Sitting around your friend's living room, sipping on your favorite evening cocktail surrounded by those who bring you great conversation and laughs, you're distracted. An eye-grabbing book lies on the surface of the space's centerpiece, the coffee table, and you can't help but imagine what wonders you'd see underneath the hard, matte-finished cover. You don't want to interrupt your friend who's discussing their favorite new podcast, but the book is tempting you to grab and explore every inch of it.
That's the power of a successful coffee table book. On a superficial level, it can hold more beauty than any one piece of decor, for each page is a new opportunity to see something spectacular. Additionally, coffee table books can be selected for their exterior color or design to complement the other decor you have on your table. On a personal level, they create an experience for the owner and guest of a space. They can be picked up, pored over, and provoking. Coffee table books can be inspirational and representational. Maybe you're a car enthusiast, so Be Extraordinary, The Spirit of Bentley by Assouline sits on your living room's coffee table. Your friends learn you might have an interest in the luxury, English automobile and your passion stares back at you every time you kick back and enjoy your space with loved ones or alone.
Selecting the right topic for your coffee table book might not be difficult, but choosing one that rises to the level of your interior design might take a little extra leg work. To make things easier, we'll tell you our favorite coffee table book publishers, great books for different interests, and some of our most-loved pieces.
We gravitate towards the coffee table book publishers Assouline and Taschen for two distinct, and different, reasons. If one of your interests falls under Assouline's categories, you will most definitely want to purchase their book on the topic. They think about design from every angle, and the pieces they produce never disappoint. Taschen, on the other hand, offers a variety of books. Their products can come in a wide range of designs and sizes, so you might not always get that large, hardcover, piece of art with Taschen. But don't be mistaken, they do publish that iconic coffee book style and they're sure to carry a book that covers a topic you're interested in.
Since design is our specialty, here are some rich books on design, ranging from fashion to architecture.
FOOD AND DRINK
Whether you're a creator or enjoyer, beautifully composed photos of food & drink never let you down. If anything, they inspire you to recreate the recipe for your next dinner party (or find a friend who will).
Some of the best books are the ones that take you away, show you a different side of a culture or landscape that you've never seen but now dream to.
There are some coffee table books we often style our homes with, whether it's because they play with the color scheme, we know the client will love the topic, or both. Tom Ford by Tom Ford and Bridgett Foley is a go-to book for us. It's an extremely versatile decor piece and the photography is unmatched. The Chanel collection from Assouline is similar, as it's black and white, allowing it to fit any sleek, modern space.
Bvlgari Roma and Whiskey Cocktails are new finds for us that we love! Bvlgari Roma is a great color-pop piece while Whiskey Cocktails perfectly accents any bar setting.
You've seen a wide variety of books based on interest, style, and design — it's time you select a coffee table book that'll inspire and represent you. If you find multiple you want (and it's very likely you will), we're close to the holidays — put them on your gift list! Coffee table books make fabulous gifts for the holidays or for that house-warming party you've been invited to. They're thoughtful, beautiful, and sure to get well-used for years.
In some ways, designers have the easy job when it comes to healthy design. We make decisions about what materials to use, what kind of lighting to put in one's space, and how many plants to spread throughout the home. Once the decision has been made, approved, and implemented, that's it — we've created an environment meant to reduce stress and increase overall wellness.
Once we're done with a project, however, that's when one of the most important elements of healthy design comes in — maintenance. The products we use to maintain our spaces, AKA cleaning supplies, can make or break the healthiness of a home. We, as designers, can only recommend which chemicals to be aware of, but it's the space's occupants who must be disciplined in the products they use on a daily basis.
INTERACTING WITH CHEMICALS
Any time one inhales the eye-watering smell of their bathroom bleach, touches the window cleaner as it seeps through the paper towel, or eats off a plate cleaned by their super-powered dishwashing pod, they're consuming the chemicals released by the given product. That's why, if wanting to maintain a healthy space, the cleaning products used are extremely important.
In addition, because interior spaces are typically enclosed, they have relatively poor air circulation and filtration. Consequentially, chemicals released by household products linger in a space. While plants and air purifiers can assist in cleaning the air, the best way to avoid harmful chemicals is to not introduce them into the space's atmosphere.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Ammonia and bleach are common, harmful ingredients found in cleaning supplies. Thankfully, these products are easy to avoid as the two chemicals are usually highlighted on the label or listed under the product's ingredients (look for ammonium chloride for ammonia).
It's not as easy, however, to identify which ingredients emit dangerous chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), even though these are extremely common in everyday cleaning supplies. In fact, when the University of Washington studied 25 popular, scented household products (air fresheners, laundry detergents, disinfectants, dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, etc.), they identified over 133 unique VOCs, 24 of which were classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law, and yet only one was listed under the corresponding product's ingredients.
If there's 133 unique VOCs in just 25 popular products, one can assume many more exist given all the types of household cleaning products there are on the market. And if nearly all of those products omit VOCs under their ingredients, how would any consumer be able to make an informed decision about the products they're buying? Don't worry, it's not as daunting as it seems.
As people become increasingly more aware of the harmful chemicals in everyday cleaning supplies, consumers have created a high demand for natural solutions. And, as you can imagine, companies who supply these products are more than happy to loudly advertise their healthy alternatives.
Because this demand for natural, or organic, supplies has rapidly increased, consumers should still apply a critical eye to a product's ingredients. Some companies advertise as "green" but that doesn't mean the chemicals are VOC-free or natural. A good rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce the ingredients in a product, it's best to leave it on the shelf.
