More Than Decor: The Value of Coffee Table Books


Coffee table books became popular in the 1950s after an expansion in home entertainment and social engagement. These oversized, often hardcover books serve as both centerpieces and conversation starters. They serve as decorative accents with their bright colors, engravings and eye-catching prints.

In our current social climate, Instagram and Pinterest serve as staple inspiration for interior design and living room discussions. It is not surprising that in a time of great communication madness, brands and personalities are creating cults around collectible art objects.

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Assouline’s signature travel diaries have conquered the luxury media industry. With appetizing colored covers and super bold prints, they offer an escape to distant lands. Brilliant photographs of sparkling beaches and powder snow mountains bring back images and memories of the wonderful summer months of St. Tropez or the alpine enchantment of St. Moritz.

Rockstars and musical celebrities document their careers through photographic memories. International legends like the Rolling Stones and Rihanna have created archival memories of their time on tour, glamorous red carpets and personal behind-the-scenes photographs. When Rihanna released her limited release book in collaboration with Phaidon, fanbases quickly created a frenzy around the release.

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As well as being overrated status symbols, these books are also autobiographies on paper, often interwoven with personal anecdotes and musings that offer connections to the reader.

Clothing brands like Nike and Supreme have created encyclopedias of their global stock. Books such as Taschen’s Virgil Abloh x Nike ICONS Something’s Off book reimagine sneaker icons and showcase the brand’s footwear culture. With intricate models of the industrial design and creative construction processes, the pages present blueprints for shoes as if they were aerodynamic engineering projects.

Other fashion enthusiasts will appreciate the editorial photography contained in a sleek collectible Ralph Lauren or modern megatron of a Tom Ford focal point.

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Art books continue to appeal to art history buffs and those with an affinity for design. These information centers feature a plethora of historical and visual corners of curiosity. Art Deco spreads, post-modernist deliberations, and Greek statues of classical antiquity are found in books sold by cosmopolitan museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Perez Art Museum Miami and the Whitney Museum of American Art. .

In their eclectic and expansive design boutiques, affectintos buy copies of “Marisol and Warhol Take New York” and “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Prints and Objects.” Colorful and textured exhibits, such as the magnificent ‘Howardena Pindell: What’s Left to See’, chronicle the artists’ travels around the world and can make a memorable gift in any season.

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Media houses and film production companies are also using the coffee table book as a way to build larger audiences within their communities. A24 often offers sold-out releases of their film scripts in world-building memorabilia. These include indie favorites like “Hereditary”, “Minari” and “Deux ex Machina”.

From cooking to space to activism, there’s an endless array of interests to satisfy any reader. In an age when the superficiality of a cover or image can overshadow the quality of the text or story within, coffee table books are a window to connect our heightened affinity for visual media while now an appreciation for intellectual stimulation. When words fail to clarify our intentions, let a coffee table book shine as a personal statement.

Featured Image: Charisse Kenion on Unsplash


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