It's a little odd to begin a book review by expressing total outrage at its price-tag, but this coffee table tome is possibly the most expensive non-rare, non-textbook, literary purchase I have ever, ever made - and honestly, I still feel slightly sickened by my self-indulgence in buying it.
Let's be clear here: even at HALF the recommended retail price, you'd be justified in accusing the publisher of usury. At its full £70.00 price (yes, dear reader, SEVENTY ENGLISH POUNDS, you have not misread), we should all be clamouring for a public prosecution, for never before have I seen a more blatant case of DAYLIGHT ROBBERY.
It took a full three weeks of wrestling with my conscience, and a few sneaky real life previews of the book at Waterstone's, before I caved and bought my own copy at Amazon's discounted (but very definitely still not bargain) price. So, given I'd already checked out the full contents of 'Malene Birger: Life and Work' in my favourite high street book showroom, why did I still go on to part with my hard-earned readies?
Because my name is ___, and I am hopelessly addicted to interiors magazines and design books, and this is - without question - the most unexpected and appealing property porn I have seen in YEARS.
For those of you unfamiliar with her work, Malene Birger is a Danish fashion designer. Her clothes have a very distinctive style which I can only describe as "Indian Princess in Scandinavia"; a very strange and beguiling mix of ethnic-luxe, Northern European austerity, and old-school magpie glamour. This book is a sort of pictorial biography, showcasing Birger's studio and several homes. As you'd expect at this hugely inflated RRP, it is beautifully photographed and lushly produced with big, fat, glossy pages. As is typical of the genre, the text is very meagre, and hagiographic twaddle when it appears. Ignore it, and just concentrate on the pictures.
And such pictures! I am in love, I am in lust, I am OBSESSED with everything Malene Birger owns. Like the clothes she designs, her interiors are rendered in a colour palette almost severe in its restraint, yet there's not a single minimal or uncomfortable thing about them. Nothing appears contrived or ostentatious, and yet every room attests to talent, success and confidently eclectic taste. Chanel handbags, Louis Vuitton trunks and the stiffly shiny carrier bags of expensive shops are arranged alongside sequinned Moroccan throws, Lucknowi embroidered cushions, silver and pewter gewgaws, Chinese flea-market tat and, er, Ikea Bekvam. It should all be a mish-mash, high-end-low-end, migraine-inducing design disaster, and instead it is supremely elegant and incredibly inviting, the very dream of serene good living.
'Malene Birger: Life and Work' has become my favourite bedtime reading. Its visuals soothe me and inspire me, and though it came at an exorbitant price, I have to admit it was not money wasted. If you love interiors or fashion and are longing for some fresh new creative stimulation, this book is certainly a "must-see"...and if you can forgive the aforementioned criminally-inclined publisher, it's perhaps even a "must-buy".