And now, my last book review blog post for 2016. There were so many excellent books released this past fall, including Cecil Beaton at Home: An Interior Life by Andrew Ginger. To be honest, I have difficulty reading Beaton's diaries, as they contain too much vitriol for my taste. But my ambivalence towards Beaton doesn't mean that I don't find the man and his many homes intriguing. Finally, thanks to Ginger, we have a book that gathers the many photos and illustrations of Ashcombe and Reddish House, Beaton's country houses, as well his various London flats. If, like me, you seek inspiration and guidance from interiors of the past, then you will find Cecil Beaton at Home immensely engrossing.
Speaking of prominent tastemakers of the twentieth century, Baron Fred de Cabrol, the late aristocratic French decorator, remains much admired today. A figure who, along with his wife, Daisy, was present at most of last century's most acclaimed balls and gatherings, Baron de Cabrol counted the likes of Duff and Diana Cooper, Charles de Beistegui, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as friends. Such a glittering social life deserved documentation, but not in prosaic fashion. Baron de Cabrol's scrapbooks, with their charming blend of photographic cut-outs and illustrated backgrounds, present a highly-colorful and delightful record of a social milieu that has all but died out. It's no wonder, then, that author Thierry Coudert has devoted his latest book, Beautiful People of the Café Society: Scrapbooks by the Baron de Cabrol, to the Baron's handiwork. Just as he did with his previous book, Café Society: Socialites, Patrons, and Artists 1920-1960, Coudert provides the reader with a dazzling account of twentieth-century European café society.
I've long been a fan of the work of London-based designers, Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen. So when I caught wind that the pair's first monograph, Signature Spaces: The Well-Traveled Interiors of Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, was due to be published this fall, I quickly added the book to my wish-list. As I suspected it would be, Signature Spaces is one of my favorite designer monographs of the year. Moschino and Vergeylen's work is always visually-engaging, an all-together pleasing mix of luxurious fabrics, refined finishes, antique furnishings, and modern accents. Their work, lavishly photographed for this book, provides much to look at, but what I found equally as engaging were the photos of people, places, and things that inspire the partners, including Babe Paley, Eugenia Errazuriz, and Belgian Loafers. No wonder I admire these two.
Truth be told, I have not finished reading Empire Style: The Hôtel de Beauharnais in Paris, but based on what I have read so far, I am certain that the book's authors, Jörg Ebeling and Ulrich Leben, have written the definitive work on this Empire-style gem. Built in the eighteenth-century and later, in 1813, purchased by Josephine Bonaparte for her son, Eugene de Beauharnais, this magnificent palace, which today serves as the Germany embassy in Paris, remains one of the great examples of the Empire Style of decor. The book's sumptuous photographs are sights to behold, but the real draw here is the authors' extensive research into the history, the inhabitants, and the style that have earned this monument an important place in both French and design history.
(All photos © Francis Hammond, from Empire Style: The Hôtel de Beauharnais in Paris by Jörg Ebeling and Ulrich Leben (Flammarion, 2016).)
And finally, for a book that is both light-hearted and fun, I recommend Ladurée Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living. This bijou-sized book is a guide to living well and living elegantly. Did it teach me anything new? Not really, because at my age, I'm familiar with the details of fine living. But what the book did do was remind me that when life is hectic, it's important not to overlook life's little luxuries. And with the book's snappy illustrations and detail photographs, you'll certainly have a good time reading it. This book would make a great gift for teenage girls and young women who are just starting to make their way in the world.