Monday, February 25, 2008

What's in Their Library: Christopher Spitzmiller

I've long been a fan of Christopher Spitzmiller, and the reasons are many. His lamps became design classics within no time (I'm still dreaming about owning a pair of Butternut Gourd lamps. Or would I rather own a pair of Pear Gourd lamps? Tough decision.) His gracious and well-edited apartment, featured in Elle Decor back in Dec. 06, is one of my all-time favorite homes. Spitzmiller is also a connoisseur of fine living, enjoying design, cooking, and gardening. And the icing on the cake is that he's got to be one of the most photogenic people in design.

If you'll recall from the Elle Decor article, Spitzmiller has an enviable library; in fact, it's a magnifying glass-worthy library. I've added a few tomes to my collection based on titles in Spitzmiller's shelves. I asked Chris to provide me with a list of his ten favorite books, and he generously provided me with not only the list, but with an explanation of why these books appealed to him.

So, here's what is in Spitzmiller's library:

"My Top Ten Book list includes six books on interiors, three cook books and one book on gardening. There is some overlap of interiors in many of the books. My list focuses on the well lived life. Not only should your rooms be beautiful, but there should be something good to eat on the table. And a garden should not only be pretty, but after spending an hour out there working, it should also make you a better person!"

Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century, Mark Hampton (1992). This book includes Mr. Hampton’s insightful short synopses of the careers and styles of every major decorator. It also incorporates his charming watercolors of their works. This book is hard to find and often expensive, but well worth the price.

Summer Cottages & Castles, Scenes from the Good Life,Patricia Corbin and Ted Hardin (1983). This work has some really charming pictures of ‘Rock Cliff’, the Newport mansion that was decorated by William Hodgins. It also has more photographs of Sister Parish’s ‘Summer House’ in Maine than I have seen anywhere else.

Where Muses Dwell: Homes of Great Artists and Writers,Massimo Listri (1996). This is an obscure book covering some very notable interiors, including the interior of Knund Lyne Rahbek’s home in Copenhagen, which is my favorite. Also included are John Soane’s house, now a museum in London, and lots of other continental and English interiors.

An Affair with a House,Bunny Williams (2005). This book presents Bunny’s well thought out plan for restoring her country home spanning a period of many years. In the book she writes about taking on one major project each year. Having recently found myself the owner of a very old home, with at least five or six major projects to take on, I asked her if this was really true. “Oh, yes,” was her reply, “for the first five years I had no furniture in my living room!”

CZ Guest's Five Seasons of Gardening,CZ Guest (1992). Every good house needs a garden. In this book, CZ presents her refreshing, matter of fact and no nonsense approach to gardening, both indoors and out. There are also tons of pictures of the inside of ‘Templeton,’ her house in Old Westbury, Long Island

Consider the Oyster, M.F.K. Fisher (1941). “An Oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life.” With this sentence, Mary Frances begins her cookbook which reads more like a good novel than anything else I’ve ever read. It is one of the most delightful books you can put your hands on.

Glorious Food, Christopher Idone (1982). Filled with visually stunning pictures of delicious meals presented in wonderful New York interiors, this is a book I try to buy whenever I see it. I can never have too many copies -- it makes a great gift!

Lost Desserts, Gail Monaghan (2007). Gail’s book will show you, step by step, how to create some of the most over-the-top, eye popping, mouth watering desserts you have ever seen or tasted.

Private New York, Chippy Irvine and Alex Mclean (1990). This book has some really stunning pictures of a wide range of uptown and downtown New York interiors. Wade McCann’s small, concise kitchen provided the inspiration for my own, proving that a humble kitchen can be an elegant one too!

Manhattan Style, Esten, Gilbert and Chinsee (1990). Similar to Mark Hampton’s book, this one contains some really beautiful pictures of New York interiors representing all the best decorators.


  1. Such a pleasure to see Mark Hampton's name on anyone's list. Mr Spitzmiller has chosen well. That book on Legendary Decorators has never been surpassed for it's succinct appraisals of our design heros and heroines.
    I was able to find "Manhattan Style" at the public library and discovered to my delight that it contained colour photos of Rose Cumming's house, of particular interest to me as I have lived with 2 of the larger paintings from her collection for many years now. It was a treat seeing them in their original, or rather Cumming-esque, settings.

  2. I'm also a great fan of his lamps.
    Wonderful post, with some interesting book suggestions. I'm going to go check out a few now! Enjoy your vacation .... Lana

  3. Toby- I haven't read Manhattan Style yet, but I'm anxious too! Many of these books were new to me.

  4. Lana- I know; I ADORE his lamps! So stylish and classic!

  5. Anonymous11:58 PM

    Such an interesting and diverse list. I'm intrigued by the "Lost Desserts" book!

  6. Great post Jennifer! I love Spitzmiller too, and have been dreaming about his lamps for some time now. What a fascinating insight into his own library!

  7. Another thought about the book called Manhattan Style: There is a spread devoted to William Odom,
    that somewhat elusive tastemaker who would seem to be an influence on Van Truex, Albert Hadley and others of that ilk. Talk about timeless chic! The 2 apartments shown are superb~not a false touch anywhere. Surely Odom was the source of everything we admire today?

  8. Anon- I flipped through that book late last year and it's def. on my wish list.

  9. Suzy- I hope to have one of his lamps someday soon!

  10. Toby- Wow! The only bit I've read about Odom was that from the Van Day Truex book. So, now there's even more of a reason to read Manhattan Style. And since Odom influenced Truex, and Truex influenced Baldwin and Hadley, then yes, I think you just might be right!

  11. FREAK ME OUT!!! I just posted about books today (before I read your post... promise! I try not to be a post thief and will always give credit if I do!)


  12. Ah Peak, this is a most delightful series. Keep it up!

    In the meantime, enjoy your week and make it one of pure personal, aesthetic indulgence.

  13. Laura- No worries! We just both have books on the brain.

  14. Mr. E- Thank you!!! I will try to do so :)

  15. So interesting to see what other decorators have in their library!!

  16. I love that you're exposing us to these libraries and their fab owners!!


  17. Just ordered the Christopher Idone "Glorious Food"
    on, in hardcover at a quite reasonable price. So, thank you again Mr Spitzmiller, for sharing
    your favourites!
    Now, on to track down MFK Fisher....

  18. This is so fun! Almost like looking in a fashionista's closet.

  19. The list was so fun to read! I love an Affair with a House- maybe it's the title, maybe it's the cover- but it makes a really pretty coffee table book!

    Emily @ Material Girls

  20. Oh yes, the books are very well and good but I am wondering if I could get him on loan....*cute*

  21. I LOVE collecting books. Thank you for the great suggestions!