Gift Guide: Coffee Table Books

To me, the art of the common coffee table book is to be picked up and put down for any given length of time or any number of repeat visits, and be able to satisfy the mind without being too taxing. Interesting enough to open but carefree enough to put down when the coffee runs out. A passing ship or temporary bolthole in a moment of relaxation.

This past week we have been a well oiled machine consisting of parents & property developers. As of tomorrow all 5 apartments are officially tenanted. CAN YOU BLOODY BELIEVE IT! Quite a surreal moment actually. One that I’m sure Martin and I will agree that at times we didn’t think would happen. We are now lords of the land! After a final push of snagging (property term for what is essentially final bits and bobs – that last 5% that takes forever. Ugh) and a full post-build clean the flats are ready for their new caretakers. It has felt strange closing the doors knowing it would be the last time we would be able to enter whenever we liked. We’ve trodden the floors of our beautiful building so much over the last year. Running up and down those stairs God I dread to think how many times. I was pregnant throughout most of the project, so I think it has a particular place in our hearts and minds as a very pivotal time in our lives. We’ve done property projects before sure, but this one was the first step in “professional” property development, and gave us so many challenges and opportunities to grow, and at the same time we became parents.

With the end of the property project near, I find myself feeling incredibly reflective. It feels like New Years. A time to meditate and contemplate over the past 16 months. Perhaps it is also due to the fact that I am finally coming out the other side of pregnancy and the whirlwind that is newbie motherhood. For a long time after Orlando was born, all I could do was exist. My sole focus was our baby & my new little family. Full disclosure – something that at times I wasn’t completely happy about but at the same time felt I had no control over. It felt as if my mind wasn’t my own, and I still feel this way at times. Sometimes I’ll say to Martin about my maternal urges or ‘mum rage’ about one thing or another, that it is not an intentional act – but that it feels instinctual or hormonal. Turns out there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest that our brains actually rewire themselves when we have a baby for the first time. BLOODY KNEW IT!

Essentially, our brain gets smaller and it makes itself more efficient, preparing us for the important work of parenthood and stays like this for the first 2 years or so after birth. Researchers at universities in Spain and the Netherlands are the first to use computer imaging (specifically MRI) to measure how the brain’s structure changes because of pregnancy. The study showed a reduction in brain grey matter with the biggest loss in the front and temporal lobe regions. These areas of the brain are responsible for a variety of tasks, including social cognition – the ability to interact with others.

Interestingly this does not affect males. An “ah-ha!” moment. I remember saying to Martin in the first weeks after Lando was born “you act like your life hasn’t changed!”, with frustration that he seemed no different – neither mentally nor physically – a complete contrast to my empty body & mind.

So while areas of the brain “shrink,” they become more productive – focused on preparing to better interpret our newborns’ body language, cries & coos. Robert Froemke, PhD, neuroscientist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center explains “There’s a difference between ‘an apparent reduction in grey matter’ and ‘the brain shrinking’. Think about this as a form of ‘spring cleaning.’ It’s making things more organised, streamlined & coherent to prepare mothers for the complexity and urgency of childcare,” he explains. “If neurons are closer together, or neural connections reorganised to disregard irrelevant synapses and preserve important synapses, or otherwise able to more effectively, reliably, and rapidly process critical information, it’s easier to imagine why this might make sense, and help the maternal brain respond to the needs of her baby”. This restructure explains why we feel like our brains aren’t functioning the way they were pre-baby. And now we know it’s the truth!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the task at hand. Whether you’re looking to add to your collection or elevate someone else’s, I’ve gathered my fave coffee table books for everyone from fashion to interior design for you to behold. One of the few completely fail-proof gifts to give someone. On a superficial level, they add ambiance, whether you stash them in a bookshelf or pile on their namesake (the humble coffee table). There are limitless topics that can make deciding on an eye-catching hardcover that doubles as home decor, almost impossible. Though the best ones will live in your home providing inspiration while expanding your horizons far beyond.

I haven’t included travel books as for me, this is rather a personal choice in terms of layout/format (can you tell I’m a travel book nerd?!). For example one man’s Lonely Planet is another man’s trash. And frankly there are a lot of shit travel books out there so instead I’m just not going to go there. Although I’ve added links to purchase online, I would highly recommend you check out your local bookstore & I’m sure they would be happy to order in for you.

Happy shopping. Lauren x

LONDON STREET SIGNS, Pavilion Books £14.99

A showcase of London’s street nameplates – from the curious to the ornate. This expertly curated collection documents the most significant & beautiful street signs, from enamel plates to incised lettering, the simplest cast iron signs to gloriously ornamental architectural plaques.

ACCIDENTALLY WES ANDERSON, Orion Publishing Co £25.99

Obviously I had to include a bit of Wes Anderson. The Instagram trend we didn’t know we needed…Art may imitate life, but as evidenced by the thousands of #AccidentallyWesAnderson, perhaps the opposite is also true. A simply glorious book to behold.

BEACHES, Abrams £28.99

The art of beaches as so stylishly put by Gray Malin. There’s something so flipping pleasing about an aerial view isn’t there. This book will inspire endless conversations about travel and light up the darkest days.

UNEXPECTED, Patagonia Books £35

30 Years of Patagonia. This fantastic catalogue is a compendium of the 100-plus most compelling photos Patagonia has published over the years and a celebration of wilderness & outdoor-sport photography as an art and a practice.

CABIN PORN, Little, Brown and Company £11.61

Cabin Porn began as an online project created by a group of friends to inspire their own homebuilding. As they collected more photos, their site attracted thousands of submissions from other cabin builders and a passionate audience of more than ten million people. This book is an invitation to slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the beauty and serenity that happens when nature meets simple craft.

LIDO, Pavilion Books £15.69

A celebration of outdoor swimming, looking at the history, design and social aspect of pools. A book that makes you want to dive into it’s pages. Few experiences can beat diving into a pool in the fresh air, swimming with blue skies above you. Whether it’s a dip into a busy and bustling city pool on a sweltering summer day, or taking the plunge in icy waters, the lido provides a place of peace in a frenetic world. The book begins with a history of outdoor pools – their grand beginnings after the buttoned-up Victorian era, their falling popularity in the 20th century, and the newfound appreciation for the outdoor pool, or lido, and outdoor swimming in the 21st century.

GRAY MALIN: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION, Abrams £33.59

A feast for the eyes inside & out. Vibrant imagery covering all seven continents: Malin’s stunning volume will invite you into the colourful world of Gray Malin and inspire you to make every day a getaway.

POOLSIDE WITH SLIM AARONS, Abrams £44.99

Complete & utter Mad Men vibes. There’s some serious swanky vibes going on in this sexy book. Spanning the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s, Poolside with Slim Aarons is not so much a Who’s Who of society, aristocracy and celebrity – as it is about leisure time and how the rich make use of it.

ANNIE LEIBOVITZ AT WORK. Phaidon Press £30.15

If you were ever curious how it is to be a great photographer and dealing with celebrity egos in order to capture get that perfect frame. This book tells the story of Annie’s greatest pictures with fantastic retelling. This book is a feast for the mind and eye.

BOTANICAL BUILDINGS: WHEN PLANTS MEET ARCHITECTURE, Lannoo £40

The green architecture movement is a worldwide phenomenon that addresses sustainability and a parallel awareness of how the built world is enriched by nature. This lavishly illustrated book presents the most beautiful and innovative buildings from around the world and explores how they incorporate plants and architecture in both interior design and construction. With inspiring projects and practical tips for both the professional and the enthusiast, the author explores the best of what’s green in houses large and small, apartment buildings, and offices.

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