On the Shelf: Book Report - Inside information

Nonie Niesewand steals a few trade secrets from leading-edge designers and architects

Returning home after the summer holidays, you notice how shabby the place has got. Plumping up the cushions and throwing out the junk mail isn't going to turn it into House Beautiful. That's why book publishers release in autumn what used to be called coffee-table books to give us an idea of what's going on behind designer-label closed doors.

Not a lot, disappointingly. Interior design has gone through the pale and interestingly beige stage, the touchy-feely sensuous phase and the eclectic phase, which meant nobody knew what was going on. Now the opinionated and talented design set are holding back until the 21st century to be directional. Better to curl up in your armchair with a book about Patrick Cox or Georgina von Etzdorf to find out how they turned themselves into designer labels. And if you haven't replaced your coffee table with a magazine rack yet (all the British designers are knocking them up) you could always find room on it for two architectural tomes with fashionable titles, Sweden and Architecture and the Environment.

Grand Illusions, New Decorating

by Nick Ronald and David Roberts

Ebury Press, pounds 19.99

This is subtitled "Technique, Ideas & Inspiration for Creating a Fresh Look" and written by Nick Ronald and David Roberts, whose Grand Illusions shop in south London has, I trust, better contents than their book. A full-page colour photo of olive oil or pebbles, linen pillows in a stack, candles or a single green leaf in a vase is less inspiring to most home-makers than the Ikea catalogue.

Recipes for DIY are mostly impractical, too. To put up their "Aged Wooden Shelf" you first have to fix tongue-and-groove panels to the walls with battens, a joinery job dismissed without any instructions. If you want to set wet concrete in a slab around some night candles that will have gone out before the cement dries, or tie gingham bows on chairs and curtain rods, and arrange pebbles in big circles on table tops, then this manual is a must-have.

"With passion, the must-haves of today will become the heirlooms of tomorrow," the authors insist. At times this psychobabble becomes quite Dadaist: "passion herbs sunflowers radiant sea luminous sand fish sunkissed" is their unpunctuated introduction to Mediterranean style. French interior designer Andree Putman once helpfully observed that if you have to ask what style is, then you don't have any.

Inside

by Janne Faulkner

Allen & Unwin, pounds 24.99

An interior designer who has worked in Australia for 30 years, Janne Faulkner is a real pro. She compiles useful questions which you should ask yourself before decoration, then she gives the answers based around individual houses and apartments that she has ditzed up. Even if she is introducing a palatial pool-deck house in Sydney and you have a two-up- two-down in Tooting Bec, the information in those checklists is surprisingly applicable. Had you thought of drawing up a list of everything you need to store? Or finding out which way the front room faces before choosing a paint colour?

There are practical tips on lights, storage, upholstery, windows, wall and floor treatments and good-looking, efficient kitchen planning. The downside is that some of the schemes look dated. In the fashionable world of interiors a decade is a very long time, and she spans three. Power- dressed rooms with clunky furniture, gilded and flounced with fabrics and outsize bouquets aren't popular. She knows it, too, which is why the more recent schemes, particularly the informal ones, are better. Not enough to justify the book's price though.

Cutting Edge: Alberto Alessi, Georgina von Etzdorf, Patrick Cox, Tibor Kalman

Thames and Hudson, pounds 9.95

Alessi, The Design Factory

Academy Editions, pounds 22.50

Thames & Hudson's Cutting Edge mini-series profiles designers who matter in the Nineties. Arguably the first three names in the series - Alberto Alessi, Georgina von Etzdorf and Patrick Cox - do matter, although I worry about the fourth, graphic designer Tibor Kalman whose Colors magazine for Benetton seems brash in the Nineties. The Queen, tiara'd and Star Gartered, sashed and lacquered on the front cover of his new book, was colour-corrected and computer- tweaked to make her look Sri Lankan. As Queen of the Commonwealth - and jolly keen on it too - she probably wouldn't mind, but as an attention- grabbing device it's a tad sad. Georgina von Etzdorf's wicked scarves in velvets and silks triggered that whole fashion thing of scarves as entire outfits (see Tatler's July issue). Hardworking text on textiles makes this a good read. The Wannabe who upped and went, big-time, Patrick Cox is responsible for more walking wounded than Ypres with his vertiginous footwear that the whole world wants.

Good to see that Alberto Alessi is included, because his late Eighties monograph by Academy Editions has also been re-issued and yes, I admit it, I wrote one of the essays. Alberto looks quite like the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland as he pops out of a huge stainless-steel teapot on the cover of the second edition. A new introduction by Christopher Frayling, rector at the Royal College of Art, is witty: "Some people say less is more but we say Alessi is more." Frayling believes that the challenge of the next decade will be to narrow the intellectual and aesthetic gap between the avant-garde and the mainstream. Who better to meet that challenge than Alberto Alessi who turned himself into a household name with some weird but workmanlike wares?

Sweden: 20th Century Architecture IV

Edited by Claes Caldenby, Joran Lindvall and Wilfried Wang

Prestel, pounds 55

As Sweden breaks out of the cultural archipelago of Scandinavia to become the hottest cold place in the world, the Swedish editors explain that architecturally it has always been at the forefront of European design. From the classicism of the Twenties and Thirties to the softened welfare-state variant of the Forties, when Sweden was a role-model for Europe, illustrations and well-annotated text reveal how cement and glass, steel and wood captured the funky functionalism better than shag pile, bent plywood, saunas and stripped wood replicas of Gustavian style.

John Pawson

New edition Manuel Pijoan

GG, pounds 21 (pounds 19.50 at Triangle bookshop, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1)

Architectural monographs rarely interest non-specialists but the Gustavo Gili series on international mega-stars provides a rich source of ideas. It has just re-issued its monograph on John Pawson to show his work for Calvin Klein, Jigsaw, an installation within an ancient Essex barn and his own Notting Hill house.

If you think minimalism means putting everything into the skip that can't fit in a cupboard, buy this book. Pawson's kitchen units, now in production with a Belgium company, are shown too, but don't expect taps. Water pours from an elegant spout operated by two levers under the work top. Rooms emptied of clutter are filled with light - and surface planes painted in five shades of white bounce it back.

It is a slim volume because, as a minimalist, he doesn't like wall-to- wall words cluttering up pure white pages. Every picture tells a story and there is a brilliant explanation of the aesthetic in a foreword by the late Bruce Chatwin, an admirer of Pawson.

Architecture and the Environment: Bioclimatic Building Design

by David Lloyd Jones

Laurence King, pounds 45

When economists talk like biologists to explain business ventures as micro or macro culture with clusters and organic growth, and architects use bioclimatic to describe building design which is inspired by nature, it's time to study the form. Holistic buildings that don't impact upon environment are reviewed with a foreword by Tadao Ando. Patient sleuthwork explains what makes an air-conditioned office block in Zimbabwe and a Japanese temple by Benson & Forsyth "optimise" - rather than exploit - the environment. All the buzzwords are listed at the back, from Acid Rain to Reed Beeds, Sick Building Syndrome to Wind Towers

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
news
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
life
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst,HR,Halifax,£400-450pd

    £400 - £450 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    Project Coordinator - Cisco Partner - £110 p/d

    £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator (SC Cleared), Cisco Go...

    Recruitment Consultants - IT - Trainee / Experienced

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

    Primary teachers needed for supply in Huntingdon

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone