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12 best coffee table books to uplift your living space

Whether you’re a cat lover or a budding photographer, we’ve got a gorgeous title to suit

Eleanor Jones
Friday 28 January 2022 10:33
<p>We assessed their looks, content quality, and how well they would hold up over time </p>

We assessed their looks, content quality, and how well they would hold up over time

If you’ve found yourself staring at the shelves in all of the chicest homes and wondering what they have in common, we’ll tell you – it’s a curated collection of coffee table books.

These glossy, weighty hardcovers can elevate a standard bookcase into something museum-worthy in a matter of minutes, and it’s not just what’s on the outside that counts.

A good coffee table book should be as educational as it is admirable, combining beautiful imagery with text that conveys new knowledge or inspires a future adventure. As these are not always the most affordable volumes, they should also be of excellent quality, with sturdy binding and reassuringly thick pages that will hold up no matter how many times you flick through them.

A great coffee table book always makes a gorgeous gift, but we’re big advocates of investing in tomes for yourself, particularly if they’re a passion project that covers a subject close to your heart.

How we tested

Quite simply, we read, for hours and hours, taking time to consider the book’s condition before and after browsing, compare the value for money with the depth of the contents, and evaluated how much joy it instilled when perched in pride of place on a table or bookshelf.

Read more:

A note before we begin: while cookbooks often feature when in searches for the best coffee table books, (they are, after all, some of the loveliest to have on display), here we were looking for titles that were specifically written for reading and admiring, not sharing recipes. Some of the books below have foodie elements, but it is not their sole purpose. If that’s what you’re after, we’ve got plenty of suggestions in our cookbooks section.

The best coffee table books for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Eat, Drink, Nap by Soho Home, published by Preface Publishing: £20.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best interiors book – Making Living Lovely by Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe, published by Thames and Hudson: £14.95, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for film geeks – Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval, published by Orion: £16.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for music fans – Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black by Naomi Parry, published by Thames and Hudson: £30, Waterstones.co.uk
  • Best for animal lovers – Cats by Walter Chandoha, published by Taschen: £28.35, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for Netflix bingers – Best Wishes, Warmest Regards by Daniel and Eugene Levy, published by Orion: £12.53, Blackwells.co.uk
  • Best luxury coffee table book – Sapphire: A Celebration of Colour by Joanna Hardy published by Thames & Hudson created by Violette Editions and in partnership with Gemfields: £55.23, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for fashionistas – Vivienne Westwood Catwalk by Alexander Fury, published by Thames and Hudson: £35.67, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for design buffs – Art Deco Style by Jared Goss, published by Assouline: £71, Amara.com
  • Best for aspiring photographers – Face Time: A History of the Photographic Portrait by Phillip Prodger, published by Thames and Hudson: £20.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best quirky coffee table book – Drag: The Complete Story by Simon Doonan: £20.26, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for artists – Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings by Andrea Kettenmann and Luis-Martín Lozano, published by Taschen: £150, Taschen.com

‘Eat, Drink, Nap’ by Soho Home, published by Preface Publishing

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

The challenge of choosing the “best” coffee table book is that this title will change depending on your interests – no one size fits all. But if we had to select a crowd-pleaser, we suspect this tome, first published by the luxury member’s club Soho House in 2014, would do the trick.

Combining tips on everything from curating the perfect bedroom to whipping up an expert-level cocktail and even behind the scenes intel on its properties, such as Babington House, Eat, Drink, Nap is an unashamedly bougie guide to life that looks great inside and out. The vast majority of readers will be able to learn some tricks to elevate their everyday from the contents here, and having it out on your coffee table will earn you some major cool points too.

If you already own and love Eat, Drink, Nap, try the follow-up, Morning, Noon, Night (£20.99, Amazon.co.uk) for more of the same luxe living.

‘Making Living Lovely’ by Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe, published by Thames and Hudson

Best: Interiors book

Rating: 8/10

So many interior design guides focus on getting that picture-perfect Insta look – but for Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe, founders of design studio 2LG and especially familiar to those who watched Channel 4’s recent Changing Rooms reboot, the key to making living lovely is decor choices that you’ll love forever, not just when they’re a trend.

