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Design Devices: Furniture

20 book covers you will chair-ish

Design Devices: Furniture

20 book covers you will chair-ish
This week’s blog post cover image is by the brilliant ©Jessica Brilli

“A chair is for sitting on,” writes Karl Ove Knausgaard, but when emblazoned on the following book covers, they do so much more.

Why have so many designers, publishers, and authors opted for a piece of furniture on their book covers? Unoccupied furniture can sometimes feel lonely, particularly when it’s an object that we associate with a specific person. Rather than being “just a part of the room,” a chair or stool might become a symbol of an absent individual. In such instances, a simple chair takes on new significance and is laden with memories, emotions, and longing.

Certain types of chairs bring out different emotions in all of us. Adirondack chairs and rocking chairs evoke a sense of relaxation, while an electric chair brings with it a sense of doom. Kings have thrones, therapists have chaises, and children have musical chairs. In AA meetings, chairs are arranged in a circle, as shown on some of the covers below.

More on chairs from my favorite author:

“The chair is related to the bench and the sofa, which are also for sitting on, yet is still radically separate from them, for the chair is for one person, and one person only, which is an essential aspect of its character. The chair isolates us, it is like a little island in the room, to which no one else has access as long as someone is in possession of it. In other words, the chair always has an element of reserve about it, even though in principle it is open to anyone.”

Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Winter,” Penguin Press, 2015

Beds are used on book covers for similar reasons. A bed can feel like a warm sanctuary, as described by Knausgaard below, or it might remind a reader of romantic entanglements and sex.

A bed is a handy, PG-rated, visual cue that can be used to symbolize what happens atop it.

More on beds from Knausgaard:

“The bed is placed in the bedroom, which is often the inner-most room in the house or apartment, and in two-storey houses the bedroom is usually on the upper floor. This is so because we are never as vulnerable as when we are asleep, we lie defenceless in our beds at night without knowing what is going on around us, and to withdraw from sight at such a time, to conceal ourselves from other animals and human beings, is an instinct that runs deep in us.”

Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Autumn,” Penguin Press, 2017

So, pull up a chair and get comfortable. Here are 14 book covers that feature furniture. Explore the tags chair, bed, and furniture to see more covers like these.

*If you are able to provide missing design credits, or if you can think of other covers that feature furniture (tables?!), please write me at ineedabookcover.site@gmail.com.

Design by Vivian Lopez Rowe
Design by Alison Saltzman, 2019; chair painting by Jessica Brilli
Design by David Litman, 2021
Design by Steve Leard
Design by Anna Morrison, 2022
Design by Jack Smyth, 2019
2013 (technically speaking, that’s just a sheet)
Design by Oliver Munday, 2018
2014
2012
Milkweed Editions, 2023
Melville House, 2013
2004
Design by Joanne O’Neill, 2022
Quirk Books, 2011
Design by Sara Wood, 2011
Design by Emma Dolan
Designed by Nicolette Seeback Ruggiero (hardcover edition)
Designed by Nicolette Seeback Ruggiero (paperback edition)

Bonus: In 2006, Esther Perel’s publisher goes quite literal with her cover by using a couple in bed on a book about marriage. In 2017, they get a bit more creative and that bed becomes a matchbox. Fun!

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