Top 10 Design Books for Smart Design Content and Inspiration

Top 10 Design Books For Smart Design Content and Inspiration

Call me old school but I do enjoy a fine print book.

Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time online.  I communicate with my followers through social media which is a connection so dear to me.  But there’s just something about finding an interesting book and escaping life just for a moment.  I love getting lost in its pages especially with design and art books.

My husband Scott says I have a small obsession.  Of course, I assure him I really need my latest design book “for my research.” (wink, wink) Truthfully, I just love looking at the inspiring designs and beautifully styled images.  That’s my escape.  Believe me, I am giddy when the latest Architectural Digest arrives in the mail.  After an initial scan of pages, I then go back to study the design content, interior design principles and styling techniques used.  It really is continuing education as I look for ways to merge styles and eras of interior design.

Here’s my must-have, go-to design book list.  The Top 10 Design Books list is by no means complete, but these are my favorites, providing smart design content and excellent inspiration for our design sensibilities.  Links are included to the designers’ website or Amazon in case you want to grow your design library.

If you are local, I highly recommend heading down to our little bookstore gem, The Learned Owl in Hudson, Ohio to order your book.  Kate Schlademan and staff go out of their way to be helpful.  I’ve found if they don’t have a book in stock, they can easily order it.  I always try to buy and promote local whenever possible.

Top 10 Design Books

  • ac7757c00131f9940e084bd3c91ad83cHabitat by Lauren Liess ~ This is my top dog!  I love, love, love this book and refer to its pages frequently.  Uniquely packaged as a handy field guide to decorating, it provides a wealth of information on key principles of design.  I definitely recommend you add Habitat design book to your design library.  Lauren invites readers to bring nature inside by mixing natural elements such as wood and stone with groupings of modern and quirky vintage pieces. Readers will be inspired by the eclectic style of these rooms, which include Liess’ own textile patterns inspired by nature.  The first section of the book is dedicated to the fundamental elements of design, helpful for those who are just getting started on a home design project. If you want more nature inspired decor ideas, check out The Decor Stylist Pinterest board Natural Elements.


  • The Natural Eclectic by Heather Ross ~ This design book is another personal favorite of mine because Heather, a West Coast artist, collector and stylist, focuses on creating that natural aesthetic that speaks so powerfully to me.  Heather challenges the reader to awaken to their environment and bring a nature-inspired aesthetic to life.  She incorporates natural materials into her designs through color and texture and shares professional tips on creating engaging displays through the art of placement. The stunning images of watery blues, greens and earthy elements evoke a serene and tranquil mood.  You could seriously frame the pages of this book!


  • The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman ~ As the creative guru behind Domino, Deborah is a leader in the design industry.  I recommend this design book because Deborah goes to great length to dismiss the myth that great home design has to be perfect.  She shows the reader how to create a stylish yet comfortable and relaxed home using essential elements of style.  Artist Virginia Johnson‘s original watercolor illustrations bring room designs to life and provide a lovely alternative to traditional design photography.  The indexes are a  resource to refer to when selecting vendors and products.  According to Deborah, “the point of decorating is to create the background for the best life you can have, with all its joys and imperfections.” This design book will show you how.
  • dfef78448eb5c2e11545e0e539833f93Dream Decor by Will Taylor ~ I’m totally crushing on this 2016 design book that highlights Will Taylor and his Bright Bazaar blog with photography by Andrew Boyd. The tagline says it all ~ styling a cool, creative and comfortable home wherever you live.  No doubt about it, Will Taylor is cool!  The book is filled with really great design information highlighting elements of design and design styles bringing them together to create a dream decor home.  Will says it best, “To me a well decorated home is a collection of personal dividends gathered from one’s own experiences.”  I also love his hashtag #makeyousmilestyle and yes, it makes me smile.


  • Domino The Book of Decorating by Deborah Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello, and Dara Caponigro ~ This design book is an oldie (2008) but a goody.  Added bonus:  pick up used copies for only a few bucks.  I find “the decorators’ handbook” and “the big black book” sections at the end of the book extremely helpful when I’m coaching my clients through an interior design project.  With my blend of interior design and coaching, my goal on all projects is to teach my client throughout the design process so they can become knowledgeable and confident to create their dream home.  This is just one of the sources I use to teach along the way.
  • cfaf27692b7dc9ae89bffb7b1da17015At Home Sarah Style by Sarah Richardson ~ Sarah and her sidekick Tommy Smythe have long been my favorite design duo.  Their take on traditional and cottage living is fresh and honest.  Their stunningly beautiful design photos are authentic that evoke real living. I love all her books, but the At Home design book is a unique blend of design, lifestyle, personal photos to show you how to live well in your homes.  Her Sarah Style design book from 2014 is also worth the investment in reading.
  • 2ce540ea2e77debe742a2fc75253ea36Elements of Style ~ Designing a Home and a Life by Erin Gates.  Erin provides smart design content for living a stylish life. Her “define your style” sections in each chapter are especially helpful.  The Elements of Style blog is worth checking out too.
  • House Beautiful ~ In addition to design books, here are my go-to design magazines when I’m working with a client to determine his or her personal aesthetic.  The photos and various styles that the magazine highlights provide potential inspiration at the start of a home design project.

  • HGTV
    ~ Another great magazine to peruse.  It’s youthful featuring fresh, on-trend ideas and design inspiration with beautifully styled images.  The popular celMag_Collageebrity segments with HGTV’s favorite hosts are always a fun and resourceful read.  Colors are saturated and vibrant giving a youthful vibe to the magazine.
  • Traditional Home – I have many traditional clients looking for a refresh but still maintain a nod toward tradition. I call it “Traditional Now” and Traditional Home is a great source for transitional style.  I use this magazine to review with clients who have a hard time defining their style.
  • Bonus Tip:  Utilize your beautiful design books as props when styling your home.  As with any beloved book, they are as stylish and telling of your personality as a fabulous vintage clock or piece of metal wall art.  Use books to style a bookshelf, stack them on a side table or use them on a coffee table.  Mix topics that are dear to you, providing inspiration whenever you look at them.  Indeed, books create color palettes, set tones and act as subtle reminders of special memories in a room.