'Take the square out of your cube,' urges Cube Chic (Quirk Books, $124), a curious DIY manual that presents 20 ways to personalise cookie-cutter office spaces. The suggested styles range from chic (Mod) and bling (Disco) to bizarre (Nap). In the latter, sleep-boosting arrangement, author Kelley Moore suggests fitting a foam mattress in the space under your desk, covering it with flannel sheets, and adding a blanket and a pillow or two. Then, she says, secure white tulle to the perimeter of your desk (to create a sleep curtain that dims office lights), stick silver stars to your cubicle walls, wait for afternoon sleepiness to descend and crawl under for Zzzzzs. As inappropriate as some of these projects might be for work environments, the book is worth perusing for the handyman tips that can
be used anywhere.
Want to know what a hallmark depicting a leopard's head means?
How about one showing a crowned harp? Thousands of such illustrations, depicting silver, gold and platinum hallmarks - as well as signs on pewter, pottery and porcelain - fill the pages of Antique Marks (Collins, $144). Recognise them on heirlooms or flea-market finds and you should be able to tell where and when the items were made, and possibly by whom. The book, put together by the Diagram Group, includes information on methods of construction as well as biographies of manufacturers. There is also a chapter on Oriental porcelain that explains marks on Chinese and Japanese wares. One major difference is that Chinese marks refer not to potters but the emperor during whose reign a piece was made.
A sign the Chinese are being taken seriously as consumers of luxury goods is Alessi's first book in Chinese. In a foreword by Alberto Alessi Anghini, the Italian company's general manager philosophises about the mindset that separates firms such as his from those that see design simply as spice to be added to whatever is cooking. The latter approach, he says, produces anonymous and boring products lacking in poetic design, which is what Alessi can provide. A quick flip through the book reveals what he means. Iconic items showcased include Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif lemon squeezer, an impractical but striking kitchen object inspired by a dream about science-fiction author Philip K. Dick. Then there's Alessandro Mendini's Anna G corkscrew, reportedly modelled after his girlfriend at the time; Michael Graves' Kettle with a Birdshaped Whistle and much more. With the right mixture of text and pictures, Alessi ($280) makes a handy reference book as well as a source of inspiration for wannabe designers wondering how to become one of the company's so-called artistic mediators.