One of my favorite things to pick up at thrift stores and antique shops is old design books. It’s a great way to get a crash course in the history of design, and it’s so much fun to see how some books can feel completely dated after a few decades while others are still dynamic and inspiring and fresh. The first time I came across the work of Terence Conran was when I stumbled upon his “New House Book” at the Goodwill. I loved so many of the spaces featured in it, and immediately ordered “Kitchens: The Hub of the Home” and “The Kitchen Book.”
The New House Book drew me in with Conran’s introduction about his preference for simplicity, austerity and utility in design. I think this marriage of minimal, clean design and functionality is what makes his spaces so timeless and elegant. The New House Book is set up like a reference book, with chapters on planning and budgeting for redesign/renovation, individual elements of decoration (floors, lighting, etc), how to create room layouts and atmosphere, and how to effectively run a home. But, to be honest, I am in it for the gorgeous, bright spaces where Conran expertly mixes old and new.
Kitchens: The Hub of the Home features an amazing range of kitchens, from minimalist modern to minimalist rustic to rustic country with a ton of truly eclectic spaces in between. Despite differences in style, every space has brilliant functional features like strategically placed open shelving and utensil rails. There are so many great ideas on how to lay out a kitchen in a very small footprint, which I appreciate. And again, it is set up more as a reference book than a strictly inspirational picture book, with sections on everything from what you need building permits for to how to choose countertops and backsplashes. I’m going to be reading and rereading this book as we plan for our kitchen overhaul within the next year or two!
The Kitchen Book is, again, very informational, with a section on the history of kitchens that I love for the Downton-Abbey-esque super rustic kitchen photos, a section on professional kitchens and how they are set up, and the best way to plan your own kitchen if you are renovating. Maybe that’s why I love these books so much; they are very focused on how you can renovate and redesign your own kitchen to make it work for you, instead of just showcasing pristine, massive kitchens. This is another I will be referencing before we start demo on our kitchen!
Although I find a lot of design books at thrift stores, Amazon is also a great place to find older design books for literally pennies. I’ll continue to feature the great ones I have found!