I have always been a fan of shelter magazines, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I became a fan of architecture and design books. Images from magazines have certainly been an important source of inspiration for my files, but for my architect and designer, a trusted group of books seems to be an essential resource at every meeting that includes a discussion of interiors and interior architecture.
One book that has been a source of inspiration is Dwellings: Living with Great Style, by Stephen Sills and James Huniford, written when they worked together at Sills Huniford Associates (they have since established their own firms). Despite my newfound interest in design books, I had not really heard about this book, and yet it has been referenced several times in our design meetings as a ‘must read’ and an essential resource for any design library. The book cover itself is charming – covered with a gray linen, with an interesting architectural trim on the front and back cover – it looks as good as it reads.
Sills Huniford Associates was chosen as part of the Architectural Digest 100 several years ago, and Architectural Digest Editor-in-Chief Paige Rense has a quote on the back cover of the book: "Sills and Huniford are essential study for Decoration 101 or a Doctorate of Design." Vera Wang and Tina Turner also have quotes on the back cover of the book – they are among the star roster of clients of Stephen Sills and James Huniford.
My designer cites it as one of her favorite sources of inspiration for interior trim, moulding, and wall treatment (note the exquisite mouldings in the room in the picture above, which is probably the inspiration for the design on the cover of the book). No surprise – when reading the book, the authors state that ‘almost every wall surface offers possibilities for enriching a space’, and often go beyond painting to achieve a special effect.
I appreciate the book for its timeless classic look, which has a style of design that beautifully mixes period antiques with modern furniture and art, all with a subtle color palette and a lovely mixture of textures. The book is full of beautiful images of the authors’ work, which illustrate the design concepts that they use, and it also contains many images from the Bedford, NY house and gardens that they renovated together; Karl Lagerfeld called their country house (since sold) "the chic-est house in America."
Many design books are more pictures than text, but Dwellings has quite a bit of text that describes Sills and Huniford’s approach to interiors and to style. It is not so much a ‘how to’ book with specifics on design, but a guide to the philosophy of the authors, and covers topics such as finding your personal style, planning a room, working with color, selecting and designing surfaces, finishing details, and letting a room live and change through time. As a design aficionado, I prefer this kind of book because it provides interesting insight into the process from some of the best minds in design today; it also establishes an approach that is somehow above the the ebbs and flows of trends in design.
A favorite picture from a library designed by Sills Huniford Associates.
Dwellings was published in 2003, and more than likely many of the photos were taken more than a decade ago. Yet, the light and fresh interiors in the pictures truly feel timeless as they were created with design principles that are based on decorating around personal needs and style, and carefully selected elements that take into consideration the architecture, the proportion, and the scale of the space and the piece, as well as an emphasis on decorating with things that you love, not the latest trend in color and fashion.
Stephen Sills and James Huniford continue to be in the forefront of design, although they are now working independently. Huniford’s Greenwich Village house is featured in the new Veranda this month; these are a few of my favorite images from the spread.
Huniford’s Hamptons getaway is featured in the July/August issue of Elle Decor, seen here. James Huniford’s website can be seen here: http://www.jameshuniford.com/. He has a blog, which can be found here: http://huniford.com/fords-finds/, as well as a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Huniford-Interiors-and-Collection/275917391302?ref=ts.
Stephen Sills’ portfolio, as seen on his website, displays the depth and breadth of a designer who has been at the top of the interior design scene for decades. His website can be visited at http://www.stephensills.com.
Dwellings: Living with Great Style is definitely a book that I have used as inspiration and reference on my own design project, and I highly recommend it. Dwellings is one of the books that I have added to my list of favorites, and can be purchased through the new Things That Inspire Amazon store: http://astore.amazon.com/thithains-20/detail/0821228463 (powered by Amazon, all prices reflect Amazon’s best price). A selection of my favorite art, architecture, and design books can be seen here: http://astore.amazon.com/thithains-20
All images, except where noted, are from Dwellings: Living with Great Style, as well as www.stephensills.com.
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Disclosure: a small commission in the form of an Amazon gift card is made for each purchase made through the Things That Inspire Amazon store. The store is powered by Amazon and the prices are the same as Amazon prices. To see my other favorite design, architecture, decorative, and art books, please visit http://astore.amazon.com/thithains-20.