5 cult interiors books that show their age

A stumble into this image of Diane Von Furstenberg reclining on a bed, for the 1990 launch of her book Beds, and we spiralled down the rabbit hole of… dated interiors books. Specifically, dated interiors books that are still very giving when it comes to putting forth decorating tricks. You can buy Diane’s old book here, and below are five more to look out for at your nearest car boot – or, if you can afford it, one of the lovely antique book shops we’ve listed.

1. Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens and People


This rare 1960s vintage book by Valentine Lawford, features an introduction by Diana Vreeland with photography by Horst – he began at this period to shoot interiors at Vreeland’s suggestion after his stylised black-and-white style had fallen out of favour in the fashion mags. The homes included are, as you’d imagine, owned by the most splendid and bedecked most splendidly too. Mr and Mrs Desmond Guinness at home in their Irish castle, designer Emilio Pucci residing in Florence, Baron and Baroness Philippe de Rothschild’s holing up at Château de Mouton; Mr and Mrs Cy Twombly relaxing in their Roman palazzo etc etc, you get the idea. Some things to already covet from the taster shots below – fabulous blue walls and what look like African (Imigongo style?) screens in gorgeous green.
You can find it to buy here, but remember the words ‘rare’ and ‘classic’ before you check out the price.




2. David Hicks On Decoration


A first edition set of five books (combining British and American editions) from David Hicks On Decoration series that you can buy from 1st Dibs for an even more princely sum. David Hicks is regularly cited as a massive influence by the great and good of the contemporary design world and does Proper Interior Design like no other. Or certainly, like many others have tried to after him. A colour-lover and pioneer of ‘mixing old and new’ Hicks was also a big fan of bringing contemporary art into his work for famous clients – the painted nude and a horse’s head in the below deep red room nod to this.  We’re loving the green bathroom too, but carpet? Not sure that would that wash with today’s hygeine-uptight and tile-loving decorator.




3. The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London


Long a source of fascination for – well, certainly us ladies – Gentlemen’s Clubs of London documents clubs from a certain time, many of which were on their way out. The book was first published in 1979 and  The United Service Club had already closed by this point, to be replaced at Pall Mall by the Institute of Directors. The Eccentric Club, also features, closed in 1986. 

Three words on the below image, shot in the Arts Club in Dover Street: Hooded canopy chair. Probably French and looks to be quilted on the inside – wowee.  Buy the book from Idea Booksthe-gentlemens-clubs-of-london-interiors-books-the-chromologist

4. Jansen Decoration


From a renowned swanky “international decorating firm” based in Paris, this book from Maison Jansen, covers the history of the company from its roots in 1880,through the 1920s, 60s, and beyond. Apparently Jansen’s trademark style was to give antiques a contemporary twist – so maybe they pioneered the mix of old and new. One imagines that idea has been presented as revolutionary more than once. The book covers different types of room as well as offices, hotels and – one for the masses – palaces. Sunken baths, geo-crazy walls and marble effect finishes feature, judging by the sample pages. From the time before gold (brass) taps became achingly tacky before they became unbelievably sought after again. The books is (already sold) from Beaux Books which offers a bit more info.



5. The House Book


Famous to all well-read interiors obsessives, Terence Conran’s tome has what all the other books listed here have – the ability to combine really swoon-worthy design features with LOL moments all in one image. You can buy it here, but really do look out for this one at the car boot. And hang onto it judging by some of the prices we’ve seen around.


Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

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