Shared from the 11/29/2016 Palm Beach Post eEdition


What’s on your COFFEE TABLE?


Steven Stolman’s elegant Palm Beach coffee table features his work, his friends and his inspiration.


Gil Walsh


An original, signed copy of Slim Aarons’ “A Wonderful Time” is one of Steven Stolman’s prized possessions.


Bunny Williams

“Books are awfully decorative, don’t you think?” — Gloria Upson in “Auntie Mame”

Time was, a fine collection of books was a must-have for any home of distinction.

Not only were the manner in which books were displayed an essential part of residential design — think paneled libraries with full walls of shelves — but the actual books were considered with care.

What baby boomer doesn’t recall a full set of encyclopedias? Before the internet, these forbidding books were part and parcel to every term paper. I mean, if it appeared in print in the Encyclopedia Britannica, it simply HAD to be accurate, no? I cannot begin to tell you how often the World Book in my grandparents’ den served as my Wikipedia.

Libraries themselves have always been my favorite rooms — what with their cozy, worn leather furniture and soft lighting. If they had a fireplace, even better, as they became the perfect place for lots of after-dinner drinks.

Trust me, I know this from firsthand experience. And now that I’m also an author, with four books under my belt, libraries are even more special to me.

Coffee table books are a special subset. They are usually light on words and heavy on images. And while hardcore literary folks might turn their noses up at them, interior designers dote on them.

Well placed, stylish coffee table books are an important layer to a room. They provide dynamic windows into other worlds, whether they focus on art, photography, fashion, travel, lifestyle or décor. The ultimate intersection of coffee table books and décor is the designer monograph — books based on a single designer’s vision, usually showcasing their body of work.

The designer monograph has become an essential calling card for every fine interior design practice, and their precedence is humbling.

The first designer monograph that I was ever aware of was “Billy Baldwin Remembers.” Written by the legendary late decorator, it was organized by client — actually identifying them — which is usually a no-no in the world of high décor.

From Jacqueline Kennedy to Babe Paley, Greta Garbo to Diana Vreeland, this book is as much a romantic memoire as it is a decorating how-to.

To this day, one of the most successful and beloved designer monographs is Bunny Williams’ “An Affair with a House.” It offers a glimpse inside not only Williams’ Connecticut home, but her head.

Her fifth book, “A House by the Sea,” was released this past September. It’s already a classic.

Mark D. Sikes, the California designer known for his love of stripes, has made a splash with “Beautiful: All-American Decorating and Timeless Style.”

Two local talents — interior designer Gil Walsh and master gardener Jack Staub — have each come out with stunning new books that showcase homes and gardens in our neck of the woods and beyond.

“Gil Walsh Interiors: A Case for Color” is a wild romp across the rainbow, with distinguished homes in Palm Beach, Martha’s Vineyard, Pennsylvania and New York.

Staub’s “Private Gardens of South Florida” is equally lush and luscious, offering compelling images of exquisite local gardens. (Full disclosure: both Jack and Gil are friends of mine —so is Bunny Williams — it’s a small world — and Gil is a client. I consult with her practice on matters of branding and marketing.)

Friends or not, these two South Florida-centric books deserve a place on the bookshelf — or coffee table, if you will.

All of these books, even Billy Baldwin’s 1974 masterpiece, are currently available on — and the Staub, Walsh and Williams tomes are at Palm Beach’s jewel of an independent bookstore, Classic Bookshop, along with my latest release, “The Serial Entertainer’s Passion for Parties.”

Get ‘em while they’re hot, because in addition to being “awfully decorative,” books make the absolute best gifts.

Steven Stolman is a designer and author living in Palm


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