The best books exploring interior design and our understanding of it, as designers and occupants

Alan Hughes Author Of Interior Design Drawing
By Alan Hughes

Who am I?

As a child my heroes were designers and I thought designers could design across many disciplines, this was what I understood and aspired to. I'm fortunate to have been a designer, illustrator, and design teacher for many years. Passionate about the process I firmly believe if you can design in one area you can design in another. Understanding your material's potential is the key. As a tutor and author my job is to unwrap a student’s talent, support and encourage that unique view through skills building and advice to help them. I believe good design can solve many of the world’s problems and passing on that message is valuable.


I wrote...

Interior Design Drawing

By Alan Hughes,

Book cover of Interior Design Drawing

What is my book about?

Written as a guide to the early stages of design drawing and conceived to introduce the design process, this book explores how to communicate a complete design scheme. The concept behind a design should inform every stage of that project from first thoughts to realisation, including how you communicate with the client. 

Design drawing must be informative and accurate but also promote atmosphere, the feeling of a space, in an imaginative and evocative manner. Drawing space before it is built relies on observational sketching as much as the knowledge of scaled plans and sections. My approach is to encourage hand drawing as key to the design process, an essential skill that will inform and augment whatever communication medium chosen, be that pencil or pixel.

The books I picked & why

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The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

By Juhani Pallasmaa,

Book cover of The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

Why this book?

In my profession and working in a world that is bombarded with high-resolution images it might seem ironic to choose this book. Discovering this title as a student I was struck by the straightforward exploration of the broader sensory ability we all share. Pallasmaa explores the full sensory perception of built space and how relying on the merely visual, particularly at the design stage, robs us of a deeper sensory understanding of the architecture we create and inhabit. This book taught me how to recognise and trust what all my senses tell me rather than assuming I can fully understand something just by looking at it.


In Praise of Shadows

By Jun'ichiro Tanizaki,

Book cover of In Praise of Shadows

Why this book?

An exploration by this famous novelist contrasts the Japanese and the west’s approach to what it means to dwell and inhabit. Light, texture, and culture are explored from an aesthetic point of view and as a design choice through various explorations of sensory experience be that of food, traditional Japanese toilets, or the impact of electric light. An evocative and practical essay for anyone interested in the way we inhabit our environments. This book was a powerful reminder that cultural differences and the history behind them need to be understood and welcomed for the contrast and the alternative view they reveal.  


Eileen Gray: Architect/Designer

By Peter Adam,

Book cover of Eileen Gray: Architect/Designer

Why this book?

A captivating biography of one of my favourite designers. This book charts the life and experience of Eileen Gray and most importantly her fierce desire to understand the process of design and explore the integrity and flexibility of the material and techniques she used. 

From exquisite lacquer work as surface decoration or tubular steel, leather, and canvas for furniture, to the smooth, modernist concrete for her most famous build, E1027, Gray mastered her materials. In doing so she recognised that when designing space, engineering and theory were not enough, and that instinct and the ‘choreography of the space’ are essential to how we recognise and understand our built environment. A wonderful exploration of a designer’s life, particularly relevant for a student of design to read.


Geography of Home: Writings on Where We Live

By Akiko Busch,

Book cover of Geography of Home: Writings on Where We Live

Why this book?

Recommended to me by one of my students this is a witty exploration of the places in our homes, what we call them, kitchen, bedroom, dining room and how they often don’t live up to or exceed their names. A view of the rituals and complexities of the American home and what it houses as it explores memory, aspirations, and the real meaning of home. This book is a trigger to encourage the reader to look at their own spaces and the pattern of how they use those spaces through habit, muscular memory, and cultural norms, all playing a part in how we define our living spaces.


Design Drawing

By Francis D. K. Ching, Steven P. Juroszek,

Book cover of Design Drawing

Why this book?

Ching has a great gift for illustrating with his visuals, and his amazing handwritten text, all manner of information about drawing and designing space. This is a comprehensive and instructional book introducing design drawing from basic principles to the communication of designed space as a structural diagram or atmospheric perspective. A wonderful exploration of sketching and drawing methods to illustrate theory, atmosphere, and the communication of three-dimensional space.  For me, it transcended the textbook approach and provided a clear exploration of the communication of design method and its potential outcomes.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in interior design, aesthetics, and drawing?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about interior design, aesthetics, and drawing.

Interior Design Explore 19 books about interior design
Aesthetics Explore 36 books about aesthetics
Drawing Explore 56 books about drawing

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Book of Tea, The Unknown Craftsman, and Space and Illusion in the Japanese Garden if you like this list.