Do You Like Art Books? Do You Have or Display "Coffee Table" Book

kswl2March 29, 2014

Last weekend my mother and I went shopping in Altanta looking for carpet, fabric for a shower curtain, and other odds and ends. At one store I found her absolutely awestruck, poring over a huge book, The Complete Drawings and Paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. The art is reproduced beautifully, with wonderful sharp detail. The imprint is Taschen, a German company that publishes a lot of art books. There is interesting editorial comment and some explication, but it is clearly a book to be looked at, drooled over, and opened again and again. At almost 700 pages and oversized, it weighs as much as a toddler! My mom bought it for us for the new basement room and I was thrilled.

Most people call these "coffee table books," since that's usually where you find them. I see fewer and fewer of these in peoples' real homes, although they're still part of tried and true decorating of a certain type. Personally, I love such books, have them in my home and love to look through them elsewhere. I usually keep a book of Central Park photographs in our living room, everybody loves that one. In the library right now I have a Beatles book and one on WWII, both recent Christmas presets from our eldest son.

Do you like such books, and do you have and display them? Do you look thru them in friends' houses?

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Oh yes, I have many of them, even have them stacked under a chair and I never tire of looking at them. I love seeing books in a home. My passion is art and I'm an artist so, naturally, I adore them.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 10:46PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I don't have much space to display them, but I do enjoy them. I have a couple on our state in our guest room though so out of towners can enjoy the local color.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:35AM
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Large art print books must be more out of favor than I realized,yaya :-)

I have always though they were so useful if a guest is incomfortable and needs something to do, e.g. flip through a gorgeous book that is sure to elicit comment. One of the items I see most often on coffee/cocktail tables are the ubiquitous three or more balls made of ceramic, moss, metal, vines, paper mâché, or any of a hundred other materials. I never can figure out their purpose!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:36AM
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Annie, we posted at the same time..... Books on one's state in a guest room is a great idea! One on the birds of our state would be great for our guests...

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:39AM
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When I'm a guest in someone's home and I am in a position to need a book (in bed and can't sleep), I want to read. Give me a good paperback and skip the oversized art book.

I have coffee table books. All have been gifts. I have never bought one and doubt that I ever will. They are dust collectors which, periodically, go to my library's book sale.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:46AM
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Holly- Kay

I LOVE books and we both read so proper lighting for reading and access to books is a priority. I love art books and also like historical books, and gardening books . We currently have a large coffee table book on the life and times of JFK. I honestly can't imagine that it would ever be out of favor to have a home filled with the joy and information that books add to our lives.

KSWL, I don't get all of the useless items that are displayed on coffee tables either. Our living room is usually strewn with books and magazines, laptops and iPads.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:04AM
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That is the perfect description of our tables as well, Holly Kay! I do have some decorative items--- for example, in the library we have a large bowl from a local artist that is a good temporary repository for the pens and pencils and cords that inevitably get left behind. In the LR we have a vase of flowers from NDI, a shagreen box that contains the fireplace remote, and a tall glass candlestick and candle, in addition to the current book (Central Park). Books look better (IMO) on square or rectangular tables, but that doesn't deter me.

Jmc, I usually put a kindle in the room with a guest and we have a library with lots of books, so a good read isn't a problem. I just love the feel of those large books and the quality of the printing, and the fact that the subject is usually something for which I wouldn't think to sit down and do a google image search, iykwim. They can be heavy, i see that as a potential guest room problem, but spread out on a coffee table... But you have given me a great idea---- I'll bet there are hundreds of these books languishing at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores....

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:30AM
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Gorgeous book!! Would LOVE to sit and flip through it .... wonderful!

I do have books on my coffee tables (two in our one-and-only living room) -- but I think that many of our guests have no idea that they are allowed to pick them up and have a look ..... maybe such things have fallen out of favor. Most folks seem to be surprised at my bookcase and my few-and-far-between books.

Yes indeed. I have been asked: "Do you actually READ those books????"

