erikars: (Default)
So I'm kind of 5 books behind on book summaries, so you'll kind of be seeing lots of book summaries over the next few days. Most of them shouldn't be as long as the last one though.

Finished The Right Color by Eve Ashcraft (2/5). This is a fairly shallow book that has some useful tips about using color in the home. As some of the Amazon reviewers have pointed out, the book reads something like an advertisement for the author's paint line. This is mainly due to the fact that about a quarter of the pages are devoted to brief descriptions and large swatches of colors from the authors (quite attractive) color line.

Despite all that, I am glad that I read the book. If, like me, you are rather intimidated by color, it is useful to see examples of color combinations chosen by someone who has an eye for color, and it cannot be denied that Eve Ashcroft has an eye for color (although perhaps not amazing enough to justify her self-congratulatory introduction). Although I came away from the book with very little increase in my knowledge of how to choose "The Right Color", I did come away feeling that color could be exciting and dramatic without being overwhelming.

Specific tips from the book that I found useful:
  • Dark grey / black can make for interesting interior window frames; these colors can actually distract from the landscape less than white.
  • Lighting should be part of your color plan.
  • Rooms can be seen from other rooms. This is an opportunity to layer colors.
    • In particular, you might paint a small, transitory space, such as a pantry or entry, a bolder color than rooms you spend more time in since your eyes catch them in passing.
    • Connecting spaces such as halls and stairways should connect the colors at either end.
  • Utility rooms can be livened up with a cheerful color.
  • If you want a punch of color without painting the whole room, try painting inside a closet or the inside / back of bookshelves or painting the ceiling.
  • Use color to distinguish or blend architectural features such a lowered soffit or a column. I particularly like the idea of painting a lowered soffit a different color.
  • Keep a catalog of all the colors you use in a home including name, brand, date, paint chips, room, finish, method of application, and contractor. 
  • Keep a touch-up kit for all of the colors in your home. This should include small mason jars of paint with the brand, color number and name, finish, room, and date. Store in a cool dry place. Use a q-tip to do touch-ups.
Specific things that I want to remember:
  • Satin black could be an interesting choice for our stairs
  • I am currently leaning toward teal blues, wine reds, and greys for a unifying color scheme. Comparables in Ashcroft's line are, from darker to lighter:
    • Teal blues: tide, marine, glass
    • Wine reds: pomegranate, tulip
    • Greys: wool, urn, chalk, mouse (?)

erikars: (Default)
Finished Your Green Home: A Guide to Planning a Healthy, Environmentally Friendly New Home by Alex Wilson (3/5). This is a must read for anyone building a home (it could also be useful for renovations, but it focuses on construction). It describes what a green home is and best practices for making a home green. This book deserves a better score than 3/5, and it would have given it one if I had read it a year ago; however, one year into building my own green home, I was already familiar with most of the material presented.

When you think of a green home, you might think of the visible things: solar power, low VOC paints, energy efficient appliances, green roof, etc. These things do make a home greener, but the largest environmental impacts of a home are energy and material use. A huge house that leaks energy isn't going to be very green no matter how many green features are slapped onto it. A truly green home is so much more. 

Before I go into details, a caveat. As Wilson emphasizes, a home doesn't need to have all these features to be considered green. A home should take into account as many features as is practical. Every house is, in many ways, bad for the environment. A green house is simply a house that is less bad for the environment, and any amount of less bad is valuable.

The first thing to consider is where and how much to build. Infill development is going to be greener than developing pristine land. Smaller homes are, due to their smaller energy and material use, inherently greener than larger homes. Homes in walkable communities are greener than homes that require you to frequently drive longer distances. 

Having decided where to build, the next most important thing is to build an energy efficient home that minimizes material use. There is an alignment in goals here. Material minimizing framing techniques, such as advance framing, use less wood, and less wood in walls generally means greater thermal efficiency. 

An energy efficient home should be well insulated and air tight (with a mechanical air exchange system). Windows should be efficient and placed so as to provide appropriate solar gain -- in the Pacific Northwest, as in many moderate climates, appropriate means getting as much sun as possible in the winter while trying to minimize solar gain in the summer. Of course, energy efficiency also means choosing efficient appliances, lighting, etc.