The book has a refreshingly warm and welcoming approach to home design, inviting you to create your own road map that encompasses colour, texture and overall feel and function to help you create a space that really feels like your own. There’s lots of realistically practical tips and real life case studies, but what we liked the most was how positive and personal this book felt – like the designers were really catering to your tastes and helping you to showcase them in the best possible way.

‘Accidentally Wes Anderson’ by Wally Koval, published by Orion

Best: For film geeks

Rating: 8/10

Whether or not you’ve already discovered the social media account, (1.6 million followers and counting), Accidentally Wes Anderson will delight anyone who’s ever enjoyed the likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom or The Royal Tenenbaums, to name just a few.

The book takes a curated collection of images that look as though they should feature in one of the American director’s famously aesthetic films, and transforms them into a one-of-a-kind of travel bucket list (or few hours of escapism, should you prefer to stay within your own four walls to enjoy it). The colours on the printed page are vibrant and saturated, and the imagery takes you on a journey just like the ones you’ve experienced on the big screen.

‘Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black’ by Naomi Parry, published by Thames and Hudson

Best: For music fans

Rating: 8/10

From the moment you open the front page of this book to see illustrations of the late Amy Winehouse’s tattoos, you know this is a deeply intimate, thoughtful tribute. Indeed, it was compiled by Naomi Parry, Amy’s friend and stylist, who first met the star aged 19. The pages are peppered with personal touches – scribbled lyrics, early photographs, awards show costume fittings and memories from those who knew Winehouse are interspersed with more professional feedback like photoshoots and consistently stellar reviews. It’s an excellent collector’s item for those who are already fans, as well as a worthy investment for anyone who’s intrigued enough by her story to learn more.

‘Cats’ by Walter Chandoha, published by Taschen

Best: For animal lovers

Rating: 7/10

Photographer Walter Chandoha began capturing images of cats after rescuing a kitten from the streets of New York City, and becoming obsessed with seeing it on the other side of his lens. As a result, he had been taking pictures of cats for an incredible 75 years before he passed away in 2019 – and this book captures just some of his most wonderful shots.

Aside from the foreword and a few personal stories (provided here in English, German and French), this is not an especially verbose tome, so don’t expect copy detailing the stories of each cat and its quirks. Instead, simply sit back and delight in the glorious full-page images of some of nature’s cutest beasts. If you’re more of a hound household, there’s also a Dogs version (£28.35, Amazon.co.uk).

‘Best Wishes, Warmest Regards’ by Daniel and Eugene Levy, published by Orion

Best: For Netflix bingers

Rating: 8/10

If you’ve ever fantasised about staying at the Rosebud Motel, shopping at Rose Apothecary, having a smoothie at the Cafe Tropical or finally getting to watch the director’s cut of The Crows Have Eyes III, you need this Schitt’s Creek companion book in your life. Written by Dan and Eugene Levy themselves, so many insightful secrets are spilled we could barely keep up, with each episode having a “behind the episode” guide written by the cast.

The details in this book are really nice; the way the headings on certain pages are visualised as though they’re embroidered, the glossy full-colour pictures that dominate double-page spreads throughout. From Johnny Rose’s rules of business to the catalogue of Moira’s wig collection, this isn’t a token throwaway gift for fair-weather viewers, but a stunning keepsake to treasure through many rewatches to come.

‘Sapphire: A Celebration of Colour’ by Joanna Hardy published by Thames & Hudson created by Violette Editions and in partnership with Gemfields

Best: Luxury coffee table book

Rating: 7/10

It’s no great shock that a book about precious gems is going to be pretty fancy, but this offering from Assouline really is one of the boujiest books you could have on display. The fabric binding adds an extra touch of decadance that we didn’t see on many other titles, and it’s so enormous you’ll need both hands just to lift it (it’s not one to store on a flimsy shelf).

