I was over the moon when Todd Romano agreed to provide me with a list of his favorite design and lifestyle books. After all, I've been a huge fan of his for many years. I think that I'm drawn to his interiors because they strike the right balance between classic and modern- and there is absolutely nothing boring about this balance. In Romano's hands, rooms come alive with timeless furniture, classic prints, rich and vibrant color, and the chicest accessories I think I've seen. A Romano interior is one that you can't help but look at over and over again. (I've looked at the old House & Garden article on his country home so many times that the pages are practically tattered.)
I knew that Todd would provide us with some great book selections because let's face it- this man loves books and has an amazing collection. And fortunately for us he could not narrow his list down to ten, so we get six bonus books! I think what you'll love most are Todd's witty and insightful asides about each book. Todd is one of the most charming, warm, and enthusiastic people I've met, and I think this comes across in both his list and his comments. Enjoy!
(Make sure to visit his store when you're in New York. It's one of my favorites.)
1. David Adler, The Architect & His Work by Richard Pratt. The original, or first book on Adler and one of the best. A comprehensive study on a very talented architect working at the peak of great residential design. Wonderful period photographs.
2. Lost New York by Nathan Silver (the 1967 edition). A fabulous book for preservationists, architects and historians interested in the architectural history of New York City. Also, a good cautionary tale for all that we have lost, the pictures of Penn Station make you want to cry – how could they have torn it down!
3. Jansen Decoration. The first book from 1971 I believe…unbelievable photographs & designs and well it is all about Jansen, isn’t it?!? A very informative book with text in French and English.
4. Les Pavillons- French Pavilions of the Eighteen Century by Jerome Zerbe and Cyril Connolly. A wonderful book with photographs and historical text on various small pavilions and houses in France – one for the Francophiles!
5. Observations with Photographs by Richard Avedon and Text by Truman Capote. The first real glamorous coffee table book…an unbelievable collaboration between two enormous talents at the height of their powers…the pictures are to die for – that was real glamour.
6. The New York Times Book of Interiors & Decorations by Norma Skurka.That’s what did it for this Texas boy back in high school…I pored over this book until the pages were worn out! I still find the book and the work featured in it incredibly inspiring today.
7. Ritrattista d'intererni de Alexander Serebriakoff by Patrick Mauries. A catalog raisone of the work of the very talented Serebriakoff and his watercolors. He painted and chronicled the interiors and lifestyles of some of the all time great 20th Century tastemakers, from Beistegui to the Baron de Redé. Charming beyond belief. (Editor's note: The Amazon link is for the French version, not the Italian version that Romano mentions.)
8. English Interiors by John Cornforth. A somewhat sober but thorough examination of great English Interiors. The book is dedicated to the great John Fowler.
9. Horst Interiors by Barbara Plumb. A collection of Horst’s work from decades at Vogue…sort of the Slim Aarons for Interiors…beautiful people living in beautiful houses!
10. A House Is Not a Home by Bruce Weber. Gorgeous photographs of various people (high and not so high!) and their homes and objects.
11. Elsie de Wolfe: A Life in the High Style by Jane S. Smith. A great and comprehensive biography of the legendary decorator and hostess, a wonderful and very interesting read.
12. The Architecture of John F. Staub by Howard Barnstone. The “David Adler” of Texas, a great and not all that well known architect outside of Texas and the South. He built all of the wonderful houses in Houston (River Oaks) and also in my hometown, San Antonio (Olmos Park, where I grew up!) A great and comprehensive study of his work.
13. To the One I Love the Best by Ludwig Bemelmans. A hilarious and affectionate account of his years spent living with Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe) in Beverly Hills during WWII. The descriptions of the house and various supporting characters are worth it alone. A great read for anyone interested in de Wolfe.
14. First Garden by C.Z. Guest with illustrations by Cecil Beaton. One of the best books on gardening by one of the all time great ladies…concise, informative and beautiful, just like C.Z. herself!
15. Nancy Lancaster: Her Life, Her World, Her Art by Robert Becher. A great biography on the famous Virginian who came to own Colefax and Fowler. Her taste and “throw away” style are famous, as all of her beloved houses – a very interesting read for those interested in this period of great country house living, both here and in Great Britain.
And last but not least....
16. Alexis, The Memoirs of the Baron de Redé This book is so over the top in terms of descriptions of houses, silver, yachts, entertaining, grand balls and fetes…etc.
If you want to know what it was like to live in the Hotel Lambert and to be a part of international society at its most glamorous period…this is the book for you. A great read!
As well, Archivia Books has the most amazing selection of new and out-of-print books. They specialize in architecture, art, design, decorative arts, gardens and interiors. They are located at 993 Lexington Avenue in New York and www.archiviabooks.com.