Books to Inspire

August 7, 2015

At the beginning of a new project I like to get the feel for the space we are about to design and understand exactly how our client wants to live and the style they want to create in their home. Over the years I’ve gathered enough design books to rival a national library. So much so,  I think I may have a slight book addiction…

Before the life-changing invention of Pinterest you would find my team and I working late in to the night, buried in a mountain of books. We would be marking what was of interest, scanning hundreds of pages and saving them in project folders. It was a great way for our clients to visualise all the different design ideas and options for their projects.

Since the dawn of Pinterest, this go-to source has been a time effective research method and a huge asset to my working day, however there is still nothing quite like leafing through pages and pages of beautiful imagery from a world of different design books. A perfect evening would be curling up on a sofa with a pile of books, selected from my over-stuffed bookcase and taking the time to inhale each page. Design books are worth their weight in gold to me and I guard my collection with my life!

It is something perhaps you could do if setting out on a design adventure as it will help you define what it is you want for your home. There are so many great design books available to help and inspire you, which leads me to todays blog post.

I am at my favourite part of a project where we are beginning the task of sourcing and bringing together our ideas for the internal design, finishes, and details for our clients project, the Farmhouse Restoration (as featured on my blog, see previous post). As with all my projects at this stage of the design process I took the time to browse through a collection of my books for inspiration.

Below I have picked a few of my favourites for you and for those of you following the Farmhouses’ journey you may find it helpful. Please feel free to also share your favourite Farmhouse design books with me, I think there may be space for one or two more on my shelves!

Provencal Escapes- Inspirational homes in Provence and the Cote d’Azur. Caroline Clifton-Mogg, Ryland Peters & Small, 2005

Twenty two different homes wonderfully photographed in the South of France, each page shows off the various different European styled homes, which are all stamp marked with the personal touches of their owners. This book is especially inspiring in the way it shows the use of European antiques and how they play an integral role in a room. The book also includes wonderful various styles of windows, shutters, beams, doors and clever use of stone-work throughout the book.

Perfect English Farmhouse, Ros Byam Shaw, Ryland Peters & Small, 2012

As my husband Nigel is from the lake district in England, I have had the honour of visiting this part of the world many times. When we are there we go through the prettiest picturesque villages and my head is constantly turning when we pass some of the beautiful country farmhouses. I would love to stop and knock on each door to see inside but unfortunately Nigel never allows me to do this for some reason?? Instead I have to settle for books like this that captures the essence of a perfect English farmhouse. Thankfully so many farmhouses have and are being restored in the English countryside. Throughout this book you will find little design gems such as bold coloured painted panelled walls, Aga stoves surrounded by herb and teapot shelves and floors with original flagstones. The mix of various coloured fabrics cleverly put together over time create cosy authentic homes which I believe is very important in the true design of a home. I am also drawn to photos with chickens so when I think of farmhouse research I think of this book with the first page full of happy roaming chickens!

By the Light of the Sea. Jean-Loup Daraux, Verbavolant, 2008

Jean-Loup Daraux is a designer and artist I have long admired so it is a pleasure for me to have his books to browse through. Even though this book is entitled ‘By the light of the sea’ I have included it today for my farmhouse research as I always find it so inspiring to comb the pages for any of my projects. His relaxed design and mix of different raw woods, stone and iron blended with antiques, quirky art and artefacts creates eye-pleasing classic designs with a twist.

Contemporary living with antiques. Beta-Plus, 2010

No book-browsing afternoon would be complete without a book from my Beta-Plus collection being included. I have been to Belgium many times for design purposes and always came back with a Beta-Plus book or two in my hand. Contemporary Living with Antiques is one of my prized possesions, as nothing pleases me more than mixing old and new together. This book includes designs from some of Belgiums greats such as Lefevre Interiors and Dankers whom I have worked with recently on projects, but also one of my design idols Axel Vervoordt (I often say if I was to do it all again I would apply to be his apprentice and begin from there!). I adore their design mixture of traditional and contemporary, infusing antiques and salvaged beauties such as floors, fireplaces and stone into their design mix.

A life less ordinary, interiors and inspirations. Zoe Ellison and Alex Legendre, Cico Books, 2013

Brighton, a city I want to explore again and again. On a recent visit my cousin Rachel brought me for breakfast to the café I gigi – General stores– I was instantly smitten. A cool and airy cafe serving delicious food upstairs and a beautifully designed interiors store downstairs full of wonderful items for the home. I instantly spotted their book by the talented duo and it perfectly captures the rawness of their designs. Zoe and Alex are not afraid to use less but give impact with what they do include into their designs. My advice is if you cant get to Brighton anytime soon then buy their book.

Happy reading!

Miriam (aka Minnie)


  1. david says:

    Nice floorboards!

  2. A.C.KenT says:

    Pinterest has its pluses but there is Nothing like a book For INSPIRATION! Flipping though the pages…. My favorite is by the light of the sea – Sigh worthy! Im looking forward to the day when you have a book published so i can sigh over your woRk too!

  3. Nicola cresswell says:

    rachel ashwell has published some lovely books on “shabby chic” too miriam ~ that said she uses lots of pale pink which would not be my first choice but could easily be replaced with washed out blues/gresy/neutrals. i like her books and style. ps ~ have lost hours of my life on pinterest!

  4. Kate Abt says:

    Wonderful blog today! so interesting to hear about the books. I too can’t have enough!. you’ve definitely given me a few more to check out. I was back home and wanted to check out I gigi but ran out of time. Next trip! One I love from an American architect is The great American house by gil Schafer. It was a great inspiration for one of my projects.

  5. Stephanie Masko says:

    Minnie…you inspired me to take a look at all my decor books. i have to admit, now with pinterest i’ve been buying them less…but there is nothing like leafing through pages of a beautiful decor book.

  6. Arlette says:

    For your consideration :
    The welcoming House by scHwab & Smith,
    Essentially French – rynn
    The new traDitional & the collected home – carter

  7. Pamela smith says:

    Hi Minnie, My favourite has to be “romantic irish homes” by Robert o byrne. Full of lovely interiors.

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