10 books we loved this year

Tomes that provided mental escapism and inspiration in equal measure

It’s been a year of highs and lows, lockdowns and ‘new normals’, and throughout 2021 we’ve been engaging in some metal escapism courtesy of the written page. As we close out the year, our team share some of their favourite books on The Spaces Bookshelf, from lavish architectural tomes to street photography essays, and much-missed pioneer Virgil Abloh’s collaboration with Nike.

The Female Chef by Clare Finney & Liz Seabrook

Photography: Liz Seabrook

Published by Hoxton Mini Press
Liz Seabrook started her Female Chef series in 2021, as the restaurant industry tentatively reopened after lockdown. The book, written by Clare Finney, brings together stories and recipes from women – many of whom were photographed against the backdrop of their own kitchens – who are not only redefining the food scene but doing so in an especially challenging and fraught climate. The book is a loving portrait of these pioneering culinary talents as well as the spaces they inhabit.

Gio Ponti – Art Edition

Photography: courtesy Taschen

Published by Taschen
There’s just a thousand special editions of this Gio Ponti monograph, billed as the most comprehensive account of his work to date. It follows six decades of the architect’s contribution to design, delving into over a hundred projects – lovingly photographed and reproduced in high res – as well as unpublished imagery that tells the bigger story behind his achievements. Included with this numbered collector’s edition is a set of prints of Ponti’s ocean liner studies, and a reproduction of the Planchart Coffee Table – handy for displaying the colossal book on.

Get a sneak peek at the book.

Rose Uniacke at Home

Photography: François Halard

Published by Rizzoli
This limited edition book peeks inside the creative ‘crucible’ that is interior designer Rose Uniacke’s home. Only 2,500 copies have been published, all of them reproduced in lavish detail – think pages of gatefolds, and a canvas and wool dust jacket. Uniacke guides the tour herself, alongside essays from architect Vincent Van Duysen and landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.

Mulholland Drive by Karen Halverson

Photography: Karen Halverson

Published by MW Editions
Photographer Karen Halverson celebrates the mythical status of Los Angeles’s Mulholland Drive, with a coffee table hardback that dedicates plenty of space to her panoramic photos. She became fascinated with the road after seeing David Hockney’s 20-ft painting of it, and after moving to LA set about documenting its 52-mile stretch – from the sweeping rear lights of cars to the lush tropical greenery that borders the tarmac.

ICONS: Something’s Off by Virgil Abloh

Photography: Taschen

Published by Taschen
The fashion world was left reeling earlier this year when Virgil Abloh’s death was announced. Tributes to the pioneering designer poured in, celebrating his trailblazing contribution to design, fashion and architecture. A small but significant part of that is collected in Something’s Off – a printed documentary of the collaboration between Nike and his label Off-White. Abloh described the book as ‘a catalog of images from my process that are largely not on the internet’, and cemented his love of print, sneaker culture and belief in the power of local bookstores.

Still Lives: In the Homes of Artists, Great and Unsung by Leslie Williamson

Photography: Rizzoli

Published by Rizzoli
There’s interior inspiration aplenty in this hardcover collection of artists’ homes. Photographer Leslie Williamson has documented studios and houses belonging to the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe, Isamu Noguchi and Barbara Hepworth, in an attempt to get under the skin of their creative process as well as their home life. ‘I believe that the spaces where we spend our lives hold an ephemeral part of ourselves long after we have left them; our souls linger in the place where we spent our happiest, most fulfilled times,’ writes the photographer. ‘This book is filled with those soul-imbued artists’ spaces.’

Rooms: Steven Volpe

Photography: Stephen Johnson / Studio Volpe / Mayer Rus

Published by Rizzoli
Steven Volpe, the titan of interior design and loft-living pioneer, takes readers inside his rule-breaking approach, in this first book dedicated to his work. The hardback delves into 10 projects by the designer, covering a wide range of spaces – New York penthouses and modernist Cali homes through to classic city townhouses.

Modernist Escapes – An architectural travel guide by Stefi Orazi

Photography: © Stefi Orazi

Published by Prestel Press
This alternative travel guide is perfect for those of us dreaming of a long-awaited trip, going behind the doors of Modernist landmarks around the world. It’s stuffed with eye candy, including photos of the exterior of buildings as well as the rooms inside. Author Stefi Orazi has added plenty of extra historical detail, meaning readers can choose their favourite, plan a trip, and visit armed with plenty of facts and figures.

You can find out more about the book, and Orazi’s itinerary here.

Todd Saunders: New Northern Houses

Photography: Ivar Kvaal

Published by Thames & Hudson
Dreams of remote retreats take shape inside this book dedicated to the work of Canadian architect Todd Saunders, who has designed buildings in secluded locations in Newfoundland and Fogo Island. New Northern Houses is his first major monograph and emphasises Saunders’ expertise in creating architecture that reflects and blends with the nature that surrounds it. The book features 11 projects across Scandinavia and Canada and delves into the architect’s creative process and design philosophy.

Movie Theaters: Yves Marchand, Romain Meffre, Ross Melnick

Photography: Marchand/Meffre

Published by Prestel Publishing
Abandoned places are a perennial source of fascination, and the grander they are, the more intriguing they become. Movie Theaters documents the crumbling picture palaces across the US, which photo duo Marchand/Meffre have been capturing for the last 16 years. The book’s oversized format does full justice to the pair’s work, featuring hundreds of images of gracefully decaying movie theatres, filled with mouldering velvet seats and defunct equipment.

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