Tord Boontje
Text by Martina Margetts

It is tempting to call Dutch-born designer Tord Boontje the man who turned back the clock on minimalist interiors, but the jury is still out. Boontje, not yet 40, was a confirmed modernist on his way up London's design ladder when he suddenly abandoned the Bauhaus and developed an ornamental streak of an intensity not seen since the 19th century. Boontje explains that the birth of his first child caused him to rethink austerity. He abandoned it in favor of a New Age opulence and decorative patterns, which trail across any material—wood, glass, paper, porcelain, or textiles—that finds its way into his studio in France. This first book of his work captures the spirit of stunning and provocative exhibitions over the past three years in Milan, at London's Victoria & Albert Museum, and at New York's Moss Gallery, which brought him wide attention. Boontje already had made his mark with a chandelier for Swarovski, which he reconceived as a dangling bough of pink crystal blossoms. Target shoppers have fallen for his Garland light fixtures, which cover a bare bulb in a mass of paper cutout flowers. The high-end Italian manufacturer Moroso commissioned Boontje to design laser-cut fabrics for serious furnishings. The textiles are as complex as any needlework created by hand. Architects still wedded to black leather chairs by Mies and Corbu may find Boontje's couture-draped furnishings uncomfortably nostalgic. And bad imitators abound. But the purely decorative motif punched into the pages of this book is as intriguing as tracks in the snow or a shadow cast by one of Boontje's hangings on a plain white wall. Rizzoli; $75

Domesticity at War
By Beatriz Colomina

The title is somewhat misleading, but the premise is a page-turner: “Modern architecture is inseparable from war.” The author starts with the idea that technology and materials developed in wartime made the postwar housing boom possible. She goes on to suggest that the American dream house became a propaganda tool during that peacetime aberration known as the Cold War. Not only did suburban tracts provide places for GI families to live and prosper, but they served as a powerful picture of peace and tranquility to send round an anxious world. There were bomb shelters along with the backyard barbecues, but they were well stocked. Author Beatriz Colomina, a professor of architecture at Princeton, has also written Cold War Hothouses: Inventing Postwar Culture from Cockpit to Playboy. Here, she argues that the midcentury modern building boom “was not simply the bright architecture that came after the darkness of the war”; it was part of a campaign in which architects participated in cementing the message of peace, right down to what they wore. She points to Walter Gropius, photographed in a plaid shirt on his screened porch. She considers Buckminster Fuller's aluminum Dymaxion dwelling units and Philip Johnson's Glass House. In the end, she worries that the increasing dematerialization of architecture has been countered by an increasing need for security. “War does not end,” she concludes. “It evolves, and architecture with it.” MIT Press; $49.95

Shop America: Midcentury Storefront Design 1938–1950
Edited by Jim Heimann Essay by Steven Heller

Window-shopping all but disappeared in America with the creation of the mall. But one can always hope that developers and designers will come to their senses and Main Streets will be revived—and, with them, the culture of pedestrian street life that flourished when store windows held their own. This book of vintage “style suggestions” resurrects the lights, color, and graphic punch of signage, and the artistic fantasy that played out in displays of hats, shoes, and candies. Commerce drove the design strategies, and architects complied with such inventive designs as Richard Neutra's Coco Tree Café in Hollywood or a 1941 Kay jewelry store by Morris Lapidus in Jacksonville, Fla. Taschen; $49.99

The Decoration of Houses
By Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. Foreword by Richard Guy Wilson

“Proportion is the good breeding of architecture.” So wrote literary giant Edith Wharton and architect Ogden Codman Jr. in their 1897 interior design classic. The collaborators off ered a world of radical—for the time—advice on modern interiors. This facsimile preserves the classical principles and admonitions to pare down, as well as 56 original plates showing furniture, moldings, and details they admired, including carved wood ceilings and fine French locks. Like proportion, the book is still in style. Rizzoli; $35

Russian Architecture and the West
By Dmitry Shvidkovsky

Russia's relationship with the West has been debated at least since Peter the Great formally opened the door to Europe. In this book, Russia's leading architectural historian makes the case that despite periods of official isolation, Russian architecture was deeply influenced by the West as far back as the 10th century and as far forward as the present day. Yale University Press; $75