Whoever said you can’t judge a book by its cover clearly never had a coffee table worth lingering over. These tomes aren’t just reading material for a rainy day; they can instantly convey your unique interests to others and reveal what drives your style and personality. They also tend to occupy prime real estate in living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and beyond, so it’s important to choose wisely in terms of content, placement, size, and aesthetic. After all, you can tell a lot about a person based on their taste in coffee-table books. Need a little help refreshing your collection (or getting it started)? We tapped a few of our favorite interior designers and stylists to inspire you. Ahead, shop their selects and discover pro tips for styling the best coffee-table books in your home.
Our Top Picks
Best for Globe-Trotters: Travel Home by Caitlin Flemming
In her debut book, San Francisco–based interior designer Caitlin Flemming profiles 20 stylish homes, from Marrakech to Paris, offering insight into the experiences and destinations that shaped each, as well as advice for incorporating travel-based inspiration and memories into your own designs. “I always find myself coming back to this book,” says Erin Hiemstra, founder of Apartment 34. “I love the wide range of styles included and always discover a new vintage piece to hunt for when I inevitably pick it back up.”
Styling tip: Hiemstra prefers to focus on the content itself when displaying her favorite tomes. “Pick a beautiful, full-page spread you want to look at every time you walk by, and use a paperweight or another small object to hold the pages down,” she suggests. “I’ve displayed books like this on a coffee table, dining room console, and bookshelf.”
Best for Traditionalists: Design Remix by Corey Damen Jenkins
Consider this your modern-day guide to traditional interiors that are anything but stuffy. Author and designer Corey Damen Jenkins breaks down his signature style, sharing tried-and-true tips on everything from pattern play to color palettes. “I’ve long been a fan of how Corey takes traditional design and makes it fresh, relevant, and unexpected,” says interior designer Noz Nozawa. “This book is full of inspiring photography, as well as interesting insight into the decisions and thought processes behind his projects.”
Styling tip: Nozawa prefers a unique twist on the classic coffee-table book stack. “When styling smaller coffee-table books, I love vertically displaying a selection between bookends or decorative objects,” she shares. “It’s totally unexpected to use your coffee table like a bookshelf surface, and it actually makes the books easier to grab and thumb through.”
Best for Realists: The World of Apartamento by Apartamento magazine
“Apartamento is one of my favorite publications because it shows how people really live,” says Shannon Maldonado, designer and creative director at Philadelphia design studio Yowie. So it’s no surprise that she also owns this anthology of the magazine’s top stories, including profiles on tastemakers like Petra Collins, Mike Mills, François Halard, and more. “It’s both inspirational and relatable in the best way,” she says. “I have a million Post-it notes stuck inside of my copy.”
Styling tip: “I have a rotating selection of books on my coffee table with a candle or paperweight on top,” says Maldonado. “As for shelf styling, I always include a mix of sizes and colors. Your eyes should kind of dance up and down the shelves the way they would in a library or an old bookshop.”
Best for Modern Obsessives: This Is Home by Natalie Walton
Australian interior designer Natalie Walton’s book feels like a palate cleanser for overstimulated Instagram scrollers. The 16 homes she features epitomize her pared-back design philosophy while offering practical tips for simple, intentional living. “It’s a refreshing, refined take on simple living, and it highlights the beauty that can be found in a monochromatic palette,” says interior designer Brady Tolbert.
Styling tip: You can never have too many coffee-table books, says Tolbert. “I have them stacked under my credenza, lined up along my bookshelf, and stacked on top of my coffee table to create different levels,” he shares. “They’ll never go out of style and always offer an element of practicality.”
Best for City Dwellers: New York Design at Home by Anthony Iannacci
In this voyeuristic design bible for chic urbanites, Anthony Iannacci gives readers a firsthand look inside the homes of New York’s top interior designers, including Tom Flynn, Neal Beckstedt, and 25 others. Brimming with creative, budget-conscious design hacks, as well as innovative styling tips you won’t find anywhere else, the tome feels like a download with your most stylish friend. “This book is a great source of inspiration for me,” says Brooklyn-based designer Delia Kenza. “The photos are beautiful, and I enjoy getting a glimpse into people’s homes and seeing how they live.”
