I have three books I'd like to discuss. I am always amazed at how the columnist David Brooks in The New York Times gets many of his columns. David reviews books. (I always smile thinking I am the only one on to him.) I don't use this device that often, but here are three books I'd like to talk about.
The first was a birthday gift this year: The Way we Live with Things We Love by Stafford Cliff and photographs by Cilles De Chabaneix, published by Rizzoli. You guessed it--it has a very European point of view. For those of us who adore beautifully composed photographs, this book is a delight. It is a feast for the eyes and not really meant to have you go to a local flea market and find exotic things to discretely place about your abode. I am especially intrigued by a chapter on antiques. The advice for the reader is to find the best use for your treasured possessions. I'm all for that--but few of us have grand headless statues and alcoves to put them it. I did enjoy seeing the wall of great family portraits, however--each in a similar frame and each with a printed scroll above it.
We can all find ideas any and everywhere, and there are ideas in this book. Take for example the daybed in a house in Budapest--the assortment of embroidered and printed fabric pillow sent me right to Pottery Barn to see if I could find ones like it! Of course they are there--not as marvelous as those in the book, but I suspect not as pricey either. Bless You PB.
The second book, I just received. It has the amazing title Living with What You Love. We all know you can't copyright the title of a book. (I could write Gone With the Wind and get away with it if I'd dare try) but I did do a double take. This book by Monica Rich Kosann, published by Clarkson Potter is definitely American. Like most American-style decorating books it is designed to instruct as well as inspire. The cover tells us that we are going to learn to decorate with family photos, cherished heirlooms, and collectibles. One lesson is called Have Fun With Your Clutter. To illustrate, a rather grand staircase wall is adorned with every family snapshot in the owner's archive--school moments, sports events, and a grandmother or two or three or four. (The staircase, by the way, was designed by Stanford White, one of America's great architects.) Create a Multidimensional Collage is another helpful hint. Basically, this means putting a lot of things on a small table in what you consider an artful way.
The reason I am pointing these things out is not to be critical--I know it may sound that way. After all, I edited a magazine and have produced books dealing with things in exactly the same way these two books are doing. And I'm sure there were readers who said, "You've got to be kidding." Now that I am on this side of the fence, I am at least opening up to the possibility that maybe we pay too much attention to our things--and maybe we love them too much, especially in publishing.
In that regard, you might want to pick up a fascinating little paperback by Richard Todd called,
The Thing Itself--On the Search for Authenticity. It got me thinking about things, especially after just having spend a week with Wendi photographing the things that I LOVE. On antiques, he writes: "Old things sustain me in a way I know not to be wholly rational."
Todd's thesis is way more complicated and I'll leave it to you to delve further if you wish--with compliments to David Brooks--but I think all of these books get us thinking about what we love and maybe more importantly, why we love them. I'm sure you'll find inspiration in both the picture books--and this afternoon take all your teacups and arrange them in some amazing way on that little round table in the library. But maybe we should all think about our loving of things rather than the love of things a bit more. I'm going to--how about you?