Currently (these things change often) on the old trunk that serves as one of the coffee tables :

No bookcovers (another thing that changes often)

Suzanne Rheinstein: At Home
Ros Byam Shaw: Perfect English Cottage
Talbot Whiteman: Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden
Charles Faudree: Details
Piet Swimberghe: Quiet Living: Unique Country Details

And on the other coffee table:

(tucked into a basket)

Brian Coleman: Barry Dixon Interiors
Leonie Highton: House &Garden Book of Country Interiors
Laura Cerwinske: In a Spiritual Style: The Home as Sanctuary

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:47AM
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DH and I try to purchase a book from each country that we have visited. I have them displayed on an antique table in the corner of our family room. I sometimes pour myself a glass of wine, grab a book and flip through the pages, which ultimately brings back memories of the trip itself.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:52AM
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And here's a single pin from Pinterest from Joe Ruggiero (remember his great show on HGTV)

Here is a link that might be useful: Pin from Joe Ruggiero -- books on coffee table

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:04AM
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I have more than 100 and they were all in the LR of my last house, stacked horizontally. That's probably how they will end up in this house. the biggest ones are probably 24" in length.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:28AM
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We have (and love) books, but we do not have "art" books. That is just not us. I have not noticed them on many of our friends tables either nor that many of the "balls". LOL I do think the balls are just a decorative accent. I've seen some beautiful porcelain ones and of course the fishing floats - I love those and have several - but not on a coffee table. I also have a couple of moss balls - but they are in pots or containers in various places. Just one ball - which brings a bit of green into the room. I love decorating with plants but there are some places a plant just won't live and so I have a couple of the moss balls. To me, the balls used as decor wouldn't be any different from the candlestick the OP listed on her coffee table. Except of course, you could actually use the candle if need be! LOL

Actually, in our great room, we do not use a coffee table. I do have books in there, on a side table, in a basket, etc. In our sunroom, which is most used as a den for us, there are decor books on the coffee table, along with a plant and a couple of small vintage items.

We also enjoy books from places we have visited and my husband is a history buff, so you will find several history/military books and historical books from the area where we live.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:29AM
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I have a coffee table book of a resort I've vacationed at for 50 years or so.
It's changed so much since I was a child .
The old building that sold blocks of ice is gone.
The old (creaky) wooden decks have been replaced with Trex .
The tents have mostly been replaced with motor homes.
I got mine after we had a bear visit one night .
I just love looking back at "the good old days".
Still I can't think of coffee table books without seeing this..
It's a book that is also a table..

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:57AM
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I like art books and coffee table books, although I don't have any displayed on the coffee table. I bought a few for my husband that I thought he might like. One was about the history of the Marines and the other about the history of muscle cars - if you add in his electric and plumbing manuals then you have a pretty good idea about his interests :) He keeps them in his office.

I would love to have that Leonardo da Vinci book. I'm sure it would keep me engrossed for hours!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:20AM
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When we go to see a special art exhibit, we usually buy a related "coffee table" book. And we have them stacked horizontally here and there. I really enjoy them, as another said, as a way to remember the exhibit. We also have a few others, like the New Yorker cartoons tome.

However, I think coffee table books have been besmirched as a category. 90% of them are pure junk, a la decorative mugs, published for people who can't think of anything else to give!

In our family room, we have a stack of photo books from our vacations. They are only for us or close relatives, but we really enjoy looking through those.

The one things I can say in favor of "coffee table books" is that that they can't be kindle-ified. I have recently given in and started reading novels on Kindle. I only buy the physical book now if I am pretty sure I will want to own it (eg classics, prize winners, etc)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:30AM
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I have two on my coffee table in the living room. One is Gardens of Philadelphia and the other is the catalog from a show of Jamie Wyeth's work at The Brandywine River Museum (where I got to meet him and he is so good looking!). I occasionally leaf through them, not often. As for the coffee table in my den, which is where I sit and have my "command center", it is a catchall of catalogs and magazines and books I am reading at the moment.

When books are formally arranged in a coffee table, I would hesitate to disturb them at another person's house. Still, they are a good reflection of that person's interests.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:31AM
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Sometimes, when I'm tired of the current photos or items that I have on display on sofa table and other areas of my house, I will put a travel or over-sized art or photo book on display. I like having books displayed vertically, face-out. Like homersmom, I have books from travels (sometimes you can't find the book anywhere but at the place you visited) that are beautiful, so I display them like art. And, yes, I do page through them again.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 12:11PM
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I adore books, both reading them and using them as decor. No art books but subjects that DH and I are interested in. Mine, of course, are on home decor and architecture! :D Others are on places we've traveled, Christmas books, and DH's hobbies. One is a Who's Who in America as it contains 2 relatives of ours and is soon going to be used for an altered book project! I've seldom seen a guest in our home look at any of them tho. I do occasionally look at them myself.

