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book review
How do you create your first coffee table book? Designer Tara Bernerd finds out
Aug 14, 2017
Katy B. Olson

Tara Bernerd, the accomplished London-based interior architect who started out at Philippe Starck’s YOO design studio in the 1990s and has since gone on to work with clients like Thompson Hotels, SIXTY Hotels, Starwood Capital, Blackstone, LeFrak, Berkeley Group, LendLease, Couture Homes, Grosvenor Asia Pacific and Asia Standard (and to appear on pages the likes of Architectural Digest, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times), had never written a book before sitting down to draft Place, her first coffee-table tome.

Tara Bernerd; courtesy Graciella Cattarossi
Tara Bernerd; courtesy Graciella Cattarossi

It was a “labor of love,” says the designer, whose Rizzoli-published work debuted earlier this year.

She sat down to discuss the process, the passion and the nitty-gritty that go into creating a designer’s first book. Take note, would-be authors, as there are plenty of tips and cautionary tales to be had:

Tara Bernerd's Place is now available
Tara Bernerd's ‘Place’ is now available.

Number of pages produced vs. number of final pages included?
We were immediately editing from the outset, so our initial edit of the full book produced 428 pages, which then had to be edited down to 304.

Did you submit a proposal to Rizzoli, your publisher?
No, we held several meetings with the Rizzoli team where we ran through our company presentation.

Had you always been interested in creating a book?
I think for anyone to reach a point where a collection of work can be considered for a book is an amazing goal, and when I first heard from Rizzoli, I can’t deny I was absolutely thrilled.

As publishers, I admire them hugely, and now with a close relationship, I have only respect and warmth for my editor. When I first set up the company, I had only two people and one fantastic project. I knew that I wanted to give everything we touched from there on my best.

Building and designing hotels was always the ultimate dream, and today the hotels we have worked on—and, indeed, are currently working on as we speak—is a dream come true and a testament to all of the hard work that has taken place from the outset, and the incredible team I have around me. Without doubt, the variety of our work and the realization to see this in print is incredibly rewarding and leaves me only wanting to try harder and keep moving.

What were the initial challenges?
The book has been an incredibly cathartic experience and, at times, a labor of love.

We struggled slightly to edit down all of the work; however, together with an incredible team at Rizzoli, we have carefully curated the past 15 years into 304 pages. There are a number of projects that hold a special place for me and some of these didn’t quite make the final cut; however, I had to remove emotion from the editing process and I think that overall, we have been able to encapsulate our design story and what we stand for. All said, I also live in the future, designing for places tomorrow. A part of me found it strange and also insightful to go back so far. It’s been a wonderful journey.

‘Place’ as a work in progress

How did you edit or select the projects that appeared?
With much difficulty! Inevitably, the book only represents a snapshot of the many projects we have worked on throughout the years. In addition, I’m someone who often prefers to move forward rather than to look back, so it made sense to me that the book should not only reflect upon past projects, but also look at our present and future work.

Ultimately, I hope that it gives people a flavor of our design approach and perhaps suggests a certain attitude or DNA that threads throughout our work.

"Place" as a work in progress ‘Place’ as a work in progress

What are some of the tips you would share with designers who havent worked on a book before?
Invest in photography. We simply could not have made the book without a great catalog of imagery, and we have been fortunate enough to work with a number of talented photographers, in particular Philip Vile, who have made this book what it is. Although professional photography can be a rather large outgoing, I made a conscious effort over the years to ensure that each and every one of our projects was photographed as soon as it was completed.

As a result, we have a full library of images on record of all of our work—this proved invaluable when we were approached to create the book.

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