Pat yourself on the back and give the KonMari-ing a break for just a hot second because we need to talk. About buying stuff. More specifically, we need to talk about buying books — beautiful, bold and brimming-with-ideas design and architecture books.
During the weeks leading up to the holidays, publishers traditionally release a bulk of their hottest and most gift-worthy titles. And this year is no exception.
Selected with sustainable design-loving DIYers and back-to-basics bookworms in mind, below you'll find a small handful of recent releases, all fresh-ish off the presses and ready to confer.
As you can see, it’s an eclectic selection with someone for everyone. There's a lust-worthy tome overflowing with gratuitous photos of off-grid cabins; a handsome how-to guide that tackles everything from growing a tomato plant to properly cleaning a cast-iron pan; a monograph filled with sophisticated yet rugged homes set against the untamed nature of the Pacific Northwest and beyond; and a riveting bestseller from Norway on how to chop wood. Like I said, there's something for everyone.
This all said, while each book includes a direct link to a certain online retailer based in Seattle, it’s always a fine idea to check in with your local independent bookseller first to see if they they have the title in stock.
“The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How To Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures” edited by Alexandra Redgrave and Jessica Hundley (Princeton Architectural Press)
The great thing about Kaufmann Mercantile — aka the Internet’s go-to-spot for handcrafted garden trowels, charcuterie twine and horsehair hand brooms — is that the Brooklyn-based e-retailer doesn’t simply peddle utilitarian products for the home and beyond … it also tells the stories of the makers and artisans behind them. Organized into sections like Grooming, Outdoors and Kitchen, this back-to-basics how-to title — a “trusty companion for the everyday" — takes things a step further with illustrated instruction on a range of activities from fixing a flat bike tire to starting an urban compost heap. Says founder and CEO Sebastian Kaufmann: "We've pooled knowledge gleaned from working with makers and designers from around the world to bring our expertise to urban and cabin dwellers alike, a place and page for people to turn to for guidance and inspiration."
"Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere" by Zach Klein (Little, Brown and Company)
A hardcover companion volume to the wildly popular website of the same name, “Cabin Porn” will leave both Thoreau wannabes and small space living enthusiasts equally hot and bothered. Featuring over 200 “rural escapes for those yearning for a simpler existence,” this hefty tome best displayed on a coffee table, not shoved under a mattress, features converted grain silos, off-grid bunkhouses, hand-built yurts and earthen shelters galore. And treehouses. Lots of treehouses. Described as an “invitation to slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the beauty and serenity that happens when nature meets simple construction,” “Cabin Porn” might just send you packing off to the woods to live life more deliberately.
“Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way” by Lars Mytting (Abrams)
Really not to be confused with Haruki Murakami's incredibly depressing May-December romance novel of the same name, “Norwegian Wood” is the hottest publishing phenomenon out of Scandinavia since black lipstick-wearing hacker Lisbeth Salander arrived on the scene. And, yes, the book concerns log-splitting, kindling-stacking methods and proper fire-building technique. While pretty much the best gift ever for those who relish in building roaring fires during the holidays, this European bestseller also offers broader appeal. Much like the Norway's slow TV movement, the book — blurbed as “the definitive handbook on the basics of this renewable energy source, imparting valuable lessons from a rustic, self-sufficient, and simple way of life” — offers a quintessential slice of Scandinavia: clean, simple, calming and altogether delightful. Sit back, relax and let the friluftsliv roll.
“Tom Kundig: Works” (Princeton Architectural Press)
The latest monograph to celebrate the 30-plus-year career of Seattle-based architect Tom Kundig is one of those weighty coffee table books worth hunkering down with on a cold winter’s day. And it doesn’t hurt that many of Kundig’s landscape-embracing, natural material-incorporating designs look like the best places in which to hunker down in on a cold winter’s day (and never leave). For those unfamiliar with Kundig’s work, the book serves as an excellent primer as it spotlights 19 new projects of different scopes, sizes and typologies set against a range of dramatic locales from Kona to the Upper East Side. Of course, you’ll also find plenty of Kundig's signature remote Pacific Northwest getaways to ogle including the Sol Duc Cabin (the Olympic Peninsula), Bigwood (Ketchum, Idaho), and cover-star Studhorse (Winthrop, Washington).
“New Eco Homes: New Ideas for Sustainable Living” by Manel Gutierrez (Harper Design)
Another notable sustainable architecture tome to add to the already impressive stack, this thick new release from Harper Design serves up a gluttonous dose of architectural eye-candy with profiles of 22 deep-green abodes from around the globe. In addition to providing pretty pictures and floor plans aplenty to admire (and envy), “New Eco Homes” also serves as a valuable resource that “demonstrates the wide array of ecological and environmental construction solutions that are being applied around the world as a reflection of the growing concern for the environment and energy savings in home building.” In other words, there's lots to look at ... but even more to learn.
“The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living” by Nathan Williams (Artisan)
From “Kinfolk,” the minimalist-twee “slow lifestyle” quarterly that’s perfected the lost art of berry foraging in your Sunday best (the New York Times has called the magazine the “Martha Stewart Living of the Portland Set”), comes an interiors-centric follow-up to 2013’s “The Kinfolk Table.” The book profiles 35 homes from across the globe (Japan and Scandinavia included, natch) that have been “put together carefully, slowly, and with great intention.” What does this all even mean? Head on over to The Guardian to find out if you, gasp, might unknowingly be a member of the Kinfolk cult. If you, or someone you know, own furniture that could "concuss a small child" or possess "very strong feelings about ramen," there's a good chance that this is a book worth gifting (or keeping).
“Do It Yourself: 50 Projects by Designers and Artists” by Thomas Bärnthaler (Phaidon Press)
A highly gift-table book for tinkerers, makers, aspiring industrial designers and expert IKEA furniture assemblers, “Do It Yourself” pulls together a motley assortment of clever projects conceived by an impressive international roster of design visionaries including Hella Jongerius, Yves Behar and Piet Hein Eek. Each project can be executed at home with simple-ish materials, basic tools and minimal expertise. The designs themselves run the gamut from chairs to lamps to smartphone speakers — all are handsome, functional and, most importantly, put together by hand.
"A Field Guide to American Houses" by Virginia Savage McAlester (Knopf)
First published in 1984 and recently republished in a revised and expanded paperback second edition, “A Field Guide to American Houses” is, simply put, indispensable. As its title suggests, this classic — and much beloved amongst armchair historians — book/bible is structured and organized much like something you’d bring along on a birding expedition. Except in this case, we’re dealing with spotting and identifying the Side-Gabled Craftsman, the Neo-Tudor, the Asymmetrical Mission and the not-so-elusive Millennial Mansion (sigh). But seriously, don't leave your home — or the neighborhood — without it.