As the season of sentimental journeys approaches, travel plans are as flat as a ribbon of asphalt slicing through harvested farm fields.
Three visually rich books offer a design-oriented trip to our currently limited-access world. The trio of tomes invites thwarted travelers to stack volumes on the coffee table, settle into the sofa and turn the pages of our planet.
A Wes Anderson world
Travel is cinematic, a movie set in which we act out scenes populated by strangers. But the coronavirus has called “cut” on our personal productions, which makes “Accidentally Wes Anderson,” (Little Brown, 368 pp., $35), by Wally Koval, all the more appealing.
The playful book, an extension of a popular Instagram account of the same name, depicts 200 locations in 50 countries, with images from 180 contributing photographers, that echo the signature style of film director Wes Anderson. The pages of the book will have a familiar appeal for fans of Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and other pleasantly quirky movies.
“Accidentally” provides the theatrical whimsy we need now, when travel (not to mention moviegoing) is mostly a dream.
When life seems upended, the pleasing symmetry of the Anderson-style images offers a comforting sense of control. But this is much more than a picture book. Each photo is accompanied by detailed and sometimes esoteric context, such as maintaining the clocks and breaking in the queen’s shoes at Buckingham Palace, the inspiration for George Gershwin’s “Summertime” lyrics and a Fred “Mister” Rogers connection to the Pittsburgh Athletic Association.
The writing is often as lighthearted and lore-filled as the photos of vintage swimming pools, sherbet-colored bungalows and a faded coral-pink lighthouse on an uninhabited island. Koval says visitors to Schloss Moritzburg in Saxony, Germany, will come away with a lifetime’s fill of colossal antlers. And he compares the tiles of a church roof in Budapest to the pattern of a lanyard from summer camp. Given the book’s silver-screen inspiration, it’s fitting that James Bond and R2-D2 earn mentions.
Images of grand buildings are intermingled with sites of humble appeal, including a little blue boatshed that’s the most photographed spot in Perth, Australia; a sand-covered town in Namibia and a polished railway station that welcomes no trains.
The world, particularly places off the beaten path, provides a script-worthy narrative. There’s the tale of a river of burning whiskey in Dublin being extinguished by horse manure, and a ghost village above the Arctic Circle, accessible only by sea or snowmobile, where the world’s northernmost basketball court stands empty of play.
Of course, too many places are currently devoid of play. But “Accidentally” reminds us that it’s all out there, ready to induce delight, perhaps in the form of an idiosyncratic surprise, like the image of a Croatian pancake hut, waiting just over the next hill.
The aesthetic viewpoint
“Travel by Design” (Assouline, 280 pp., $95), is a hefty hardcover featuring an atlas of more than 350 images by architects, designers and makers. Inside the brilliant yellow-and-silver cover are photographs depicting more than 100 locations in 60 countries.
The photos are accompanied by sound-bite observations from the aesthetically astute contributors, who are members of the Design Leadership Network.
Their visual acuity provides a tour attuned to shape, color and pattern. Terraced gardens and rice fields in Vietnam “create incredible geometric patterns,” for example. An Irish landscape has “every possible shade of green.” Hotel beds at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., are “like cupcakes.” In Denmark, “farmland vistas, thatched-roof buildings, and white-painted brick churches all radiate a sophisticated minimalist charm with an architectural purity.”
The photos cover a broad swath of the globe, with locations including Morocco, Spain, Dubai and the United States.
Landscape architect John Howard observes that, although Copenhagen is an old city, “it has some of the best modern architecture in Europe.” He cites several notable structures, including the Black Diamond Royal Library and the Copenhagen Opera House.
Architect Thomas A. Kligerman puts his finger on the elusive appeal of ruins, saying they spark the imagination in various ways. The architect, he says, “completes them. The historian imagines the people who passed through them.”
Interior designer Suzanne Tucker notes, “Scottish architecture is fantastic — slightly quirkier than the pure English Georgian, yet very grand, very lived in, and with a hospitality emblematic of their unique Scottishness.”
Although “Design” is about aesthetics, the directory provided in the closing pages of the book lists tips for travelers, such as where to find embroidered linens or Japanese lacquerware or an antique shop that reproduces old door knockers. Cultivated taste also includes taste buds, and the directory includes such information as where to find a sidewalk chef grilling sardines in Lisbon or the perfect gin and tonic in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In keeping with the book’s theme, the where-to-go guide includes an evocative appreciation of physical space.
Architect Barry Goralnick describes the sensory appeal of the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, S.C. Because it has been “preserved rather than restored,” he says, it exudes “a faded glamour that is eerie and poetic.”
Bringing the globe home
Travel feeds creativity. With our wings clipped, we’re left to focus on our own domestic interiors.
In “Travel Home: Design with a Global Spirit” (Abrams, 288 pp., $40), mother-daughter authors Julie Goebel and Caitlin Flemming showcase 20 globe-trotters whose homes reflect the places they have been.
Flemming is an interior designer and stylist; Goebel established the Travelers Conservation Foundation. They also are well traveled. As they write in their introduction: “We don’t know a time when travel wasn’t that friend who influenced, shocked and changed us for the better.”
They continue: “Seeing the world with eyes wide open can happen thousands of miles from your home, or just a few blocks away.”
On subsequent pages, “Travel Home” explores the intersection of travel and interior style, how seeing new places colors our mind’s eye.
Included are Q&As with the design-oriented travelers, who reveal which places have influenced them, where they hope to travel next (whenever that becomes possible), favorite hotels and preferred souvenirs.
Decor in the featured interiors reflects Paris, Tokyo, Portugal, Mexico City and other locales. Also included is a look at what the style-minded frequent fliers pack and wear when in transit.
But it’s what they bring home — in the form of inspiration and objects — that fills the pages. The homes are textural, with tiles from Portugal, baskets from Mexico, textiles from India, even color combinations they noted, perhaps, on a wooden door or stucco wall.
Textile designer John Robshaw collects textiles, unsurprisingly. That includes handkerchiefs, he says, because “they always seem eccentric and unique to the country.”
Kendra Smoot, a stylist and art director, says the whitewashed walls, beams and floors in her California home were influenced by trips to Greece and Scandinavia.
Like most tourists, the featured travelers collect matchbooks and shells and stones. Spices are the preferred souvenir for Vicente Wolf, the Cuban-born, New York-based interior designer. Wolf’s weekend home in Montauk, N.Y., is spiced with furniture and accents from his travels. Pieces include a cabinet from Sri Lanka and a Buddha from Myanmar, both from the 19th century.
The design-minded travelers share tips on how to find quality local goods. Their favorite shopping haunts are shared in the final pages, where a Little Black Book section lists flea markets, bazaars and other resources from Istanbul to Seattle.
Pieces of places visited become postcards to oneself.
Peggy Wong, who photographed the book, says she collects examples of typography, including postcards, when she travels.
Like the stamped and mailed versions, she says, they serve “as a lovely reminder of when to plan my next adventure.”
Powers is a freelance writer based in Detroit. Her website is rebeccapowers.com.