Not 'coffee table' books as such, but I've bought vintage books at yard sales and thrift shops in colors that look good in my house which I use as risers.

I have a couple of friends who have books around and I have looked thru them while visiting. Most people I know are not obsessed with home decor as much as I am and don't use them as decor.

"But you have given me a great idea---- I'll bet there are hundreds of these books languishing at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores...."

Excellent idea! Now that I've reduced my collection of books I might start looking in thrift stores for more! LOL Only really large ones tho. I did buy some of my home decor books at a library sale. They are in pristine condition (looked as if they had never been opened) and 5 for $1. was a price I could not walk away from!

Re: those ubiquitous balls which are often used to introduce a "pop" of color (really dislike that phrase!), or texture but IMO are overused and very "common". I have one set which I made with fabrics in my accent colors so they are more unique. I also have collections of art glass balls and genuine glass fishing floats which are a different accessory IMO and I often use them in other ways than just in a bowl on the coffee table. They have a completely different 'feel' to me than decorative balls made in China, sold in chain home decor stores, and seen in thousands of homes all over North America.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 12:51PM
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So it seems the "coffee table book" is alive and well, driven by interests and experiences. I love the idea of travel books --- never considered it because of the extra suitcase weight, it didn't occur to me to have them sent. I am a poor photographer so the photos would be a better record than I could provide.

Tea cats, like you many of my oversized books are home related. I love the Faudree one!

One hundred beautiful books, ineffable, I don't think we have room for that many. I agree that stacking them horizontally is the best storage method. We had deeper bottom shelves built in our library to accommodate oversized books.

Lol, tinam, you've got me--- I've only lit that candlestick a few times, but the difference in my own mind is that I could use it if needed. No problem with spheres as a purely decorative object, but in that case I admit to liking one instead of a group.

Ded I love garden books and have several from places like Bellingrath, and love the New Yorker cartoons, Mtn. Agree the whole idea has been adulterated by junk books whose sole purpose is to provide a 40% off purchase for someone browsing the sale table (or rather what they hope a buyer will think is 40% off).. I don't have any whatsoever qualms about asking to pick up arranged books :-)

I have an old wooden music stand that, if properly braced, would probably hold the weight of my new book. It may be moving downstairs with Leo and a few others.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:27PM
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OMG forboystoo I did not see your coffee table coffee table book! I love it! It's inevitable that someone will mention the Seinfeld episode, so I may as well do it myself.... Kramer would love your book too!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I love books and they exist in every room in my house. I, too, am a lackluster photographer, so I like to buy books with photographs of places that I'm visiting. I also have a large selection of decorating books, art and books on table settings and china.

I would love to stack some on my coffee table, but I cheaped out and purchased an inexpensive table with a very thin glass top. I'm afraid to put much weight on it, so it's usually accessorized with three carved wooden candlesticks with candles and a Florentine tray.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:45PM
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robo (z6a)

I love them! My latest was a cheaper version of Circus by Taschen -- still huge but not literally a coffee table like the first version! This photo I found on the internet demonstrates that one's size -- the lady is 6 ft tall

I love the circus and really enjoy visiting the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota so it's meaningful for me.

I also have a collection of richly illustrated old wildlife books, beautiful inside and out, some quirkier books (Pinups, Armed America), some art and design books. Here are some more favorites:

My favorites, of course, relate to my interests and are usually informative as well as beautiful.

Great idea to get some travel books for guests. I leave paperbacks in my guest room, but personally enjoy reading up on my travel destinations as well, so it would work for me.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:32PM
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I have "three" spheres (balls) but have never used them. They are a beautiful ceramic with paisley on them.

They're a decorative accent piece is all. Usually something pretty to look at and to add color to a room. No different than any other decorative object one would have in their house. So I'm not getting your comment, especially on a decorating board.

I have no books on display except my personal pile on the end table next to where I sit. And pending on the person with the art books, I sometimes, but not always, find them to be a bit pretentious.

Well, the new coffee table comes tomorrow, I must get my tray which will hold little decorative objects ready! They may not live up to your standards though. :)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:43PM
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I forgot to mention that I also love using antique books in decorating. Many are not read, but some are the beautiful leather covers, etc. I love using them. Many really have much prettier covers that what we see today. I'm sure leather books today would cost a fortune!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 5:17PM
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No coffee table in my living room, so no 'coffee table' books. We do have some of the oversized art/photography/decorating books but they live in the dining room shelves with the other books.