Energy efficiency is the single most important thing that can be done to make a house green. A "boring" traditional home with standard appliances, materials, etc., will run circles around a super modern house with all sorts of cool green features if the traditional home is energy efficient and the modern home is not. Over the lifetime of a home, energy efficiency trumps everything.

However, water is becoming an increasingly precious resource, and Wilson indicates that water conservation is soon going to be a big thing in green home construction. Water conservation techniques involve using efficient appliances and landscaping that does not require a lot of additional water. Wilson also mentions greywater, rainwater harvesting, and storm water management.

One of my favorite water conservation features is one that is invisible but increases comfort: decreasing the amount of time that people have to wait for hot water. When hot water has to push cold water out of pipes, the cold water is wasted. Adding to the problem, the hot water remaining in the pipes after use will cool and waste energy. This waste can be reduced by insulating pipes, circulating hot water (on demand is more energy efficient than constant circulation), or, for low flow faucets, having narrower pipes go directly from the water heater to the faucet.

As briefly as I have been covering the book's contents, I am going to even more briefly mention that Wilson covers renewable energy, green materials and products, and minimizing indoor pollution (e.g., from paint, mold, etc.). He also has a chapter on the cost of green building an d a great chapter on minimizing construction waste through a combination of reducing waste and recycling; given the amount of materials that go into a house, this is a vital part of making a house green. 

As I said, this is a really good book, and one that you should read if you ever are looking into building a green home. My learning curve would have been much less steep if I had had this book a year ago. As Wilson makes clear, a lot of the features that make a home more green also make it more comfortable and cheaper to live in (but not to build). Even if you don't want to build an explicitly green home, you could still get a lot of good ideas from this book.
erikars: (Default)
It's finally time for the last batch of house book summaries. For now.

First up is The New Family Home: Creating the Perfect Home for Today and Tomorrow by Jim Toplin (3/5). Toplin wrote Built-In Furniture: A Gallery of Design Ideas (Idea Book) (which I also read). This book has two general categories of ideas for making a great family home. First, the home must be flexible and able to change with the changing needs of a family. E.g., the shared rooms and play loft which worked great for children may give way to a relatively private room for a teenager. That may eventually turn into a room for aging grandparents or even, eventually, an easy access master bedroom as the home's owners age. The book has many suggestions around this.

The other category of suggestions was around customizing a home to make it unique and memorable. Many of these suggestions included ways to improve children's space: play lofts, built-in desks and beds, an in-bedroom sink to reduce teenage bathroom fights. Lots of interesting ideas. The main downside to this book is that it was organized as case studies. As I have mentioned many times before, I find books that I prefer books that spend some time extracting more general lessons from the specific examples they present. In so far as this was your standard figure-it-out-yourself case study book, I did not like it as well as I could have.

The second book was How to Work With an Architect by Gerald Lee Morosco, AIA (2/5). This book was full of valuable information about working with an architect, but at only 100 pages (half of which were pictures that were largely irrelevant), it would have made a better pamphlet or blog post series. As a book, it did not quite seem to be worth it's cost. That said, if you want to understand what an architect brings to a building project and the basics of how to work with one, it provides good, solid advice.

Sarah Susanka's More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home (3/5) is a fine sequel to the original Not So Big Solutions for Your Home (reviewed here). Like that book, this book contains reprinted magazine articles, each of which discusses a different issue. As with that book, if the issues discussed are relevant to you, you will likely find the book interesting. Otherwise, you will not. Study the table of contents.

More Not So Big Solutions has a fair amount of overlap with the first book. When the books covered the same issues, they tended to cover the same material. As such, if a topic of interest to you is in both books, you will get the most bang for your buck by just reading one of the treatments.

The last book I read was Ergonomic Living : How to Create a User-Friendly Home & Office by Gordon Inkeles and Iris Schencke (2/5). I am only giving the book 2 stars because the second half, on offices, was largely obsolete (the book was published in 1994). Much of the text in that half was spent on obsolete technologies such as dealing with the ergonomic difficulties of CRT monitors, green text on black screens, dot matrix printers, and other things that are not particularly relevant. 

