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5 Fresh, Inspiring Books on Design – The Best Design Books to Read Right Now

We all have “things that matter” in our lives, possessions that mean more to us than they could to anyone else, objects that tell our life stories. When we honor those objects and live with them in a functional way, it brings a sense of calm and order to our homes. The most inspiring design books don’t provide a list of things to buy. Instead, they show us how to hit refresh on our homes by balancing what we already have with our day-to-day needs.

Here are the five best design books I’ve read lately. Whatever your lifestyle, whatever your aesthetic, you’ll find plenty of ideas for making your home more beautiful, functional, and livable. Learn how to arrange what you already have; how to style an entryway, bookshelves, or any space; how to live with art, mix modern with vintage, or bring the outside in.

Every one of these books offers a wealth of photos, as well as room-by-room guides and isights on how to think creatively about your space. And they all prove that you don’t have to spend lavishly to live stylishly.

Best Design Book for Busy Moms

Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Blair.

Gabrielle Blair really knows how to live with kids. She has six of them! DESIGN MOM shows you how to create a beautiful, functional, unfussy, kid-friendly home. Featuring great advice on how to live with kids’ stuff without letting it take over the house, and great storage ideas for corralling stuff while keeping a warm, modern aesthetic. Blair lives in Oakland. Go to her blog, Design Mom, for inspiration.

Best Design Book for Styling Tricky Spaces

Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson provides a 10-step guide to arranging your tricky spaces, like entryways and bookshelves, with “1,000 design ideas for creating the most beautiful, personal, and livable rooms.” This is a photo-heavy book without a whole lot of text. The book is broken down by room, and tends toward the midcentury modern and boho styles.

Best Design Book for the Naturalist

Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating by Lauren Liess

In this meaty design book, Lauren Liess, the blogger behind Pure Style Home,, provides a crash course on architectural elements (“The Fundamental Elements of Design”), then walks readers through “The Intangible Elements of Design”–style, mood, comfort, luxury, and charm, among others. She finishes with a room-by-room guide. This is a book for readers, not just lookers. Less, who specializes in bringing the outside in, shows you how to mix natural, vintage, and modern elements; how to use color, lighting, and texture; and how to live beautifully with art.

Best Design Book on a Budget

The Inspired Room: Simple Ideas to Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful home. Michaels encourages you to begin with what you have. She divides rooms up by function–a place to gather (living room and dining room), a space that nourishes (kitchen and pantry), a place for conversation (family room). A beautiful, thoughtful, and doable guide for the happy I’mperfectionist.

Best Design Book for the Nostalgic

The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus

Part memoir, part design book, The Things That Matter feels like an intimate conversation with design guru Nate Berkus. See inside Berkus’s home and discover the people, places, and things that influenced and inspired him. Berks believes that every home tells a story. Featuring detailed photos from 12 homes and the stories that make each home unique. Booklist raves, “This is truly an awe-filled, happy book, on the surface about decorating, but, on a deeper level, how the things we love unfold our soul.” More a by-the-bedside book than a coffee table book, this is one you’ll want to sit with for a while.

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Modern Standing Desks for the Minimalist

Beautiful and Functional Standing Desks for the Modern Minimalist Home Office

(and great standing desk options for short people)

Because I spend most of my working time on my computer, writing books and running a small press, I’ve been on the lookout for a standing desk that looks good, is simple, and isn’t too expensive. To complicate matters, I’m quite short, just 5’2″, and most of the standing desks seem to be better suited to taller people.

First, the not-so-pretty but functional hack

One popular standing desk hack, the Ikea Lack side table hack, seemed like a good option, because I already have an Ikea Lack table that’s just sitting in the storage closet. However, when I tried putting the Lack table on top of my desk, it felt as though I was looking up way too high, like when I go to a party filled with tall people and I’m not wearing serious heels. Also, there was no way I could type from that angle.

So instead, I put the Ikea Lack table on my coffee table, and it worked just fine. It’s the perfect height for typing, not difficult for viewing the monitor, and best of all, I can take in the canyon view outside my living room window. Also, this particular Ikea table seems to be made of cardboard or something, so it’s no heavier than a magazine. So, here’s my inexpensive standing desk for short people, using the Ikea Lack side table:

ikea-lack-hack

All you have to do is set your $20 table on top of your existing coffee table, and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, while this is a great solution for my laptop, which I use for writing, it doesn’t work for my big Mac desktop, which I use for publishing and web design.

However, did I mention? I’m a grownup, and I like grownup furniture. When it comes to my writing space, I like it to be not only functional, but also attractive.

You can find a number of standing desks online, but most of them are ugly metal things that look better suited to an afternoon with your gaming buddies from Best Buy (nothing against gaming or BestBuy, but I’d like something a bit more elegant). Which brings us to…

Elegant, minimalist, modern wooden standing desks for grownup people who like for things to look nice

ReadyDesk

The most attractive and adaptable standing desk that works for both desktops and laptops is Readydesk. According to creators Ben Larson and Joe Nafzier, who made a Kickstarter campaign to get the desk to market, “Readydesk is lightweight, strong, ergonomic and beautifully designed to setup without tools.” Readydesk consists of four interlocking pieces of plywood–two sides plus two shelves that can be arranged at various heights to fit your equipment and your stature.

Readydesk weighs about fifteen pounds, which means you can’t carry it around town but if you need to move it occasionally to different areas of your home or office, it’s not difficult. At $169, it’s more far more affordable than purchasing a new standalone desk, and, if you’re into the design of your office space/writing space, it allows you to stay modern and minimalist instead of adding ugly contraptions and changing the footprint of your floorspace. You can also purchase additional shelves.

