By Regina M. Connell.
Books are magical. They edify, they entertain, they transport. They can change lives. They shape culture. And sometimes, they’re beautiful objects, too. Beauty and brains: always a good gifting option.
And when it comes to that gifting, you have two options: You can go onto Amazon and pick up books recommended for you. Super convenient. And with all the pleasure of getting your teeth cleaned (no offense, Dr. Tan, love you).
Or you can go to a proper bookstore. (Did you hear more bookstores opened than closed in the last year… and that Amazon has a brick and mortar now, too?) In those stores, you can paw through your options, fall in love with the texture of the paper and the print quality, or maybe even learn a thing or two from people who know what they’re doing. And, if life and location preclude that, maybe contact a specialist bookstore for their recommendations. (No, do not then buy the book on Amazon: you’re not just paying for the book, but for the expertise and judgment of the bookseller.)
If you’re in LA, you can get into Hennessey + Ingalls, which specializes in art and architecture, photography, interior design, graphic design, and landscaping.
Founded over 50 years ago, it’s run by the third generation of the Hennessey family (now Brett) and is a pillar in the city’s visual arts community. This being LA, that means it’s a top draw for art directors in film, television, and advertising and thus an indirect but big influence on our culture. They pride themselves on knowledgeable staff and service, something no pure play online bookstore is going to offer.
Previously, based in Santa Monica with a Hollywood outpost, from January they’ll be found in the rapidly gentrifying downtown LA Arts District, fittingly located across the street from architecture school SCI-Arc.
Here’s what Brett recommends for holiday reading (along with some of my comments).
Tom Kundig: Works. Part memoir, part monograph, the Seattle architect known for his rugged elegance and love of handcrafting reveals his process and thinking through his work. A wonderful and rare example of how modernism can still manage to be warm and deeply soulful. Meditative, beautiful.
The LEGO Architect. Learning about architecture through LEGO. What else can you ask for? LEGO disarmingly blends play and making and design and cuts through all that theory and intellectual blather. Delightful.
The Broad Collection. Pundits predict that the Broad Museum, recently opened in LA, will shift the nexus of influence from East Coast to West in the US. Get a sneak peek of the collection here, and decide for yourself. Bonus: wonderful essays from some of my favorite (and non-arty) writers, like John Waters, Siri Hustveldt, and Pico Iyer.
Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California. Also very Cali—and very delicious (trust me on this)—is the lauded restaurant, Gjelina. Inspiring, and a gift for someone who prides themselves on not being a total kitchen novice.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. Nerdy, smart, with something for novices as well as pros. Again, another book that doesn’t talk down. Bonus: this book helps with those awkward moments in restaurants when conversation lags and you need a pithy factoid that’ll get the table talking again.
Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue. Words like “influential” and “legendary” don’t do Grace Coddington justice. This cat-loving fashion stylist—really a visual dreamweaver—has had more influence on art, fashion, photography, and life than almost anyone else in the last century. The fact that she’s survived for so long in the fractious fashion industry with the fastidious Anna Wintour is also close to miraculous. And did I mention she loves cats?
Tile Makes the Room: Good Design from Heath Ceramics: The word tile is misleading: rather this book is a primer and inspiration on design in general. It’s useful and profound even if you don’t care about tile. Not HGTV fast design, but smart, thoughtful, take-your-time design that respects context, material, and cohesiveness. Plus it helps you understand how this ancient building and design element is made and crafted. A resource book for the years. (Note: I do work for Heath, but I promise, this is a smart book.)
Sage Living: Decorate for the Life you Want: Our spaces aren’t just about how they look but about how they make us feel. Sage Living is another but very different take on thoughtful design with a focus on decorating from the inside out. The notion: decorating our living spaces for our goals is the first step in making them happen. It’s actually pretty profound, and another good reminder that our spaces are about us, not about trends and fashion and insta-fixes.
Holiday shopping, done.
Hennessey + Ingalls
214 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401