Colour-full Books

two books - Colorama and Secret lives of colour - are lying side by side on a wooden table top


As I write this I’m three weeks into the summer holidays and when dealing with two kids under 5 and ALL the weather (including hottest and possibly wettest days of the year) I’ve unsurprisingly found reading time pretty limited. Whilst I love a book I can get deep into, from a piece of perspective shattering non-fiction to a light-hearted rom-com this summer my reading has been all about dipping in and out of books. And great books for that are ones you’ve already got! Looking at my bedside table I instantly noticed there was a bit of a theme to my reading material - colour.

It’s no secret I love colour - in fact i think i mention it in pretty much every post - but even though it surrounds us every day there is so much that is communicated and influenced by colour and I find it absolutely fascinating. I’m being slightly presumptuous in concluding that I’m likely not the only one and that you might be interested in some of these fantastic books too so in case you haven’t come across them here they are!

The book Secret Lives of Colour by Kasia St Clair is lying flat on a wooden table top

Secret Lives of Colour, Kasia St Clair (John Murray)

The opening of this book is one of my favourite John Ruskin quotes - “ The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most” - which really is the perfect way to start such a thorough and thoughtful book on colour. This isn’t a new book, infact I think the latest edition has an updated cover, but this one regularly moves from my shelves to my bedside table as every time I pick it up I learn something new. Covering the histories behind 75 colours each one is equally as fascinating and intriguing and the concept that each colour has a biography really hits a chord with this ex-museology student who was/is entranced by the biographies of items. (Well hello there Mr. Kopytoff - if you know, you know ;op).

Two books stand upright on a wooden desk. The Page edges are faced towards you to see the colourful edges.

This book does, however, pose me one massive dilemma every time - when I put it back on the shelf do I store it spine out or pages out? They’re just so pretty!


Which way would you stand it on the shelf?





The book Colorama is lying flat on a wooden tabletop so you can see the multicoloured cover.

Colorama - From Fuchsia to Midnight Blue, Cruschiform (Prestel)

Another book with a stunning [hard to photograph well] cover, you’d be forgiven for presuming that this and the Secret Lives of Colour are treading the same material. And whilst both do indeed have information about various colours the difference in presentation is what what makes them perfect shelf-mates. Each colour has a two page spread in this one - one page presents a glorious illustration and one paragraph commentary which faces a full page of pure colour. In comparison to the Secret Lives of Colour the information presented is brief, but the paragraphs are fantastic snippets that really bring each of the 133 colours to life and envelope you in a warm vivid saturated colourful cuddle. It also has THE most glorious colour and thematic indexes at the back that in themselves are works of art.

the book Mad about the House is lying on a wooden tabletop so you can see the front cover with the large title and a  gold foil plant to its left.

Mad About The House, Kate Watson-Smyth (Pavilion)

This one is very definitely an interiors book and I understand this will be an immediate turn-off for some, but the chapter on colour that covers its effect on different rooms, various eras etc is really brilliant at demonstrating the practical side of surrounding yourself with colour and things that should be considered when decorating. This is perhaps the point I should say I’m mid-planning how we’re decorating our family home at the moment which is a total new-build blank canvas, so its obviously influencing my reading too. Kate Watson Smyth writes brilliantly as any of her blog readers will already know, and if you don’t do go have a read and take in her podcast (with the colour-addict Interiors expert Sophie Robinson) as their insights on colour, colour trends and their application are first rate. As is this book.


Pink House Living book - with a dark grey linen cover and hot pink foiled title - is lying on a wooden tabletop

Pink House Living, Emily Murray (Ryland Peters & Small)

Continuing the interiors theme is this book. I should start by saying I’m not big on pink. Or at least I didn’t think I was. But what I’m learning is it such a versatile colour which I actually love, I just don’t love it everywhere. This book champions exactly that, and while pink is its subject, the principles of this book could be applied to many different colours and their everyday use around you - its not about using it in every shade every where around the house, its about using it thoughtfully to best effect. Something I’m hoping my 4yo will learn soon too. Tackling the home room by room Murray writes practically, bringing in textures, contrasting hues and proves you really can have a pink house without feeling like you’ve woken up in a sterotypical kids cartoon.


Pantone Colours book - a book for children - is lying on a wooden table top

Colors, Pantone (Abrams Appleseed)

Hands up, this is not actually on my bedside table and it’s a kids book. But its a brilliant kids book. There are 10 double page spreads in this board-book and there is no better introduction to understanding that the single term ‘yellow’ (or blue or whatever) covers a gamut of possibilities. From a designer perspective its less mind-boggling than a Pantone colour book (but does include the pantone codes just in case) and as a parent its been a great lead-off point for conversations about mixing, identifying and naming colours.

The Panton Colours children's book is laid open at the back pages, to see the various colourful illustrations.

Whilst my 1 yo loves the illlustrations the 4yo loves finding things around the house and working out which of the 20 shades from the relevant pages is the nearest match, giggling at the name in the process. And if its not there we name it ourselves! She’s even gone through and made me up a colour palette for me to use in my next designs (you’ll be able to tell which it is if you keep an eye on Instagram).


So there you have it, by favourite books that are keeping my summer holidays full of colour even if my ‘working’ time is pretty limited at the moment! If you’ve got any book recommendations just let me know too - from art history to colouring books I love the lot, and this lot would love some new buddies on the shelf!

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