five books: keith melbourne

Designer, Keith Melbourne has a fascination with books – particularly those that capture the work of people no longer with us. For Melbourne, whose work is available through brands such as Stylecraft, Zenith and ISM Objects, these are the five* books that capture a history of design and are titles he can’t do without.


Jean Prouvé 

It is the most beautiful book I own, and the one I treasure more than any other. The two volumes catalogue his complete output of furniture which was often developed for seemingly mundane institutional projects. For me it shows he was the master of steel, in each of his pieces everything is on display and the pieces read like diagrams of physics – capturing the way force travels through structure.

Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible

I’m not alone in my admiration for Dieter Rams – the influence his work and thinking has had on designers globally is incredible. This book shows just how considered and consistent he was in his career – each piece is a visual representation of his manifesto, the 10 Principles for good design.

Achille Castiglioni

The world seems to know Castiglioni for one or two pieces of lighting and furniture that were actually designed with his brother, Piero Giacomo Castiglioni. This book details just how incredible their body of work was. It is incredibly stimulating and the rigour they carried through each project is amazing. Though it isn’t exactly a pretty book, it reminds me of one thing – to take my fun seriously.  

The Furniture of Carlo Mollino

If I had to sum up Carlo Mollino in one word it would be Maverick, he was an unorthodox person with an independence of mind that defined everything he did. His work isn’t that widely known but the story is fascinating, he was definitely an informal bad boy.

Vladimir Kagan – A Lifetime of Avant Garde Design
Pointed Leaf Press

I think Kagan was one of the lesser known (great) American modernist furniture designers. When I first discovered his work, I was surprised to find that he was alive and well. Still practising, in fact and enjoying a late career revival of interest in his work. Sadly he passed away in early 2016, with little fanfare. This book illustrates his undoubtably beautiful work, but what I found just as fascinating was the description of his life and career journey.

I think I have enough experience now to say that furniture design is not an easy gig. And I found it intruiging, and somehow reassuring, to read of his career roller coaster ride. From obscurity to stardom, and back to obscurity. Complete with tales of devastating factory fires, bad business decisions. topped off with a completely unexpected late career resurgence.

* Of course Melbourne couldn’t keep his list to five so we’ve given him one more…

Wegner: Just One Good Chair
Hatje Cantz Verlag GmbH & Company KG

Seriously, you can’t talk about furniture and not mention Wegner!


You can find out more about Keith Melbourne through his site.