not so black or white

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Two new books for your summer reading list


The Power of Pattern, by Susanna Salk, Rizzoli New York, hardcover, $45

More is more, and you can’t tell Susanna Salk otherwise. “A great room has layers and there’s no better way to add a visual and literal layer than through a pattern,” says the designer and author. “Be it on wallpaper, textiles, or floor covering, pattern brings a unique liveliness to a room.”

If you’re bored of the white walls and monochromatic furnishings popularized by modern trends in minimalism, Salk’s newest book, The Power of Pattern, might be the paisley-packed punch you need to shock you from your stupor. The colorful resource guide offers a primer on the different varieties of pattern and provides interior inspiration from some of today’s top designers.

As might be expected, The Power of Pattern covers stripes, abstract designs, ikat, damask, chinoiserie, and more, with each of its 12 chapters dedicated to a specific type of pattern. If any of those words are unfamiliar, never fear—informative introductions explain the different varieties and feature quotes from well-known designers. Need inspiration on how to incorporate floral patterns into your home without looking grandmotherly? The first chapter provides plenty of elegant options, both modern and classic. The chapter on toile takes the viewer on an armchair journey, repeating intricate scenes from the jungle, the high seas, and other faraway places. Still another section shows how stripes needn’t be tacky; depending on the design, they can be playful, nostalgic, or meditative.

A true feast for the eyes, The Power of Pattern is the ideal coffee table book, but at the same time, a practical reference manual. Stunning full-page room inspirations demonstrate how to mix and match different designs for “maximum maximalism.” In one room, the furniture’s bold and blue Chinese dragon pattern anchors the space, while faded, large-scale leaves crawl up the walls. The resulting dialogue is playful and visually interesting, but balanced and not overwhelming. In another room, dark, striped, and curving patterns fill the walls while inky black flowers mark the curtains. The riotous layering gives the space unique depth and dimension.

If you’re not ready to incorporate multiple patterns into your home, the book also gives more subtle inspirations. In an otherwise simple, modern game room, a cream couch covered in blooming pink flowers adds a surprise pop of old-fashioned elegance. In a peaceful bedroom, furnishings in serene shades of white and gray look even more chic when backed by ornate, nature-themed wallpaper.

The Power of Pattern identifies the design company behind each look, making it easy to plan out your patterning. The last chapter, titled “Iconic,” showcases favorite designs that have stood the test of time. At once timeless and of-the-moment, these patterns are worth flipping through.

Ultimately a tool for self-expression, the right pattern can make a space feel dreamy, bohemian, or sophisticated. If you’re looking to add a touch of character and intrigue to your blank surfaces, The Power of Pattern is an excellent find.—Sarah Eddy


Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, by Wanda M. Corn, Delmonico Books/
Prestel, hardcover, $60

Where is the line drawn between modern art and modern artist? For Georgia O’Keeffe, there was no line, and never had been. From her earliest days O’Keeffe espoused a clean, unfussy aesthetic and a seamless integration of art and life, represented, says author Wanda M. Corn, not only in her paintings but in her manner of dress and the homes she lived in.

“More than others in her artistic circle, she lived modernism, creating a unitary style that was informed by some of the fundamental principles of the modern movement as it unfolded during the first half of the twentieth century,” says Corn, whose gorgeous and fascinating Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern offers insight into the personal habits and personal preferences of the artist New Mexico loves to claim for its own.

From her earliest days O’Keeffe espoused a clean, unfussy aesthetic and a seamless integration of art and life.

Though she lived day to day in blue jeans and casual shirts, O’Keeffe’s iconic and instantly recognizable style of formal dress was carefully cultivated by an artist with a keen awareness that black and white made for dramatic photography. In truth, O’Keeffe had always gravitated toward monochromatic dresses and suits, eschewing frills and lace for clean lines, comfort, and simplicity. Most of her clothing was bespoke, and even handmade (she was an excellent seamstress), and she was always on the cutting edge of modern fashion trends, as seen in her penchant for Marimekko patterns and dresses.

A tour of her home in Abiquiú, left largely the way it looked at her death in 1986, also speaks to O’Keeffe’s preference for modern design. It is sparsely furnished, many of the sitting room pieces slipcovered in white, though a few carefully chosen midcentury modern pieces dot the spaces and add splashes of color—an Eero Saarinen Womb chair here, a Barwa lounger there. For O’Keeffe, says Corn, “Spareness was a virtue, clutter a horror.” The same could be said of her paintings. Indeed, the author notes, visitors to O’Keeffe’s home often “feel they have experienced another one of O’Keeffe’s works of art.”

She managed her home with a strong, competent hand, overseeing every aspect of it, from hiring staff to planning meals. After spending several days with her in Abiquiú, John Loengard, a photographer for Life magazine, commented, “O’Keeffe played the role not so much of a painter but of a wealthy woman, interested in the arts.” Oh, how he missed the mark in his assessment, for as Corn notes, O’Keeffe’s goal was, first and always, to be able to spend more time in the studio; being organized and fully in charge of her own domain allowed her to do just that.

Corn explains, “[Loengard] undervalued the modern efficiency with which she, as a professional woman, used her agency to construct a ‘smooth’ lifestyle and a beautiful home so that she felt released from everyday duties and could paint.” Ever uncompromising in purpose, O’Keeffe “lived modern” so completely that her very being was indistinguishable from her art.Amy Gross