall pink shag-pile carpet and a heart-shaped bath) testify. They can be found in The Book of the Bath by Francoise de Bonneville (Thames & Hudson, pounds 25), a celebration in paintings, luscious photographs and words of the evolution of baths public and private.

For those who thrill to the romance of the Islamic orient, The Bazaar by Walter M Weiss and Kurt- Michael Westermann (Thames & Hudson, pounds 32) allows you to wallow in a plethora of fezes, camels, men in long robes and dappled light. Linger over picturesque shopping from Kairouan in Tunisia to Aleppo in Syria, Samarkand and Isfahan, especially traditional trades and crafts - from lute and dagger makers to perfumers and calligraphers.

There are no traditional hunting trophies in the East African decor of Safari Style by Tim Beddow and Natasha Burns (Thames & Hudson, pounds 24.95). Instead, delectably furnished lodges and thatched camps give the flavour of an extended travel brochure. Most of East Africa was colonised between 1895 and 1915, and an Edwardian flavour can still be detected in the preponderance of wood, leather and linens, along with up-to-date ethnic style: solar- powered lamps fashioned from ostrich eggs, woven banana-leaf ceilings, and even the improbable-sounding "Masai Versailles".

The airy black-and-white interiors depicted in Irish Houses and Gardens: from the archives of Country Life by Sen O'Reilly (Aurum, pounds 35) seem impossibly grand and formal. They include not just the Georgian mansions of the Anglo- Irish - the demolition of which inspired the foundation of the Irish Georgian Society - but examples of Irish Gothic, as well as Lissadell, home of Yeats's friends the Gore-Booths; now as then, "The light of evening, Lissadell/ Great windows open to the south". The Irish Home by Ianthe Ruthven (Collins & Brown, pounds 25) contains some of the same settings but, in addition, cosy cottages, clutter and colour.

Alistair McAlpine has variously collected African beads, stuffed animals, rustic Australian furniture and American Expressionists. In Collecting & Display (by Alistair McAlpine and Cathy Giangrande; Conran Octopus, pounds 30), he revels in the collections of others (teeth extracted by Peter the Great of Russia, displays of weapons at Chevening). It contains inventive ways of storing and showing treasures and sections on conservation.

The English Archive of Design and Decoration by Stafford Cliff (Thames & Hudson, pounds 32) is a grand idea somewhat overdesigned. Cliff lays out pages of intoxicating and mostly anonymous designs from 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century pattern-books - from butterknives to pagoda jelly moulds and rococo chairbacks.

Among edifying reference books, 20th-Century Architecture by Jonathan Glancey (Carlton Books, pounds 29.95) is an entertaining tour around 400 of the century's seminal buildings; each one is given a page to itself, with a big picture and a short history and appraisal. Glancey includes buildings he considers bad, as well as favourites from Lutyens to Le Corbusier, the Empire State Building to the Peter Jones department store in London. Contemporary World Architecture by Hugh Pearman (Phaidon, pounds 59.95) is a thumping building-block of a book that in 13 chapters and more than 1,000 pictures rounds up a huge slice of significant architecture from the past 30 years. Packed with unfamiliar and photogenic buildings, it boasts a briskly informative text. For a broader overview, Nikolaus Pevsner's The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (pounds 25) has been newly overhauled by John Fleming and Hugh Honour. Pevsner addicts can turn to the latest volume, London 4: North by Bridget Cherry and Pevsner (Penguin pounds 30).

The rickshaw is an astonishingly resilient means of transport: it was invented in Japan in the 1870s to compete with tardy sedan chairs and costly carriages, and has persisted into the motorised age. Even so it is a feat to fill a book with different varieties - from 12 cities - as Tony Wheeler and Richard L 'Anson do in Chasing Rickshaws (Lonely Planet, pounds 19.99). The most joyous are the painted ones in Dhaka, the rarest, the eight remaining red rickshaws of Hong Kong.

In Country and Modern (Quadrille, pounds 20) Dinah Hall argues the case for rural minimalism. Her model is the austere medieval monastery, castle or barn - where light, and bare walls dominate. She also espouses the delights of "shackology": "deep within each one of us lives the spirit of a primitive hut dweller".

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?