Coffee table

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 June, 2006, 12:00am

Cecil Hayes is an interior designer to the stars, among them actors Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes. She's also the first African-American featured in Architectural Digest and included in its prestigious list of the world's top 100 designers and architects. Her book, 9 Steps to Beautiful Living (Watson-Guptill Publications; $234), is, as she herself says, a cost-effective way to use her skills for those who can't afford to employ her. Unlike other designers who have penned such manuals, she includes practical pointers explaining, for example, the proper proportions for furniture pieces in relation to each other and the space they inhabit. Consider the following: a sofa should be half to three-quarters the length of the wall it is placed against and end tables should never be deeper than the sofa they are adjacent to. Also, decorative items on a coffee table must be three different heights - tall (45-53cm), medium (10-20cm) and low (under 7.5cm). This tome should entice the house proud to reach for their measuring tape - before the damage is done.

Lovers of glass and ceramics will savour Ingegerd R?man's new, self-titled monograph(Langenskiolds; 512 krona/$544), which presents three decades of her work in an unusual format. Lacking chapters, page numbers or even subject headings, the book veers back and forth, here including a monologue by the Swede, there explaining her idiom, elsewhere displaying photographs of her working, relaxing and pontificating - of which she does a lot. R?man, who has worked with Swedish glass giant Orrefors since 1999, points out why she prefers to be called 'form giver' instead of designer (she wanted to reinstate the Swedish expression formgivare, believing this to describe her occupation more accurately); and potter rather than ceramist ('I sided with the craftspeople'). Not that it matters. The book is a keeper not because of its text but its photographs of products that are unmistakably R?man's: the glass carafes, bowls, beakers and cups that explain so clearly the meaning of purity of line. The book can be ordered at

China's changing landscape has attracted much media interest since big-name international consortiums began building impressive edifices at alarming speeds. In New China Architecture (Periplus; $390), Xing Ruan pays homage to these celebrity architects, among them Sir Norman Foster (Beijing International Airport), Herzog & De Meuron (Beijing's Olympic National Stadium), Zaha Hadid (Guangzhou Opera House) and Paul Andreu (National Grand Theatre in Beijing). But he also tips his cap to the local architects elbowing their way onto the construction site that is their backyard, eager to leave legacies of their life's work. In a country that consumes 54.7 per cent of the world's cement and 36.1 per cent of its steel, the opportunities are many. Which allows Xing Ruan, a professor of architecture at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, sufficient scope for an appetising selection. Choice picks are Liu Jiakun's Luyueyuan Stone Sculpture Museum, in Chengdu, a monolithic concrete bunker that is an 'artwork in itself', and the West Lake Southern Line Pavilions, in Hangzhou, by architects Zhang Zi and Zhang Ming. The pair deserve mention because they appear, as Xing Ruan says, to be consciously refusing to take part in 'the architectural 'beauty contest' currently being fought among the large architectural firms, local as well as international'.