More than decor: the value of coffee table books

Featured photo: Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Coffee table books became popular in the 1950s after an expansion in home entertaining and social engagement. These oversized, often hardcover books serve as both a displaying centerpiece and conversation starter. They serve as decorative accents with their bold colors, engravings and eye-catching prints.

In our current social climate, Instagram and Pinterest serve as the base inspiration for interior design and salon discussion. It’s not surprising that in a time of great communicative mania, brands and individual figures are creating cult followings over collectible objets d’art.

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Assouline’s signature travel books have taken over the luxury media industry. With appetizingly-colorful covers and hyper-bold print, they offer an escape into countries far and wide. The shiny photographs of sparkling beaches and powder snow mountains revive images and memories of St. Tropez’s marvelous summer months or Alpine’s enchantment of St. Moritz.

Rockstars and musical celebrities document their careers through photographic mementos. International legends like The Rolling Stones and Rihanna have created archival souvenirs of their time on tours, glamorous red carpets, and personal behind-the-scenes photographs. When Rihanna dropped her limited release book in collaboration with Phaidon, fan bases quickly created a frenzy over the release.

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Besides being overhyped status symbols, these books are also paper autobiographies, often interlaced with personal anecdotes and reflections that offer connections to the reader.

Clothing brands like Nike and Supreme have created encyclopedias of their world stock. Books such as the Virgil Abloh x Nike ICONS Something’s Off book from Taschen reinvent sneaker icons and showcase the footwear culture of the label. With intricate models of the industrial design processes and creative construction, the pages lay out blueprints for shoes as if they are aerodynamic engineering projects.

Other fashion lovers will enjoy the still editorial photography contained within an elegant Ralph Lauren collectable or modern megatron of a Tom Ford focal point.

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Art books continue to attract lovers of art history and those with an affinity for design. These informational powerhouses present a plethora of historical and visual curiositiy corners. Art deco spreads, post-modernist deliberations and the Greek statues of classical antiquity can be found in books sold by cosmopolitan museums such as the Museum of Modern Art , The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Perez Art Museum Miami and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In their eclectic and expansive design stores, affectintos pick up copies of “Marisol and Warhol Take New York” and “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Prints and Objects.” Colorful and texturful displays, such as the beautiful “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen,” chronicle artists’ journeys through the world and can function as a memorable gift in any season.

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Multimedia houses and film production companies also use the coffee table book as a way to create a greater audience within their communities. A24 often offers sold-out releases of their films’ screenplays in memorable world-building keepsakes. These include indie favorites like “Hereditary,” “Minari” and “Deux ex Machina.”

From cooking to space to activism, there are an endless set of interests to satisfy any readers. In a time where the superficiality of a cover or image can overshadow the quality of the text or story within, coffee table books are a window to connect our increased affinity for visual media while maintaining an appreciation for intellectual stimulation. When words cannot suffice to make our intentions clear, let a coffee table book shine as a personal statement.

Featured image: Charisse Kenion on Unsplash