However, the parts that were relevant were pretty good. The authors have a fairly prescriptive style, but they do give lots of good advice. Particularly useful were sections discussing good lighting, how to choose good furniture (such as chairs and mattresses), and how to make your home ergonomically friendly for children. The authors are big fans of task lighting, lever handles on door knobs and faucets, and configurable furniture (especially for children since they grow quickly). Overall, this was a good book that I will be consulting again for various ergonomic decisions.  
erikars: (Default)
Finished Creating the Inspired House: Discovering Your Place Called Home by John Connell (3/5). I am a big fan of Connell's Homing Instinct: Using Your Lifestyle to Design & Build Your Home, so I was quite excited when I discovered that he had written a second book, Creating the Inspired House.

In comparison to Connell's first book, this book was a disappointment. Where Homing Instinct really got down to the nitty gritty details of what it takes to build a house, Creating the Inspired House is just another addition to the genre of books which feature a number of houses and describe them. That said, this book was a stellar example of that genre.

The most important factor in judging a book from this genre is whether or not the book contains houses you like. This book contained homes of many styles, including several modern homes. Since our house is going to be modern in styling, I appreciated the presence of those examples.

The other factor which made this book enjoyable was Connell's choice to talk about the people who created the house, the owners and builders. Often these books talk about homes without including the personal stories which went into creating those homes. The personal details made the book more interesting.

Overall, Creating the Inspired House was a good read.
erikars: (Default)
Finished Inside the Not So Big House: Discovering the Details That Bring a Home to Life by Sarah Susanka and Marc Vassallo and Good House Parts: Creating a Great Home Piece by Piece by Dennis Wedlick. Both of these books earn a 2/5 from me, although they would likely have earned higher if it weren't for the fact that I am getting burned out on just reading house books. Once I am done with my current batch (just 3 or 4 more), I will consider myself done with general house books.

Inside the Not So Big House covers much of the same content as Susanka's Home by Design: Transforming Your House Into Home, but through case studies rather than through discussion of the principles involved. Since I prefer a balance which leans toward principles, I did not find this book particularly useful.

Wedlick's book was better; it presented a balanced alternation of principles and case studies. However, it did not really cover anything new. It fits into the category of books that would make a good (maybe great) first book, but is not worth much as an Nth book.
erikars: (Default)
Finished Built-In Furniture: A Gallery of Design Ideas by Jim Toplin (3/5).

This book is exactly what the title claims it to be: a catalog of ways to integrate built in furniture into every room in the home. As a decided fan of nooks, built in shelving, bed alcoves, really almost any built-in furniture, I found something delightful on nearly every page, and I even got a handful of ideas that might actually be practical. Even the ideas that were not practical for us were still delightful (e.g., like the full bedroom width gothic built-in headboard, see the second hit for "gothic" on the Look Inside tool for the link above to see it).

Many of the built-ins in this book were added after the fact. I appreciated that because I suspect our budget cannot bear to have us build in originally all of the built-ins that I want eventually.

A good read if you are looking for inspiration about built-ins.
erikars: (Default)
Four more books complete!  (Which means only 5 more library books and three more books I own to read before I am done, for now.)

I'll start with just the first one since my notes ended up kind of long.

Home By Design, 4/5 )

More notes )
erikars: (Default)
I got 14 house books from the library. None of them are particularly high content. They consist largely of pictures (which is exactly what I want right now). This, fortunately, makes them easy to review in batches. So here are the first 4.

First up is Wright-Sized Houses: Frank Lloyd Wright's Solutions for Making Small Houses Feel Big; by Diane Maddex. Other than the terrible pun in the title, this was a pretty good book. I give it a 3/5. The book is divided into two parts. The first part describes some of the techniques Wright used. The second part has a number of case studies. The degree to which you'll like this book is probably directly proportional to the degree to which you like Frank Lloyd Wright (and are not already an expert in his techniques and homes).