Another alternative people have turned to is making their own solutions. While not emitting the pleasant smells of Tropical Breeze or April Fresh, people can take comfort in knowing the exact ingredients being used throughout their space.
There are many things designers can do to help you improve the healthiness of your space, but this responsibility is on you. But that's ok, because we know you got this!
At Beyond Interior Design, we're extremely passionate about finding new ways to improve the lives of our clients. Something we've recently been consumed with is healthy building, or in our case, healthy designing. In other words, we've been researching new ways to improve the health and overall well-being of our clients through different materials, decor, and design choices. In fact, our head designer, Juliana Oliveira, is undergoing training to receive the Healthy Building Certificate.
Since we've become enthralled in this topic, and we believe it to be highly relevant, we thought it would be wonderful to share our findings with you! If you caught our Biophilia in interior design article, you're already aware of how bringing natural elements into your home can be physically and psychologically beneficial. In this article, we're going to explore how lighting affects our overall health and how one can easily implement lighting solutions in their space.
The more natural light in a space, the better — simple as that. Offering more than just our daily dose of Vitamin D, natural light also has a major impact on our overall psyche. It can improve one's sleep cycle and reduce the risks of eye-strain and mental stress brought on by artificial lighting. Unfortunately, reality doesn't always allow for optimal natural light, whether that be because light wasn't initially considered in the design of the space or another building obstructs the light coming in. Either way, if a particular space lacks natural lighting, it's the designer's responsibility to find out how to best imitate it.
COLOR RENDERING INDEX
While "Color Rendering Index" sounds anything but exciting, it's actually just that! When natural light is absent and artificial lights are needed to brighten up a space, one can use the CRI to gauge how close their light sources are to natural light. Technically, on a scale of 0 to 100, the CRI measures the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects in comparison with a natural light source (aka the sun). In other words, if a source has a CRI of 95, it's only 5% off from producing the same colors as natural light. The ideal source will have a CRI of 85 or higher.
With nearly all light bulbs having a CRI measurement under their "specifications", people can easily and inexpensively improve their health by improving the light in their space — and that's what is so exciting about the CRI! It's simple and the changes can easily be implemented by designers and typical homeowners alike. There is one controversy with high-CRI lights, however. Generally speaking, high-CRI light bulbs consume more energy. LED lights, which are energy-efficient and therefore preferred by sustainable designers, typically have a lower CRI. Thankfully, some innovative lighting companies are changing that, producing LED bulbs with CRIs of 90 and higher.
For ultra-high CRI lighting, check out
Light directly corresponds with our circadian rhythm, which is the natural 24-hour internal clock running in the background of our brains, cycling between sleepiness and alertness. When morning comes and the sun begins to break over the horizon, waking from its evening sleep, our brains begin waking, too. Or at least they should be. There are many reasons why our circadian cycle could become off-sync with nature's cycle, and the use of artificial light is most certainly one of them. Artificial lights (high-CRI or not) affect our circadian cycle because they can be used at any given time. When our bodies experience light at irregular times, such as late at night or extremely early in the morning, the internal clock gets thrown off, affecting sleep patterns and eventually leading to mental and physical stress. Since light visually cues our brains as to what part of the circadian cycle we're in, it also affects the hormones that are produced during a given time. Too much light can lead to certain hormones overproducing, further setting our system off-balance.
To combat the conditions set by artificial lights, companies have introduced light bulbs that adjust to a human's circadian cycle. In fact, there are even some on the market that run on a circadian cycle AND measure high on the CRI.
Lighting directly impacts our minds and bodies, which is why it's crucial we, as designers, do everything we can to ensure the light sources we implement in our clients' homes improve the overall well-being of the individual or family. With that said, you can also improve your health — you don't have to wait for us. All it takes is a different source of light.
In our previous Shop Talk, we highlighted a local, modern decor store, explaining how shops like Kasart are where you find those unique, eye-catching pieces for your interior design. We love our local businesses, but big-box home furnishing stores, like West Elm and CB2, have their benefits, too! In this edition, we'll discuss exactly what those benefits are.
When it's time to replace a large piece of furniture in your home (bed, sofa, dining table), it often means you'll also replace many of the space's supporting pieces – bedding, coffee tables, media stands, dining chairs, etc. This is usually the point where clients come to us, saying "I have to refurnish my place but have no idea what I'm doing. Can you help?" And of course we can! Nothing brings us more joy than helping people with their interior design projects (truly). But for those people who love to DIY or who may not have room for an interior designer in their budget, commercial home furnishing stores can be great places to start when updating one's space.
One of the best features stores like West Elm and CB2 have is their room or style photos. Because these stores sell everything from sofas to hanging mirrors, nearly all of the items featured in their photos are purchasable from their shop. These photos act as advertisements, showing people how great their space could look if they purchase the accompanying pieces, but they can also be helpful tools for those who want guidance in keeping design continuity in their space.
Another benefit of stores like CB2 and West Elm is they offer a diverse range of neutral styles, allowing them to appeal to a majority of modern design lovers. Are you one for minimalist luxe? Or perhaps mid-century is your cup of tea. Either way, the commercial modern furnishing store will have your style.
Need help finding your style, read our Four Styles of Modern Design blog!
Don't feel limited to just these shops. There are a handful of stores you can explore to find out which one best matches your budget and style.
And, in the end, if you feel stuck, an interior designer will always be there for you, so don't hesitate to reach out!