This is the book I’ve been searching for! Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use & Avoid, by Marianne Cusato, Ben Pentreath, Richard Sammons, and Leon Krier. I’ve been on the hunt for a guide to explain proper historic proportions and details but most the books I came across were too heady or just an overview.
Marianne Cusato architect and author is the brains behind the project, The New Economy Home; a concept home unveiled at the 2010 Builder’s show as a reflection of the current housing downturn. The new concept is smaller, more efficient with adaptable spaces and removes wasted space found in popular American McMansions. The architecture and floorplan feels more like a historic home—older homes out of necessity had to be efficient.
Ben Pentreath co-author (and my new design crush) based in London bares mention. Literally everything this man designs I love. I think I’m most drawn to his work but he’s a geek for proportions and classicism. Symmetry just works and always feels flawless.
This book is not an overview for wanna be old homeowners. It gets into the nitty-gritty of classic design with “nearly 1,000 meticulous line-drawings illustrating errors to avoid and correct approaches to use”. Design vocabulary is defined educating homeowners to speak the language; explaining what is authentic and commonly used a modern fakes. This is key for me, I have a good eye but I don’t know all the terms to communicate those elements to my contractors.
My house has been altered significantly overtime. The old windows were ripped out in the 1970’s and replaced with new frames. Strange additions have been added without any real thought to design—at times I find these stuck on spaces charming and realistic to New England architecture over the past 250 years. I’ve been struggling with figuring out what is correct or appropriate. The theories discussed in the book are classic examples of historic architecture. Whole chapters are dedicated to exteriors doors, windows, chimneys and interior details.
The main square footprint of my house dates back to 1750. We’ve been working on stripping away any obtrusive modern elements in hopes of preserving the home’s historic character. My renovation is not meant to be a museum quality interpretation of an 18th-century home but a building that feels cohesive while retaining its historical elements. Tight stairs wells and narrow doorways are not at all practical for modern living but if I ripped them out will their be any evidence left of a 1750 home in another 250 years?
Come Spring we’ll be doing more exterior work: replacing rotten clapboards, rotten window frames, corner boards, and rebuilding a frame around my front door that feels like the original—a drunk driver hit and ripped out the front corner in the 1980’s. I’m hoping this book will be great source and guide for all of those upcoming projects.