Upstanding Desk

Very similar to the ReadyDesk, differing mainly in style, is the Upstanding desk. Whereas ReadyDesk is all curves, Upstanding is a right angle sort of thing. Also made of wood, also highly adjustable for short people and tall people alike, also really, really good-looking, and similarly priced at $199, and funded through Kickstarter, the Upstanding desk will suit folks who like the ReadyDesk but want something with a deeper lower shelf, as well as sides to keep things from falling off. A great feature of Upstanding is that it has grooves to hold your iPad and other devices. The Standard version of the Upstanding desk is 29″ wide, but you can also buy it in double wide, if that’s how you roll. The website warns customers that the boxes are heavy and shipping is expensive, “but it’s totally worth it.” If you’re good with a handsaw, you can order the Upstanding desk plans and build the whole thing yourself for $49, but that sort of seems like kind of a lot of trouble, right?

StandStand

Another great option for laptop users is StandStand, which also was born on Kickstarter, and which, like ReadyDesk and Upstanding desk, is made of wood and sits atop your current desk. At under two pounds and foldable (it fits in your laptop case), StandStand is very portable and inexpensive. While not quite as versatile ergonomically as the previous two options, it does come in three sizes: 9″ (for short people like me), 12″ for regular folks, and 14″ for the giants among you. It’s $69 in Baltic Birch and $99 in Bamboo, and while the top is too small to hold your desktop, it can support a lot of weight (enough to sit on, if you want to). It’s also made in the US of sustainable woods. The StandStand blog, complete with images of happy hipsters building these babies in their woodshop, will make you fall in love with the product, and this video will make you fall in love with its dreamy creator, Luke Leafgren. In the video, Luke takes the StandStand to the cafe and elsewhere, because when you look like Luke Leafgren, you can get away with that sort of thing.

Even the StandStand packaging is fun. See the smiley face and the bright yellow, look-at-me accents? That design and marketing team has some smart people, for real.

If I only needed a desk for my laptop, I’d definitely buy the StandStand–and I may still purchase one. But since I spend half of my time on my desktop, I think I’ll just use the Lack for now for my laptop and get the ReadyDesk for my big Mac (the computer, not the sandwich). It’s really a close call between ReadyDesk and Upstanding, but ReadyDesk comes in at a slightly lower price point, and Upstanding’s “Wait! Our shipping is seriously expensive warning!” before you even add the product to your cart  might be scaring some people off.

I’ll post photographs and a review after my ReadyDesk arrives and let you know how it works out.

 

 

Writing Spaces: Hemingway’s Studio

The latest issue of Domino Magazine features Hemingway’s Key West writing studio, where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and Have and Have Not.

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See the photos and read the story in the Spring 2015 issue of Domino Magazine.

via Behance

Lester the Minimalist 3D-Printed Book Holder – Old School Meets New School

One of my favorite sources for design inspiration is Design Taxi. Today, Design Taxi shared images of Lester, a “3D printed book holder” by designers Ludwig Mattsson and Simon Eriksson (leave it to the Scandinavians to be the arbiters of cool). I was confused by the description at first. Does 3D printed book holder mean that it is for the printed book, or that it was printed with a 3D printer? Both! Newfangled gadgets for the old-fashioned reader.LOVE

See more images and gifs of Lester on Behance.

Sofa by Organic Modernism

Modern Furniture from Small Shops & Innovative Makers

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I primarily write about writing, publishing, and literature. But my secret passion is for design, and I’ll confess that I spend countless hours tracking down great designs from high to low. I especially love small furniture and design shops, where the makers put their personal stamp on every piece. This week, I’m focusing on small makers of beautiful modern furniture.

Organic Modernism (Brooklyn)
I came across this shop while reading a Remodelista piece on, ironically enough, custom cabinet fronts for Ikea kitchens. Images from the featured home (by Smitten Studio) showed a couple of beautiful wooden stools, which were attributed to Organic Modernism.

Smitten Studio home tour, via Remodelista

On Organic Modern’s website, I found all sorts of amazing pieces. Here’s the one I’m dreaming of, modern shelves in a mix of walnut and candyesqe brights. At 94.5″ wide, these gorgeous shelves won’t fit against any wall in my house, but if they would, I’d have to tie myself to a chair to avoid clicking the buy button.

Multi-colored shelves with Walnut from Organic Modernism

The shelves are $1,995, and you can buy them here.

I’m also in love with this modern sofa, made of a walnut frame with fabric upholstery and seat back. The extension rising up out of the back makes it look as though the sofa could up and fly away. This is a statement piece, unlike any sofa I’ve ever seen. In my home, we’re blessed with floor-to-celing windows that I’d be crazy to cover, so we keep our seating low profile in order not to obstruct the views. But if you have a central spot in your home crying out for both a practical sofa and a conversation-inducing statement piece, here’s your solution.

Modern walnut sofa from organic modernism

The sofa is $3,995, and you can buy it here.

Our final item is this beautiful credenza with a walnut frame. This is Organic Modernism’s take on a sophisticated mid century modern classic. At $2,995, it’s in the same price range as credenzas by the big chain stores.

Mid century modern walnut credenza by Organic Modernism

Buy the credenza here.

If you prefer vintage, there are a lot of great mid century modern finds at One Kings Lane, like these Burke chairs in white and yellow, and, below, this beautiful mid-century modern teak credenza.

Mid-Century Modern Burke Chairs, S/4 – $1,295.00

Set of four Mid-Century Modern fiberglass tulip chairs by Burke. Lovely contrasting white frame and yellow seat. Chairs swivel.


Mid-Century Modern Teak Credenza

from: One Kings Lane