Sarah Susanka's Not So Big Solutions For Your Home is a collection of articles from Fine Homebuilding magazine. I am a big fan of it (4/5) because it talks about practical solutions to a lot of modern real world issues (e.g., dealing with the TV and entering from the garage). Given the format, the articles do not cover a lot of issues (there are only 30 articles), but the topics that are covered are generally covered in more detail than elsewhere. I will admit that the last section, on remodeling, failed to interest me.

Next up is John Wheatman's Meditations On Design (4/5). This book considers features which make a successful interior design. As such, it's not so useful at this point in my design process, but I still really enjoyed it. It reminds me of Pasanella's Living in Style Without Losing Your Mind. I appreciate how the principles Wheatman discussion are not limited to any particular style.

Last up we have Marc Vassallo's The Barefoot Home. This was my least favorite of this batch (2/5). A barefoot home is a home that is informal and open and has a strong indoor/outdoor connection. All good ideas that I can get behind, but the concept never really gelled for me. The idea of a barefoot was never sufficiently differentiated from all of the other ways of describing a good house. Plus, the case studies were largely vacation cottages. These can provide inspiration for a non-vacation home, but there are a lot of things about them that cannot be translated to a full time home.

4 down, 10 to read!

Some detailed notes on the Wright book, mostly for myself )

Some detailed notes on Wheatman's book, mostly for myself )
erikars: (Default)
Finished The Emotional House: How Redesigning Your Home Can Change Your Life by Kathryn Robyn and Dawn Ritchie. Disappointingly shallow. The outline of the book seemed promising. Part 1 had you develop an "emotional blueprint" of your home where you would find areas of your home that do no support you emotionally or functionally (because a room that does not function right is an emotional sink). Part two was built around "house rules" which explained various rules that rooms should follow (e.g., rooms should actually be lived in, comfortable, organized, etc.). Part three went through the major common rooms in a home and analyzed them.

All that made for a great book idea, but the execution was shallow. The authors made unsubstantiated claims that did not take cultural variations into account (e.g., the emotional effect of colors) and they gave lots of nice sounding generalities without providing much specific advice.

An illustrative example can be found in the discussion of televisions and living room furniture arrangement. They say things like
increasingly [the living room] has become a place where families and friends commune with video games and the television set instead of with others. The result is an increasingly alienated society with a growing sense of disconnection [unsubstantiated claim of causation]. ... In this room, group dynamics depend on the layout of your furniture. Social scientists have identified sociopetal seating as an arrangement that encourages participation and communication -- charis that face each other and are not too far apart, but far enough to giv some sense of personal space. In essence, you want to create a congenial conversation pit where comfortable chairs and sofas encircle a coffee table, with lamps for accent lighting that bring out everyone's best features and a focal point that puts everyone in an upbeat, talkative mood. [okay, but is that the only option? and how do we integrate the television?]
The book was filled with passages like this. I could agree with the sentiment, was doubtful of many of the claims, and, most importantly, was constantly left asking, "so how do I actually implement that?"
erikars: (Default)
Finished The Value of Design by Marianne Cusato. This is a short (50 pg) guide to designing better communities. From the back
Design matters. Design adds value to our homes and communities in terms of dollars and cents, but its value is deeper than monetary. Design can greatly improve our quality of life and the condition of our fragile environment. How we build our homes nad communities is a choice, not a given. It is within our reach to build nice places, to find change and to live more sustainable on our planet. This is the true value of design.

This book uses lots of pictures to explain what design elements make for good neighborhoods and homes and which detract from the quality of life defined by a place. For example, I now understand why I hate the false brink or stone fronts most modern construction. First, a home is three dimensional, and it is only in listing photos that you can see the front of the house without seeing the plain siding sides. Second, false fronts use things like brick and stone like they are wall paper and contradict our understanding of those materials as structural elements. Even though the brick and stone are not structural, when the front of a house is covered with brick and the rest is not, it feels like the front is going to tip over and fall off.

My one negative comment about this book is that there are a few places throughout where it reads like an advertisement for JamesHardie, the fiber cement siding manufacturer that sponsored the book (mostly at the very end). That said, it is still worth a read, especially if you just want a quick overview of what makes for a well designed community and home.


erikars: (Default)
Erika RS

May 2012

  123 45
2728 293031  


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 03:08 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios