Friday, August 27, 2010


This is a really, really great book, and puts in clear language and crisp illustrations all of the subconscious things I've been thinking about houses for 25 years.  I've always admired traditional 18th century domestic architecture.  Coming from a (in some ways) complimentary trade background (gunmaking), I always firmly believed and taught that "the best work that can be done, has already been done."  Don't try to reinvent the wheel - you're nowhere near the wheelwright you think you are.   Make your bones by copying the Good Stuff, and after you've copied enough, the ability to truly see will sink into your hands and eyes and heart and you'll be able to make good work of your own.

Rifles, houses,'s all one. And this book clearly delineates all the ways in which we get it wrong these days. It levels a deadly broadside at the McMansion, and in a very analytical manner shows you how to take a "wrong" house design, and with ease turn it into a real showstopper.  People will adore the house, but won't be able to put their finger on exactly why it looks so good. Explain to them that it's because the facade is designed along the lines of a Golden Mean rectangle, and that the upstairs windows are slightly smaller than the downstairs, and that the roof pitch is just right to give you the correct amount of exposure to balance the front wall, that the windows are set back slightly to give a sense of mass to the walls...their eyes will glaze over of course. But what matters is that classic design is intrinsically beautiful.  Its beauty is self evident. It doesn't have to be explained to be appreciated, it requires no expertise to be adored, unlike so much that is modern. 

Grab this book if you're interested in why some houses are beautiful, and others aren't, but you can't quite put your finger on the reasons why.

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