A square on the Grown-up Bingo Card of our lives which I’ve yet to see many guys cover is “interior design.” Which is too bad, because the fun begins when you start buying things because that’ll bring an elevated style to your home, not just because you need them. Toaster? Check. Indoor plants? Ehh, you’re working on it.
One item that’s a great gateway drug into decorating your space is a good coffee table book. Or better yet, a bunch of them.
Because, guys, they’re so versatile! And boy oh boy, do they look stylish and sophisticated. Stack ‘em on your shelves. On your end table. On the floor. Really, any flat surface will do. It’s almost impossible to find a place where “put a coffee table book on it” won’t be sound advice.
Don’t know where to start? Well good news. I have a tried and true trick to decorating with coffee table books. It’s almost diabolically simple, yet guarantees a stylish vibe that feels personal to you to whatever room you’re decorating.
Here it is, my trick to decorating with coffee table books:
Buy what you’re interested in...just make it fancy.
If you like cars in a “see every Fast & Furious movie the weekend it comes out” way, then buy a beautiful hard-bound edition of the most beautiful Porsches to ever race down the Autobahn. If your interest in art begins (and ends) at the latest Banksy spotting on Instagram, scoop up a primer on Andy Warhol with a colorful cover.
Shelly Lynch-Sparks, founder and principal at interior design firm Hyphen, affirms this deceptively simple strategy. “There’s a pretty amazing variety of coffee table books that you can learn from and are also beautiful.”
Once you’ve nailed down your areas of interest, narrow down what the design goal you want to achieve is in a given room.
Looking to add contrast to a room full of neutrals? Buy design books with bold, bright covers. Want to add gravitas to a work space? Load up on “how things work”-type tomes.
Below, a few stylish coffee table books that I’m extremely heteronormatively guessing lots of guys are into, like music, architecture, design, and sports. Sorry not sorry for reinforcing the patriarchy!
Most of us would be hard-pressed to namecheck our favorite architect, and that’s fine. Unlike George Costanza, we’re not all secret wannabe architects. So whether you’re a total Falling Waters nut, or simply want to learn the basics behind the art and science of designing buildings, this book is a good place to start your coffee table book collection.
A little morbid, sure, but funny (and educational!) too. Lynch-Sparks agrees, saying “National parks are beautiful, so this would make a perfect coffee table book for outdoorsy types.”
The Boss. In book form. Praise be to Jersey.
A few years ago, two friends of mine set out to visit every major league ballpark in America. If I remember correctly, they fell a few short of their goal at season’s end. This baseball-themed book could help them make up the difference.
A reproduction of the New York Times newspaper from any date you choose since 1851, this bad boy is one of the few coffee table books you could find yourself paging all the way through in one sitting. In it, you’ll find the headlines and articles, photographs and ads that appeared on the day you select. Psst, it would also make a great housewarming gift for someone for whom a) you know their birthday, and b) dropping more than a hundred bucks on a housewarming gift doesn’t seem insane.
Perhaps the only thing more millennial-signaling than avocado toast is a professed interest in mid-century modern design.
Show your bona fides with this MCM-focused book.
This might be the most on-the-nose manifestation of the interior design strategy stated up top. If you’re into comic books, this beautiful coffee table book gives them the art and design respect they deserve.
Space is cool. So is this book.
Displaying vintage Playboys in your home to seem cool but also like kind of a bad boy is so last year. If you’ve been looking for a way to casually display photos of naked women around your space and make it seem CLASSY and SOPHISTICATED, this coffee table book featuring images from famed fashion photographer Helmut Newton is your best bet.
With Todd Gurley III becoming a proud cat dad, now’s the time to show off your unironic - and unabashed - love of felines with this surprisingly cool cat photo-focused coffee table book.
There’s an argument to be made that the reason women decorate with coffee table books more often than men is because so many of the most striking books are about fashion. Show me a #goals living room or office space on Pinterest, and I’ll show you artfully arranged, fashion-focused coffee table books about fashion magazines, photographers, and designers like Vogue, Herb Ritts, and Tom Ford. But guys, there are fashion books out there for you too! Like this ode to iconic streetwear label Supreme by James Jebbia.