Read Em or Weep

I meant to do a Mother’s Day post. It had been bouncing around in my head even though I think Mother’s Day is something of a Hallmark holiday. (Not that I have anything against Hallmark; we are not a one-horse town around here, but if you come to look over our stables you’ll see that Hallmark is something of a Clydesdale. Now I’m mixing Missouri metaphors, as Clydesdales are associated with Busch which is headquartered on the Eastern side of the state.)

In any event (or holiday), I’ve had Mark Hampton, An American Decorator and The Great Lady Decorators, The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870 – 1955 (because every good book needs a nifty subtitle) sitting on my desk/bedside table for about a month.

I wanted to suggest, in the post that wasn’t, that you should buy both of these books for any design aficionado on your list or yourself if you are so inclined. As a pair they would make a mother of a gift, or at least I think so as one of the most interesting parts of this blog odyssey has been to learn more about design history.

I would hate for someone who is firmly entrenched in the designers of the day to think these books have no relevance. I think you will see the influence of these past decorators and perhaps be inspired as well.

As for aforementioned designers of the day, take note. Those names of decorators past which trip so easily from our tongues are likely to have tomes of their own. The book is the thing. Pity me who can enjoy volume upon volume of Dorothy Draper, but must make do with a few glimpses of Ruby Ross Wood, leaving me to toss and turn over what I must have missed. A page or two here, a page or two there (including 251 of Regency Redux, and if you don’t own that one, you need it as well – now I have spent your lunch money for the month) is not nearly enough.

You’ve been warned. Regardless of your talent – publish or perish.
Images from top, Mark Hampton by Duane Hampton, Rizzoli, photography by Scott Frances; Michael S. Smith, Houses, with Christine Pittel, Rizzoli, no photography given for this image; The Great Lady Decorators, design by Rose Cumming, photography by Wendy Hilty; Ruthie Sommers via her site,; The Great Lady Decorators, Rizzoli, design by Madeleine Castaing, photography by Antoine Bootz; Miles Redd via

I received The Great Lady Decorators and Mark Hampton from Rizzoli and maybe Regency Redux as well; I’m a little foggy.
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10 thoughts on “Read Em or Weep

  1. These are indispensable If one really wants to study Good Design, though the Great Ladies is a bit redundant- these doyennes have clocked in with previously published books, the Mark Hampton book is a gem. It is a body of good work, Great work- Not just one house and the pictures Overworked-again, & again. I have just started shedding myself of these sorts of books on ebay -Life and shelves are too short for these books(One knows that just around the corner there is another- Again& Again book up his or her design sleeve (rant over-thank you for the space Mrs.Blandings!) pgt

  2. It just proves that classic design never goes out of style, and that what is old, is new again! I'm taken aback at how current these photos look. Thanks for sharing…off to buy the books.

  3. I have these three and only the Great Ladies disappointed because I wanted more. I am so looking forward to the Divine EEE's book on Castaing (how kind of her to have this book come out in my birthday month). Regarding publish or perish, these days I always ponder publish where? Will blogs take over the first wave (how to do that without the great photographers whose work is the unsung of the unsung)? Will designers go straight to books without an audience and be a greater disappointment (as LA expressed and I have my own pile of regrets)?

    p.s. Having said all of this will Miles Redd become well red in a book of his own soon? Inquiring minds want to know.

  4. Great books, I'm off to Amazon in a minute to look them up.

    I found a few of my late aunt's hardcover Architectural Digest books from the 70's and was amazed to see that, with a few glaring exceptions, how wonderful most of the interiors look today.

    Thinking of some of the rooms that make me marvel — for instance, Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler's Yellow Room? I'd move in today, and wouldn't change a thing. Ditto for their work at the London apartment of Evangeline Bruce. Both are examples of English Country decorating at its very best, but what is it about their work that seems so timeless whereas, in my opionion, Mario Buatta's 80's version of the same looks, well, a bit too-too and kind of dated now?
    That is what fascinates me — what exactly is it that distinguishes the timeless from the merely wonderful?

  5. I agree – good interior design, is good interior design despite the style.

    Happy belated Mother's Day!

  6. Will be adding to the library. Hope you had a great Mother's Day. Didn't do a Mother's Day post either. Couldn't quite get my mojo working yesterday.

    Hope you are well.


  7. I agree! I love magazines, but especially with designers like Miles Redd, I want to see more of his work, not just what Elle Decor runs! Not to mention my greedy little paws tend to destroy magazines, I prefer to caress a beauteous hardcover design book for a lifetime of love…

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