I have a couple of small ottomans near my sofa, good for putting feet up. On one lives a basket with stuff we use all the time, like eyeglass cloths, the tv remotes, nail files, antacids, very practical stuff. In my defense, the basket itself is very pretty- and it was fair trade and made by refugees of Rwanda.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 5:49PM
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We have them in almost every room. In the sunroom, they are stacked under a chair on the floor and are garden books. In our gathering room, we have books on great cities. In our conservatory/library, I try to find eclectic ones. I have some in Icons of Modern designs and dog breeds and nature scenes and antiques and I have them stacked around or open for people to look at:

I love to have books around although I don't buy physical copies of modern/popular books because I read those on the Kindle exclusively now (I find reading on a Kindle SO much easier since I can do it one-handed)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Love them. Have many. Artsy family of painters, drawers,musicians, architects and we all love gardening and memberships in several gardening societies, rose, garden clubs, master gardeners, area arts guild, a study club, member of supporting/fundraising organization for local library.

When attending art shows, I swear off coffee table books but I am weak. One son hands his off to me for retirement and preservation. His wife is not interested right now. That will come in time when babies are older.

Change them out, put them in bedrooms, on library tables, on valet tables, foot of bed, on shelving.

KSWL, love Bellingrath.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:29PM
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Love having a collection of books around. Most of ours are gardening books, which I use quite often, evidenced by the tabs sticking out of the pages. I also have several books about Southern subjects, one by Charles Kuralt and another with photographs of old barns and rural structures with essays by Ferrol Sams. I too leave some paperbacks we have of local sightseeing or other interesting road trips in the area in our guest rooms.

And our coffee table is always piled with magazines and other reading matter.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:36PM
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Outside, I enjoy those books too--- my late FIL went to school with Ferrol Sams and we love his novels. I hadn't realized he wrote essays as well.

"When attending art shows, I swear off coffee table books but I am weak." We share that weakness, lol. Seems I am "always" never going to buy another huge book...

Beagles, that room is fantastic, and I do see your pile of books peeking out from under that chair to the left :-) I'm with you on the kindle, but every now and then I like to hold a real book. Even though I find myself pushing the edge of the page instead of turning it (hanging head). No screen can reproduce the heft and color of those prints in large books, there is something about a good quality art print that is somehow more convincing than an image on a screen.

Sloe gin, over the past decade or so I've seen many people putting lovely shelving in their dining rooms to combine functions or simply bring books into a room that doesn't often see them. I love that look, of a literary dining room!
And your basket sounds eminently practical, we use our shagreen boxes and ceramic bowls for the same purpose--- the "stuff" has got to be corralled somehow.

I have seen that Circus book, Robo, and the Atomic Ranch book also, they are both marvelous! It's clear that our collective enjoyment of these tomes is at least partly for the esthetic quality of the books themselves in addition to the content. I suppose that's what makes them "useful" decor :-)

In some cases they might function purely as decor, as the leather books you've used, tinam. Have you seen the book purses that are so popular in some circles? Kate Spade has or had a few, and there's quite a cottage industry on Etsy making real old books into small handbags. They aren't a tenth big enough for me, but I love looking at them!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 9:09AM
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Kswl, I haven't seen any other books of his essays either, and this one is pretty old and I've had it a long time. I think it's called 'Passages'. I'll check if you want to try to find it. I believe Dr. Sams died not too long ago, and I really enjoyed his books. I love taking photos of old barns, so this book really appealed to me. One of these days i'm going to go thru my photos and turn some of them into B&W's and frame some of them I think. BTW, I love your da Vinci book!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 9:22AM
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Thanks, outside. I love the idea of a wall of barn photographs--- sometimes the ones that look like they are struggling to remain standing are almost too sad.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:49AM
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I prefer to call them 'barn faces', lol! Some of them are sad, yes. Some look surprised they are still standing, and some amused. If you look at them long enough, you'll see what I mean. Then there are the ones with interesting construction details - cantilevered, stone, quilt barns, etc. Love finding them. That's also cool that your FIL was a classmate of Ferrol Sams.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 12:32PM
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