You go to your friend’s dinner party. A bottle of wine for the host in hand, you look at your watch and pat yourself in the back for being on time. You smile as the door opens but… by someone who only resembles your friend. This person with a stained apron, messy hair and barefeet looks more like a kitchen-maid from turn of the century. She makes an effort to welcome you, but you know she hates your guts right now for being on time. Your pride of punctuality slowly melts away like an ice-cube in a summer cocktail.
You offer to give a hand in the kitchen but you quickly realize she wants to do it by herself, without being distracted by the responsibility of entertaining chit-chat. She gives you a drink to shut you up and tells you to “make yourself at home” in the living room. OK. But you can look at your facebook, instagram and twitter feed only for so long. As everyone else is fashionably late, what do you do? You reach for the coffee table books.
I believe coffee table books are an essential part of decorating and entertaining. Sometimes slender sometimes heavy as a brick, they are vivid portals of beautiful images and stimulating facts, which make us daydream and for a moment, take us out of our routine. So really, although they stylishly blend in with all the other occupants of your coffee table, they are the ones that tell the most about your dreams and personality. Here are some of my favorite coffee table books and recommendations:
Considering I am pretty damn sure I was a flapper in 1920s Paris in my previous life, dancing and drinking wine with up and coming artists in my long pearls and feather head-pieces, the title of this book grabbed me by the heart and soul. Luxurious in its production and content, it is a rich book abundant with photographs, illustrations and paintings from one of the most fascinating eras in history: The Roaring Twenties.
A time of bohemia when the most influential young artists we now know and admire were revolutionizing the early twentieth century with their own rebellious techniques, daring points of views and adventurous spirits. One common muse they had, other than Paris itself, was Kiki, the Queen of Montparnasse. It is a visually arresting book that tells a different story with each image, not only about love and the philosophy of joie de vivre, but also about the significance of that particular era in our artistic as well as political history following World War I.
Fun fact: She also happens to be the muse of my favorite lingerie store, Kiki de Montparnasse.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jane & Serge Family Album by Andrew Birkin
There was always something so mesmerizing to me about the legendary relationship of style icon Jane Birkin and music icon Serge Gainsbourg. Whenever I read about them or looked at them in pictures, a sense of longing stirred in me. They seemed to possess a sweet disposition of youthful adventures, artistic passion, sexual liberation, stimulating social circle as well as a loving family life.
Jane Birkin’s brother Andrew, who was a big part of the daily family and social life of the couple, gives us a chance to peek through the pages to be a witness in their intimate lives with their friends, children and each other. A book filled with love, laughter and surprises such as actual printed photographs and stickers.
TRAVEL: An Indian Album by Cecil Beaton
India was one of the most emotional and inspirational journeys I’ve had the priviledge to have. Its tender nature and vibrant spirit nurtured me and lifted me up like a guardian angel. It calmed me down and centered me like a tree. It woke up all my senses like a flower in bloom. It is a special, magical place… India.
So if I were to get any travel book on India, it would be this 1945 first edition by the unforgettable photographer and designer Cecil Beaton. Sure, it would not be up do date with the latest travel advice, providing a list of trendiest places to visit. But with all his delicate illustrations, emotionally charged photography and elegant scrapbooking, it would capture its graceful essence and do justice to the India that filled me with such nostalgia, love and compassion.
SPORTS: ITF’S 100 Years of Tennis
People who know me know very well that I’ve got nothing to do with sports… unless you count dancing. I admire sports. I understand its necessity for the body and the spirit. Yet I do not do it or even like to watch it necessarily. Curiously enough, with the exception of tennis. Perhaps it’s because it brings back childhood memories. My uncle who plays the game used to visit from Munich. My mother would make her simple yet ridiculously delicious chicken sandwiches. We would gather around the TV, watch the yellow ball and hold our breaths as it went from one side of the court to the other.
That’s why I would love to get my hands on The International Tennis Foundation’s book, celebrating the 100 Years of Tennis. An entertaining history of tennis, the book includes never-before-seen photographs and rare memorabilia, notorious games, its changing style and many more fun facts. A classic addition to your collection, it serves (wink wink) to celebrate one of the most elegant sports there ever was.
GRAPHIC DESIGN: Paris versus New York by Vahram Muratyan
Ever since I ordered his poster le réalisateur (Jean-Luc Godard versus Woody Allen) for my study, I’ve been obsessed with this aesthetically smart and minimal, accurately hilarious comparison of two of my favorite cities, New York and Paris. I had already written about my love for the series so I am taking the opportunity to underline, by repetition, just how much. For guests who have spent considreable time in both cities, it is a fantastic book that will stir laughter in your living room while you continue the preparations in the kitchen.
I grew to admire this vivacious woman when I watched the documentary on her life, that focuses mostly on her Vogue years where she transfomed the magazine’s approach not only to fashion, but also to art, travel, beauty and culture. Some of the interviews in the film touches upon the memos Vreeland sent out that compensated and surpassed the lack of meetings. This must have given this wonderful idea to the publisher to collect more than 250 pieces of her personal correspondence and directives to editors and photographers that created some of the most memorible Vogue stories through the 1960s.
The pleasure of viewing the now vintage images from the back issues of the magazine is something else. What makes me cherish this book is the insight it gives its readers into the innovative mind of this personality who had such passion for the beauty of the detail and a unique perspective on life. Some of my favorite advices she gives in her eccentric memos include, “Energy is habit… Use your energy and energy flows,” and “Within every girl is the possibility of arousing emotion. Without emotion there is no beauty.”
DECOR: The Perfectly Imperfect Home
When I was moving to my apartment in Istanbul, my biggest helpers, besides my Feng Shui expert mom obvisouly, were the Domino magazines and The Domino Book of Decorating. So it is no wonder that I was immediately drawn to this lovely creation by Domino’s editor-in-chief, Deborah Needleman. The book is a great guide for you to sort through the essential elements of style and come up with inspiring and creative ideas to make your home the best possible background to your life.
To make it even more special, instead of photographs, the book uses celebrated artist Virginia Johnson’s original watercolor illustrations for vibrant demonstrations of how your home can be effortlessly chic as well, with “all its joys and imperfections.” An art and decor book in one.
PERSONALITY: Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire
What would happen if the set of questions that were created by the 19th century French author Marcel Proust, who believed them to reveal the true nature of the individual, were to be asked to the most prominent cultural figures of our time such as Martin Scorsese, Aretha Franklin, Norman Mailer and Lauren Bacall? A candid, thought-provoking and equally hilarious book. It gives us a chance to get to know these characters deeper by the answers they provide, as well as a chance to get to know ourselves better by asking the same questions to ourselves.
If you would like to bring out the true essence of your house guests, why don’t you get your own Proust Questionnaire, by clicking here.