Monday, August 15, 2011

The Vintage House: A Guide to Successful Renovations and Additions by Mark Alan Hewitt

The Vintage House: A Guide to Successful Renovations and Additions by Mark Alan Hewitt and Gordon Bock. W. W. Norton, 2011.

Dubuque is lucky to have wonderful examples of 19th and 20th century architecture throughout its neighborhoods. Its five historical districts are committed to preserving this heritage. I myself live in a home (built in 1860), which in turn is built atop a miner’s cabin (built in 1835). The house has character and a life of its own, which requires stewardship.

Being a novice historic home owner, I love browsing the Library’s interior design books, and have found The Vintage House to be enlightening. It is about making thoughtful renovations and supports change that doesn’t destroy historic character. The book will appeal especially to dwellers of “vintage houses,” those “artifacts of American culture that have aged well.” The authors state upfront that their book is about “renovation and addition projects without regard for cost or investment potential, and with a deliberate focus on value.” It is a primer for historic preservation enthusiasts, architects and designers, yet it reads easily.

The authors offer abundant photographs and drawings of various styles of houses along with regional histories. They discuss the philosophy behind historic preservation efforts, heating systems, roofing materials, and windows by era (with an essay on “the secret life of wavy glass”).
Other similar books in the Carnegie-Stout Public Library are Green Restorations: Sustainable Building and Historic Homes (2010) by Aaron Lubeck, and Kennedy Green House: Designing an Eco-Healthy Home from the Foundation to the Furniture (2010) by Robin Wilson--a beautifully crafted book that is a pleasure to browse: the younger Robert Kennedy’s family embarked upon a LEED-certified renovation of their 1920s home and transformed it into something beautiful, spare, and healthy.

~Mirdza, Adult Services

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