Books for Design Lovers

Recent releases celebrating Minnesota talent make good gifts for architecture, design, and history buffs.

Blu Dot’s iconic Real Good chair

If you’ve got architecture and design lovers on your gift list, think books. Several recent releases celebrating Minnesota’s profusion of talent would be good choices for architectural aficionados, design buffs, and even local history fans.


By Charles R. Stinson Architects, $70, Wise Ink Creative Publishing. This second collection of Stinson’s work is a departure from the standard coffee-table architectural tome. Yes, it’s replete with stunning visuals of the acclaimed Minnesota architect’s work, but it explores the stories of the people who live in the homes he designs.

The title is apropos on several levels. Stinson’s architecture embodies the built environment as it connects harmoniously with nature—from desert to mountains to tropics to woodlands, in both urban and rural settings. The architect’s clients share the collaborative process that connects their dreams, recollections, and insights to his vision. Lavishly illustrated with photos of stunning homes, Connections makes manifest the connections among architect, client, home, and nature, and the co-creation that bring them to beautiful fruition.

Less Is More (Difficult): 20 Years of Design at Blu Dot

By Andrew Blauvelt, Geordie Wood (photographer), Jon Christakos, Maurice Blanks, and Charlie Lazor (contributors), $78, Rizzoli. This history of Blu Dot’s inspiration, designs, and products is timed to coincide with the company’s 20th anniversary. It chronicles the evolution of the company’s founding by college buddies Christakos, Blanks, and Lazor—two architects and a sculptor frustrated by the lack of affordable modern furniture—to its National Design Award for Product Design from Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum in 2018.

The book explores everything the brand has ever produced, from the earliest designs like the Chicago 8 box shelving system to the iconic Real Good Chair. Supplemented by sketches, notes, and other materials drawn from the founders’ archives, Less is More also includes interviews and written contributions from leading names in contemporary design.


Metropolitan Dreams: The Scandalous Rise and Stunning Fall of a Minneapolis Masterpiece

By Larry Millett, $29.95, University of Minnesota Press. Oh, the Metropolitan! It could easily be named Minneapolis’ most famous and most mourned building. It fell to urban renewal in 1962, but its ghost continues to haunt—and rally—architectural preservationists. Once the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building, the Metropolitan was indeed splendid. The Richardsonian Romanesque structure, once the anchor of Minneapolis’s historic Gateway District, boasted walls of green New Hampshire granite and red Lake Superior sandstone that surrounded its true architectural wonder: a dazzling 12-story iron-and-glass light court.

But as architectural historian Millett reveals, the building was scandal-ridden from the get-go. He tells the stories of the sometimes-criminal characters who shaped the city during the Gilded Age. Northwestern Guaranty’s founder, real estate speculator Louis Menage, financed this Minneapolis masterpiece—but his shady dealings forced him to flee both prosecution and the country just three years later. The economic circumstances of the Metropolitan’s demise were at least as questionable, as were the political intrigues during the long and furious battle to save it.

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