As a lit major in college, I always relished in receiving book lists from my professors. Book lists only meant one thing: (book) SHOPPING! Whether it was hunting for inexpensive hardbound copies in book sales or the latest, nicest editions in the big bookstores, book shopping gave me such a thrill. And as soon as I had my new (or pre-loved) books in my hands, the first thing I would do was write my name neatly on the fly leaf. Always. I loved lining all my books up on the shelf, and staring at them like I do my own child when she is asleep. (Weird, I know!)
Until now, this is something I do. I feel a strange sense of ownership, like I would absorb its contents better if it had my name on it. I no longer read from the literary canon or bestsellers’ lists (a shame, I know), as nowadays, my book shopping has been confined to the design section. (This is partly due to the fact that I have so many fiction and nonfiction books in my own library that I have yet to start or finish reading.)
A design book was often the one thing I treated myself to on or around paydays, at least when I was still fully employed. I know design and decoration has been written about by countless designers, authors, editors, and bloggers whether in print or online. But every time I go to the bookstore and leaf through new books in the design section, I always find something new to learn—whether it’s a different perspective on asymmetry in interiors, a new combination of hues, or an offbeat way of interpreting a particular design element.

Now I’m no longer employed and don’t get the chance to splurge every 15th or 30th of the month. But whenever I do wrap up a project or win a bid, I often find myself gravitating towards the bookstore to find a new design book to devour.
My collection of home and design books is in no way extensive, but I have amassed quite a few already to literally make my shelves bend and bow under my books’ combined weight. Every now and then, when I’m writing or in need of inspiration (and Pinterest just doesn’t seem to cut it), I thumb through my books looking for inspiration or a refresher.
I thought of sharing with you my favorites from my collection, so far, as these have helped me immensely in my journey towards educating myself in design. While I am taking an online interior design course (from the New York Institute of Art and Design), I still feel like I need to supplement my education with literature. And for my own personal enjoyment too. I also use these as resource materials for when I’m coming up with story lists for my work as a content writer for Cromly, as I don’t like relying completely on online sources (something I learned writing all those papers and essays as a lit major, and later on as an editor for a magazine).
Anyway, here are my favorite design books!
{book cover images either from Amazon or the authors’ personal websites; all other images by me}
best favorite design books collection

  1. Novel Living by Lisa Occhipinti

Let me begin with my most recent recruit, something I bought just this morning on what was supposed to be just a quick trip to the drugstore (getting sidetracked is something I’m very very good at).
novel living by lisa occhipinti
I haven’t finished reading this one, but from what I’ve read so far, this book is—as the cover says—all about collecting, displaying, and decorating with your books. Being in a household of readers (the babycat has thankfully inherited our penchant for reading), I can tell from a glance that I will be referring to this book often. Right now, our library is exploding at the seams. I don’t see my (slight) obsession with books slowing down any soon, so the suggestions in this book on how to display our beloved literary possessions in other parts of the house will definitely come in handy.

novel living by lisa occhipinti
Book slings! What a unique idea.

2. Domino: The Book of Decorating by the domino editors
Domino The Book of Decorating
No design aficionado would be caught dead without this one.

If you’re always on Pinterest and you often look at home decor-related pins, you’ll most probably have seen this book in, like, 20 million pins—on coffee tables, bookshelves, on bedside surfaces, home offices, etc. And for good reason. It’s chock-full of decor tips, like how to come up with your own personal “look”:
domino the book of decorating
Name your style by settling on a specific but unique term that encapsulates all the design and decor looks that you love and you feel best expresses your style.

domino the book of decorating
I also love that for each room in the house, they have extremely doable decor tips.

My favorite in the book is how they end each chapter with a real-life execution of their design techniques, courtesy of the domino editors’ own homes.
domino the book of decorating domino the book of decorating
3. On Happy Chic Accessorizing by Jonathan Adler
on happy chic accessorizing by jonathan adler
on happy chic accessorizing by jonathan adler
Jonathan Adler’s got plenty of quirky-confident style that’s so infectious, you want your own home to be as happy as the homes he’s designed.

Jonathan Adler is the go-to designer for unique and quirky concepts, bright and bold palettes, and everything that makes a home so—in his own words—”happy chic.” I’ve yet to get my hands on his other book On Happy Chic Colors, but this one taught me a great deal about creating vignettes and tablescapes. (It proved useful for my magazine work too.)
on happy chic accessorizing by jonathan adler
The book’s ripe with quotable quotes too.

4. Big Design, Small Budget: Create a Glamorous Home in Nine Thrifty Steps by Betsy Helmuth
big design small budget create a home in nine thrifty steps by betsy helmuth
I know exactly how it feels to look at a photo of an incredibly jaw-dropping home and sense the despair of not being able to afford such beauty. Decorating can be a big expense—in fact, whenever I tally our monthly expenses, home decorating is often one of my biggest personal expenses—so I’m a big fan of thrifty decorating. I think I’d be able to save some more if I were more crafty and skilled in carpentry. Betsy Helmuth writes her book for design amateurs like me—those who are not formally educated (well at least me before I officially enrolled in design courses) but would like to have the lovely home they deserve.
She can be a bit cheeky and condescending at times, but she is basically saying that not everyone has an eye for design, but that doesn’t mean that not everyone can have a beautifully designed home. She gives you super-specific design techniques anyone can execute without a designer.
big design small budget create a home in nine thrifty steps by betsy helmuth
Like for example, how to create and implement a color palette…

big design small budget create a home in nine thrifty steps by betsy helmuth
…or what kind of art to buy and how to hang them up.

5. Bright Bazaar: Embracing Color for Make-You-Smile Style by Will Taylorbright bazaar by will taylorWhile I don’t exactly shun monochromatic palettes, I gravitate towards colorful spaces more and tend to decorate my own home with at least two or three hues. I follow Will Taylor on Instagram and he takes the most fantastically colorful shots—whether outdoors or indoors, in fashion, interiors, or otherwise. The book is a collection of stunning interior palettes inspired by vignettes from nature, architecture, fashion, and many others. 
bright bazaar embracing color for make you smile style by will taylor
bright bazaar embracing color for make you smile style by will taylor
6. Step-by-Step Home Design & Decorating by Clare Steel
step by step home design and decorating by clare steel
The title says it all. No matter what room in the house you’re renovating, this book will guide you through the entire renovation process, help you create a mood board, figure out the many different kinds of appliances, furniture, and decorative items you’ll need, suggest layouts, wall and window treatments, cabinet and storage options, flooring, lighting, and even add a few DIY tutorials in the mix.
step by step home design and decorating by clare steel
(image courtesy of Penguin Books Australia)

7. Interior Design: A Survey by Corky Binggeli, ASID
interior design a survey by corky bingelli ASID
This is actually a text book rather than a design book. But as a design student (and all-around nerd) I had long been looking for a textbook on interior design that I could refer to time and again either for my studies or just for simple self-education purposes. This is pretty comprehensive, despite its slightly older references and photos. Since my course at NYIAD doesn’t exactly have a unit on the history of design (which I had actually already taken up in my short stint at the Philippine School of Interior Design or PSID), I review my design history using this resource.
Will continue this list in another post! Have lots of work waiting for me in the wings, but I do have seven more recommended reading (or browsing) material in design literature for you. Do watch for it in the coming days! (Sorry, bills before blog!)