Styling tip: Kenza is another proponent of the more-is-more philosophy when decorating with coffee-table books. “Remember to stack them by size, and don’t go so high that they block conversation,” she says. “Mix in a few objects you love, like candles, bowls, or trays.”
Best for Maximalists: Greco Disco by Luke Edward Hall
Fans of British design star Luke Edward Hall will lose themselves in his debut book—a fever dream of romantic interiors and the campy sketches that define Hall’s unique aesthetic. “I love this book because it’s not so literal,” says interior designer Tali Roth. “It features photography and graphics and endless creative inspiration. [Hall] is just a refreshing human being with a love of color and old-worldliness, and I can’t get enough!”
Styling tip: Roth always considers lifestyle when styling a home, coffee-table books included. “If you have kids, it’s better to stack a small selection of books and maybe add a little sculpture,” she notes. “But generally speaking, I do love to pair my design books with a crystal, a bowl of Polaroids and a camera, and a gorgeous vase with florals. I always play with these vignettes to reflect my mood and keep things dynamic.”
Best for Francophiles: Joseph Dirand Interior by Joseph Dirand
Long a favorite among design insiders, the acclaimed Parisian architect has become something of a household name thanks to his minimalist take on quintessential French style—not to mention his signature treatment of marble. In fact we’d buy this—his first monograph—for the marble shots alone. “This book has stunning architectural photography—some pages could be framed as pieces of artwork,” says San Francisco–based stylist Rosy Fridman. “I also love the scale and muted colors on the cover. It’s the perfect book for display.”
Styling tip: Fridman has a rather specific formula for styling coffee-table books. “I like to stack similar-tone books on coffee tables to keep things simple,” she explains, referencing her client Garance Doré’s coffee table as an example. “I then top the stack with a textural element, like rope or driftwood, usually in a similar hue.”
Best for Minimalists: Axel Vervoordt: Wabi Inspirations by Axel Vervoordt
Axel Vervoordt raised the bar on warm minimalism long before the Kardashians brought him to Calabasas. In his now iconic 10-year-old coffee-table book, the Belgian designer takes on the Japanese concept of wabi—an appreciation for all things simple and authentic—in page after page of self-styled, perfectly imperfect interiors. “This book still provides me with endless inspiration,” says Shelby Girard, vice president of creative and design at Havenly (which also released its own coffee-table book). “Vervoordt is a master of soulful, imperfect spaces, and I go back to this classic again and again when I want to lay out a space in an unexpected way or include artful and unexpected elements in a room.”
Styling tip: Girard is a fan of book stands when it comes to displaying her favorite tomes. “They’re a great way to elevate a work and add some height to a table or shelf,” she explains. “Book stands also allow you to easily flip through the pages, plus you can rotate the books or pages on display every few months.”
Pro Tips for Buying Interior Design Coffee-Table Books
- Head to your local thrift store: Nozawa contends that some of her favorite design coffee-table books were published decades ago and bought secondhand. “There’s something magical about being able to time-travel through pages and see what was worthy of publication 40 to 50 years ago,” she explains. “You start to see how trends cycle in and out, and I often get a lot of fresh design ideas.”
- Pick some up while traveling: Pay a visit to local design stores and boutiques while traveling to score truly unique coffee-table books you’ll have forever. “Small shops typically offer a really curated collection of books from local designers and independent publishers,” notes Tolbert. “I always check out new stores while traveling.”
- Always peek under the hood: Book jackets are just a starting point when it comes to shopping for design books. “Sometimes the jacket is too visually busy for your style, but often there’s a beautiful neutral hardcover underneath,” explains Girard.
- Don’t rush the process: While it may be tempting to quickly stock up on design books when decorating a space, Maldonado cautions against rushing the process when trying to build a truly personal collection. “Take your time when building your library,” she says. “I’ve been collecting art and interiors books since high school, and it’s been a slow and deliberate process.”
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