WHEN YOU’RE SEEKING a gift for a design junkie, it’s easy to get seduced by a book about interiors: Those handsome, hefty hardbacks almost feel bespoke. But unless you have time to do more than a quick flip-through before you buy, it’s not always clear which ones offer real insight. The best volumes should tell you how to source what you’re seeing (where the decorator found a covetable André Arbus desk, for example) or demystify the design process—by, say, outlining a unique way to use door frames and crown moldings to create a memorable view. How to ensure that your claim on your loved ones’ coffee tables isn’t just another collection of pretty pictures? Here, we recommend five titles that provide more than a place to rest a remote. Wrap them up.
Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors
The updated classical approach of Jean-Louis Deniot, seen by many as the heir to Art Deco greats like Jean-Michel Frank, actually draws on a range of sources—from Adolf Loos (for his “exactitude”) to the “theatrical” rooms of Dorothy Draper and Renzo Mongiardino—without resorting to rote nostalgia. A bonus with this book: Captions by author Diane Dorrans Saeks detail his high-end resources, such as Zimmer + Rohde bedding, Anne Sokolsky lampshades and Beauvais Carpets.
Lessons: Hanging lights keep a room uncluttered. A beautifully draped canopy brings drama to a small bedroom. Use roman shades and curtains to prevent a bathroom from feeling too cold. Understated wall finishes can provide “instant poetry.”
Then again: Mr. Deniot’s insistence on acquiring only “one-of-a-kind objects of lasting beauty” is a tad demanding.
Ideal gift for: Lovers of ’30s grandeur who wouldn’t say “no” to a handwoven baby-alpaca bedcover; Bauhaus deniers.
Collected: Living With the Things You Love
This addictive compendium of personal—sometimes peculiarly so—miscellany gives thoughtful advice on how to elegantly showcase, say, all the matchbooks you’ve acquired over the years. Authors Fritz Karch and Rebecca Robertson also illustrate how those on modest budgets can make the most of their obsessions, whether pretty Pyrex storage containers (“still found on eBay for a song”) or knitting needles (“collecting by color transforms the mundane into the magical”).
Lessons: Vivid glass vessels are “ideal for injecting color and light” into a room. Avoid overly slick white-on-white collections by mixing textures. Grouping baskets can highlight a fascinating variety of weave patterns.
Then again: You don’t want to be the person buying lobster-claw oven mitts because they match your crustacean-themed kitchen.
Ideal gift for: Flea market aficionados; anyone with a socially acceptable hoarding instinct.
Design in the Hamptons
The Monacelli Press, $75
There’s not a lot of explicit advice in this book, a survey of 19 private houses along one of the country’s most celebrated oceanfronts. But no matter: Interiors from talents like Joe D’urso illustrate how, whether your tastes lean more to traditional Shingle Style or to Modernism, you needn’t rely on cedar-shake roofs, burnished metal gutters and wood alone to get an authentic “Hamptons” feeling.
Lessons: Mahogany, limestone and copper create a bathroom that’s a “discreet oasis with a calming palette.” Pair acrylic fabrics with cotton-linen cushions for open-air rooms. Try a sisal rug for a simple, sand-concealing floor covering.
Then again: A few acres of pristine beachfront really helps you pull off the look.
Ideal gift for: Well-heeled urban dwellers who use “summer” as a verb; winter haters.
Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature
Potter Style, $35
Conversational, illuminating and full of practical tips for discovering your own design style, Lisa Borgnes Giramonti’s easy-to-digest book matches rooms from the likes of decorator Schuyler Samperton with richly detailed descriptions of interiors found in more than 60 novels, from Jane Austen’s “Emma” to Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle.”
Lessons: You’ll never regret buying gold-rimmed china. If you’re seeking an Evelyn Waugh vibe straight out of “Brideshead Revisited,” add objects that can deliver a certain patina, like medieval brass rubbings and lion-head door knockers. Avoid one-note rooms with subtle variations in woods. Ape the host of a party in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night” and create a stylish serving area with a line of beveled mirrors.
Then again: No home deserves the ignominy of being labeled “Dickensian.”
Ideal gift for: Fiction lovers; anyone who looks to Marcel Proust for tips on what makes a great sofa.
The Artisanal Home: Interiors and Furniture of Casamidy
This book expounds on the philosophy behind Casamidy, the studio of Mexico-born Jorge Almada and Paris-bred Anne-Marie Midy: the belief that truly meaningful design results from a mix of heirloom objects and locally sourced pieces made by skilled craftsmen. The design duo’s many homes (including their villa on the French Riviera, shown left) reflect both their families’ history of collecting antiques and their personal aesthetic, which combines French elegance and riotous Latin American color.
Lessons: “You need to live in a furnished room before nailing anything to the walls.” Mix old (early 20th-century Italian chairs) and new (cotton window shades in Tony Duquette’s “Malachite” pattern). Smaller pieces can look wonderful in a large, high-ceilinged room—the contrast “helps accentuate the oversize scale of the space.” Paint rooms that receive cool Northern light in warm, rich colors.
Then again: Some of the tips—like using an artist’s easel to mount a flat-screen television—veer into a-bit-too-clever territory.
Ideal gift for: Chic bohemians; anyone who’s inherited a truckload of antiques from a grandparent.