Books for interior designers: Frances Merrill’s 12 must-reads
For Frances Merrill of Los Angeles-based Reath Design, literature has helped develop a very personal eclectic style – and perhaps unsurprisingly, she believes inspiration can be found beyond the typical books for designers in the world. interior (read: coffee table editions that are strictly in studios and studies everywhere).
Here, designer AD100 shares a curated selection of books for interior designers, including those that have shaped her thinking and career. While some fit neatly into the design book category, other lists prove that there’s professional wisdom in other corners of the library as well.
Our way of life
By Stafford Cliff
Prolific design writer Stafford Cliff, the former creative director of Conran Design Group and author of dozens of design books (both as part of Our way of life series and in other volumes), looms large on Merrill’s bookshelf. “There are so many fantastic books that cover one style, but Our way of life has a bit of everything,” she says. “There are more than 1,000 photographs [within it]. On a single page, you can see images from San Francisco to Mauritius to Scotland to Cairo. All of Stafford Cliff’s books are wonderful. It’s the best starter.
By Tracy Kidder
“For those of us who love house projects, it really reflects all of the interpersonal dynamics that go into it,” Merrill says of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s 1985 documentation of building a detached house in Amherst, Massachusetts.
The white album—Specifically his essay “Many Mansions”
By Joan Didion
Reading Joan Didion is always a good idea. Merrill finds particular resonance, however, in the author’s 1977 critical analysis of Governor Reagan’s proud (and unfinished) residence in Sacramento, Didion’s hometown. Within its pages, Didion offers a gripping look at how politics and power are encoded in the built environment. “This is required reading for anyone who accepts employment with me,” Merrill notes. “It touches on waste, elitism, classism and style – all the interesting struggles inherent in this industry.”
The house the Pecks built
By Helen and Alf Evers
Insight can come from surprising sources. The house the Pecks built “was given to my kids when they were little and has always been a favorite of ours,” says Merrill. The 1940 children’s story centers on a carpenter and his family who end up building an incredibly sprawling house as they become upwardly mobile, making this book an early critique of suburbanization. “Not only are the illustrations charming, [but] it very simply shows the mania that can take over when building a house and how we need much less than we think.
Andrew Henry Meadow
By Doris Burn
“Another children’s book!” Merrill laughs. Published in 1965, this follows the adventures of a resourceful boy who copes with his loneliness as a middle child by establishing a child-centered village in a meadow. The town fills with bespoke and quirky homes designed by the young inventor. “As a studio, we strive to give our clients homes that suit their needs and tastes. The homes that Andrew Henry builds for his friends are exactly that.
Charleston: a house and a garden in Bloomsbury
By Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson
Located in rural East Sussex, UK, Charleston Farm was founded during World War I to function as a vital center and artisan retreat for the radical Bloomsbury group. Its Creative Production Coalescing is an excellent study of interdisciplinary collaboration. “It’s a personal favourite. I love any book that shows such a specific personal style,” she observes. “At Reath, we always try to capture the essence and personality of our clients, and this book is a lesson.”
“Depending on the style of the project, we always draw from it,” says Merrill. For even more inspiration, designer AD100 recommends: