Art smart

Three new delightfully indulgent coffee table books offer insights into art and decorating and reveal ways in which to combine the two for striking homely appeal.

Like it or not, winter’s here to stay for a few months more. The upside? Saturday mornings, umbrella in hand, improving your cultural conversation starters by dashing between those art exhibitions you’ve been meaning to see, like Southern Guild’s solo show of Zanele Muholi’s sculptures. Better still – Sunday afternoons cosying beneath a throw on a comfy sofa, paging through the latest offering of art and design books, escaping into both paintings and homes that are inspiring and beautiful, and lining up ideas for spring’s interior upgrades. These three coffee table books are both visually escapist and packed with noteworthy ideas…

LIFE MEETS ART, Inside the Homes of the World’s Most Creative People


With over 200 interiors from the private homes (some now museums) of a selection of the world’s most talented artists, musicians, architects, writers, fashion designers and more, this book offers more than just insights into how icons like Pablo Picasso, William Morris and Beatrix Potter lived; it encourages one to be a voyeur into homes spanning several centuries. From Elvis’s whacky billiard room (complete with walls lined in pleated fabric) to Chanel’s ornate library, and from the Brontë sisters’ writing room to Da Vinci’s studio, there’s an interior to meet all tastes, including lovers of the clashingly colourful (think Karim Rashid and Zandra Rhodes) and the truly architectural (check out Lord Byron’s monastic living room in Nottinghamshire and Pierre Cardin’s edgy bedroom on the Cote d’Azur). Cover to cover, the rooms that fill the picture-heavy pages are spaces you seldom see, making this book both interesting and compelling.

Best enjoyed with a curiosity for how many of the icons of recent centuries lived, and an open mind as to what decorating means.

A KIND OF MAGIC, The Kaleidoscopic World of Luke Edward Hall


British decorating darling and multidisciplinary designer (he’s also the creative director for both Hotel Les Deux Gares in Paris and fashion label Chateau Orlando), Luke Edward Hall is now the subject of a monograph that explores his work. This is a book that is filled with an abundance of enticing images, and that considers the person behind the brand, from Hall’s own art and the interiors of his studio, London and country homes, to his passion for flowers and travel, and his love of the colourful and historic. It’s an education in how to decorate with colour, and in how to display collectables and artworks to impressive effect. Throw in some personality-revealing quotes, and paging through the book feels like a journey into the personal. 

Best enjoyed with an accompanying Le Train Bleu cocktail (don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with this one, the recipe’s included in the book) and Hall’s engaging Instagram page (@lukeedwardhall).

WHEN WE SEE US, A Century of Black Figuration in Painting

(Thames & Hudson and Zeitz MOCAA)

Edited by Cameroonian-born Koyo Koyoh, the executive director and chief curator of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, this near 340-page hardcover book was published to coincide with the landmark exhibition of the same name currently on display at the museum. For anyone who’s visited the exhibition, walking the brightly painted third floor galleries, the catalogue will serve as a rich and rewarding reminder of the vibrant paintings (more than 200 of them) created by nearly as many global Black artists from over a century of artmaking. The powerful portraits documented in the catalogue are all the more impactful following a visit to the museum, and include colour-confident works by Kwesi Botchway, Kehinde Wiley and South Africa’s own Helen Sebidi and Mustafa Maluka. They live alongside pages filled with poetry by leading writers like Robin Coste Lewis and Ken Bugul, as well as an essay by Tandazani Dhlakama.

Best enjoyed having visited the exhibition (which runs until 3 September 2023, with free entry for South African citizens on Wednesdays – entry by 1pm). 

Books available from all good bookstores.

Words and production: Martin Jacobs
Photographs: Courtesy of Elvis Presley Enterprises (Inc), Marina Melia, Courtesy Maisons Victor Hugo, Ingrid Rasmussen, Billal Taright, Courtesy Zeitz MOCAA/Dillon Marsh