The contents appeals to multiple audiences – jewellery fans will of course be delighted with the huge pictures of incredible jewels, but there’s also details like overviews of royal sapphires, from Queen Victoria to Princess Diana, and plenty for historians to get stuck into as well. If you like a complete set, you can also shop the Emerald (£57.73, Amazon.co.uk) and Ruby (£55.25, Amazon.co.uk) editions separately.

‘Vivienne Westwood Catwalk’ by Alexander Fury, published by Thames and Hudson

Best: For fashionistas

Rating: 8/10

The Catwalk collection must be one of the most instantly recognisable coffee table books, with editions for Chanel, Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen also in its line-up. However, we love the Vivienne Westwood version for something a little different, both aesthetically (that tartan binding!) and for the quirky fashion inside the cover.

The book follows Westwood’s incredible career from 1981 to the present day, through “punkature” to “climate revolution”, providing captivating, inspirational imagery for each era that will hold the attention of any fashionista for hours, and have them returning to its pages time and time again.

‘Art Deco Style’ by Jared Goss, published by Assouline

Best: For design buffs

Rating: 7.5/10

With more than 200 images and illustrations exemplifying the intricacies of Art Deco style, this is a wonderful book to sit and pore over – the more you flick through it, the more new and interesting details begin to emerge, and they go well beyond any initial visions of The Great Gatsby. But it’s not just great visuals that make this one of our top picks. Art Deco Style really examines the roots of Art Deco history, from its roots in France to its presence in New York City skyscrapers today.

Despite not professing to be experts in design in any sense of the word, we gleaned a lot from the information that’s included, as well as enjoying the photography. In short, come for the pictures, stay for a slice of art history – you won’t be disappointed either way.

'Face Time: A History of the Photographic Portrait’ by Phillip Prodger, published by Thames and Hudson

Best: For aspiring photographers

Rating: 8/10

They say a facial expression is worth a thousand words, and no book demonstrates this quite so beautifully as Face Time. You’ll see plenty of famous faces – everyone from Barack Obama and Marilyn Monroe to Truman Capote – but there’s a lot of space dedicated to self-portraits from photographers, and people whose stories you might have yet to hear, too. Outside of the compelling content, the book is lovely quality, and stood up to regular riffling as we took it on and off the shelf. There’s a lot of text in here, so it’s one to pick if you like to read your coffee table books as well as admiring them.

‘Drag: The Complete Story’ by Simon Doonan, published by Laurence King Publishing

Best: Quirky coffee table book

Rating: 8/10

Dive beyond Drag Race (although there’s plenty of that here too) with this sleek compendium, which chronicles the joys of drag culture and spotlights icons spanning Leigh Bowery through to Grayson Perry. It documents the history of drag in a thoughtful and compelling way, and makes a great choice if you’re bored of the usual art and design books and want something creative but also a little different in your collection.

Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings’ by Andrea Kettenmann and Luis-Martín Lozano, published by Taschen

Best: For artists

Rating: 9/10

We thought the Sapphire book (£55.23, Amazon.co.uk) featured earlier in this round-up was sizeable, until we saw this behemoth. We’re not exaggerating when we say we struggled to lift the package it arrived in – it measures 29cm x 39.5cm and with 624 pages, weighs a hefty 5.42kg.

If you have somewhere large enough to store it, this title will reward you with renditions of all of Frida Kahlo’s 152 paintings, as well as more personal insights into the life of one of the great artists. If you’re after a wow-factor gift for the art lover in your life, this coffee table book will tick all of the boxes and then some (if the shelves are strong enough!).

The verdict: Coffee table books

If you’re looking for a great all-rounder that will stay impressive on your shelves, our top pick is Soho Home’s Eat, Drink, Nap. For home inspiration, Make Living Lovely is a wonderful, persona guide, and for a classic with real wow factor, the XXL Frida tome will be treasured for generations.

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We’ve also rounded up the best interior design books to get inspired for your next project

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