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The Design Books I Always Turn to for Inspiration

Words by Sacha Strebe.

Armed with an intrigue for the “behind the scenes,” Athena has always sought to translate the hidden dialogue that transpires throughout the creative process. But how do you amplify the quiet spaces between inspiration and completion? Where does inspiration even come from? And why are we moved by certain things and not by others? Perhaps these are rhetorical questions that have no answers, but the pondering of such things sparks the necessary inquiry and incites the artist’s journey. Understanding how the language of a room takes form galvanized Athena’s curiosity and so she sought to unfurl the magic in her best-selling book, Live Beautiful. Other design books have also attempted to interpret this visual alchemy and there are several influential tomes Athena reaches for to pull back the curtain on their design practice and better understand the principles at play.

For us, however, design books should be so much more than just inspirational. They should also serve as a form of creative counsel with historical facts and design advice, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing—you know our love for beauty with utility runs deep! So, we asked Athena to share the go-to design books she references often for inspiration and guidance in her work. Read on to discover 20 of her favorites and happy reading!

The Design Books I Always Turn to for Inspiration

Shop Athena's Go-To Design Books:

If you’re looking for understated elegance, sensuous austerity, and Zen-like simplicity, then look no further than Clements Design. The mother-and-son powerhouse has become highly sought after among the A-list for their easy glamour and grand intimacy having designed homes for Adam Levine, Bruno Mars, Kendall Jenner, and Jennifer Lawrence. Think jaw-dropping art and striking furniture in expansive spaces that feel ultra-luxurious but never pretentious.

Coveted by designers and enthusiasts alike, this stylish tome from the Paris-based creative chronicles his trademark French luxury aesthetic and unique vision of contemporary elegance. Inspiration at every page!

Co-edited by Galerie Jacques Lacoste and Galerie Patrick Seguin, this collectible two-book set pays homage to the incredible work of Jean Royère across furniture and interior design. His timeless creations are still highly coveted today proving simple, thoughtful design doesn’t age.

This stylish design book sojourns into the living and working spaces of celebrated artists and creatives. It is currently out of print but some pre-owned versions can be found on Amazon.

As one of the most celebrated architects, Joseph Dirand’s work has served as inspiration for many creatives across the globe. Combining minimalism with classic French style, Dirand has a knack for designing spaces with strong lines and meticulous precision.

Brooklyn-based design studio, Workstead are masters at fusing beauty with utility—a philosophy that also informs Athena’s approach. Their homes merge traditional appeal with a modern ease blending vintage with custom artisanal pieces to create a space that feels soulful and calm.

Rose Uniacke’s work is a lesson in juxtaposition—delicate yet robust, grand yet intimate, raw yet luxurious. This push and pull of contrast and contradiction, of tension and restraint in a room are what inspire Athena in her own work. This book gives us all a rare glimpse into Uniacke’s work and process to inspire our own.

From Barack and Michelle Obama to David Bowie, this iconic tome details the rich visual history of Architectural Digest to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Famed French architects, Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty have established themselves as world-renowned architects at their firm, Studio KO. This beautifully illustrated book is a coffee table favorite with its aesthetically-pleasing cover that complements the raw minimalism within its page.

Spanning painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, Giacometti’s oeuvre ranges from surrealist objects to images of the human figure, with portraits of particular individuals at the center. This book covers it all and is a timeless reference for inspiration.

The Los Angeles-based husband and wife team behind Atelier AM are renowned for their work that integrates design and art with architecture and landscape for a rich and immersive experience.

Between 1958 and 1960, Robert Rauschenberg produced a series of 34 drawings, one for each Canto, or section, of Dante’s poem, The Inferno (1308–1321). Art is hugely inspirational in design and this book has inspired many creatives in the interior world including Athena.

This collectible tome is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the life and work of this seminal artist or a general interest in sculpture. While currently out of print, you can find pre-owned copies on second-hand book sites and Amazon.

Ilse Crawford of award-winning design studio, Studioilse showcases her influential body of work in this beautiful tome but it’s the articulation of her philosophies for design and living that sets this book apart. Bridging the worlds of interior design, architecture, and product design, Ilse goes beyond the visual to put the human being at the center: “I’m much more interested in the sensory thing, in thinking about it from the human context, the primal perspective, the thing that touches you.”

Twentieth-century architect, Carlo Scarpa is a master of light, detail, and materials. From the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona to the Olivetti showroom in Venice, this book is an extensive overview of his life and work along with interviews from leading architects and architecture critics.

While his 40-year career spans film, design, and fine art, this book hones in on Julian Schnabel’s career as a painter featuring 400 color images of his works between 1973 and 2013.

No design book collection is complete without the iconic Wabi Inspirations by world-renowned interior designer, Axel Vervoordt. The concept of Wabi, Eastern art, and philosophy has become the guiding principle in his work and this book invites us all to explore the elements of that world that inspire him: simplicity and humility, the rejection of all that is superfluous or artificial.

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