Best coffee table books: 5 top illustrated buys

These best coffee table books are perfect for gifting

Included in this guide:

Best coffee table books
(Image credit: Getty)

This guide to the best coffee table books was not easy to put together – after all, there are so, so many beautiful, gift-worthy tomes out there, full of sumptuous illustration. There are coffee table books about fashion, history, painting, cats...In our opinion, though, the coffee table book is especially suited to interior design, travel photography, and landscapes. These subjects also tend to be failsafe for gifting: not everyone likes cats/Chanel, but everyone has a home, likes at least some travel, and will probably enjoy a photo of a pretty beach. Feast your eyes, but be warned _ yo u may end up gifting yourself a couple of these. 

Need more inspiration? Browse our Christmas gift ideas

New Nordic Houses

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. New Nordic Houses

Best architecture coffee table book

Genre: Architecture/Interior design
Best for: Lovers of Scandi style
Dimensions: 290 x 230 mm
Reasons to buy
+Beautifully put together+Not just for architecture enthusiasts
Reasons to avoid
-Won't suit people who don't like cold places!

This is quite possibly the most enchanting coffee table book we've seen in years. New Nordic is a huge trend right now – it marries the minimalist, monochrome look everyone associates with Scandinavian interior design and injects it with a bit more warmth, thanks to the use of natural materials. The houses in this book look both devastatingly chic and very liveable, and the gorgeous landscapes of places like Sweden and Norway contribute to a look that's paradoxically stark and homely at the same time. A great gift for anyone who loves Scandinavia or contemporary home design.

The Story of The English Garden

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. The Story of The English Garden

Best coffee table book about gardens

Genre: History/garden design
Best for: Anyone who loves English garden design
Dimensions: 20.32 x 2.57 x 26.19 cm
Reasons to buy
+Fascinating and informative +Not like other gardening books
Reasons to avoid
-There could be more full-size photos

This is not just another gardening book, or another compilation of magazine photographs of famous gardens. Meticulously researched as well written, it takes the reader through the history of English garden design from medieval times to the present day. There are fascinating snapshots of historically important gardens and asides about individual plants and flowers. It is amply illustrated, though we wish there were a few more full-page illustrations to balance out the text a bit more.


(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Beaches

Best for escapism

Genre: Travel/lifestyle
Best for: People who miss the beach
Dimensions: 10.5 x 0.75 x 13.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous colours+Universally appealing
Reasons to avoid
-Most photographs are aerial shots

Like a modern-day Slim Aarons, Gray Malin uses photography as a tool for unapologetic and joyful escapism. This book is all sparkling azure water, cloudless skies, and tanned, bikini-clad (and sometimes unclad) bodies. We can't imagine how anyone would not enjoy flipping through this book in grey mid-winter. We do wish there was a bit more of a variety of perspectives (Malin's signature is the aerial shot), but the colours alone are worth it.

The Lanscape

(Image credit: Waterstones)

4. The Landscape by Don McCullin

Genre: Landscape photography
Best for: Photography enthusiasts
Dimensions: 14 x 1 x 11.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Large and impressive +Some of the photographs are truly breathtaking
Reasons to avoid
-They'll have to love black and white

A book of landscape photographs of this stature doesn't come along very often, and this is up there with the best of Ansel Adams and other classic black-and-white landscape studies. Don McCullin is best known as a photographer of war and conflict zones, so it's doubly exciting to see what he can do with just landscapes, from the stark contrasts of the Hebrides to the mellow fields of Somerset. An amazing gift for anyone who loves photography. 

Elements of Family Style

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Elements of Family Style

Genre: Interior decorating/advice
Best for: Recent home movers/families
Dimensions: 18.73 x 2.79 x 23.18 cm
Reasons to buy
+Pretty photos+Practically useful tips
Reasons to avoid
-There's a fair bit of text

The bestselling book by lifestyle blogger Erin Gates is the perfect housewarming gift – unlike so many interior design coffee table books, this one presents styles that are achievable but still look gorgeous. We like the emphasis on 'family style' – you won't find obsessive decluttering tips here! There is a little too much text for our liking, but the photos that are there are beautiful.

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.