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House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live Hardcover – February 7, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (February 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060538694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060538699
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tapping into the American consumer's burgeoning interest in home design, cultural critic Gallagher (Pride of Place) takes on the single-family home in her latest cultural inquiry. Chapters are themed by room, beginning with the entry and living room and moving through to the basement, garage and garden; each ends with anecdotes describing how Gallagher's own family has changed its home with her new-found knowledge. Equal parts architecture, history, sociology and psychology, Gallagher's book easily makes academic discussions relevant to the general reader. The text is liberally peppered with pop culture references, though at times these appear humorously off-mark, as when she cites MTV Cribs (a hip-hop version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) as a "popular children's show." Gallagher is not an unbiased observer — she makes a clear argument for her own preference for traditional notions of comfort and craft. Avant-garde architects and designers are often derided for their emphasis on novelty and art over homeyness and practicality. Because of this, Gallagher's text often feels like an etiquette book evoking a romantic nostalgia for propriety. She is at her most engaging when discussing notions of prestige and social hierarchy—issues particularly relevant in an age of proliferating McMansions and Martha Stewart–inspired interest in the hallmarks of good taste. (Feb. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gallagher writes fresh and nuanced interpretations of the subtler aspects of life. In her latest work of creative synthesis and interpretation, she conducts a tour like no other of the American house, excavating its fascinating history and covert psychological influences. Humans are happiest in dwellings that allow us to both nest and perch, Gallagher explains, citing Frank Lloyd Wright. To assess whether a house succeeds in providing these qualities, she performs what she calls house thinking, analyzing the ambience of each room in houses old and new, urban and suburban. To set the gold standard, she describes various architectural marvels, including Edith Wharton's Mount (Gallagher has a particular interest in writer's abodes), whereas on the practical side, she recounts her own home-improvement efforts. As she assesses every aspect of every room, she offers compelling observations regarding women's lives past and present, changing family configurations, our mania for possessions, and the dominating role televisions and computers now play on the domestic scene. As Gallagher casts our houses and private lives in a revealing new light, she reinforces our perception of home as a place that merits our keenest attention. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

I always thought that we are all psychologically affected by the space we live in, and this book expands on that theme.
V. N. Holmes
The author seems to have been overwhelmed by her research, and throws together statistics and quotations in a way that is very difficult to read.
Fiction Reader
Unlike so much of the garbage out there, this is a book that makes you really think about how the way we live shapes our lives.
Sloane Tanen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a good deal of practical wisdom on how
to decide upon your dream home. It covers environmental psychology
consisting of wall colors and lighting placement. It discusses
the wisdom of having a great room as a refuge. Some homes have
a cozy cavelike refuge to enhance privacy and intimacy.
The author asks that we balance privacy and sociability with the
design. After all, the house layout supports the way we live
far into the future. Optimum lighting contributes to an overall
feeling of well-being. Clutter management is important to enhance
orderliness and accessibility of items used on a daily basis.
As a rule of thumb, discard, sell or trade things not used
within the current year or so.

The book will assist you in organizing a model home for living
now and into the future. This is a valuable acquisition because
the author presents many aspects of the home which people
do not consider when making a purchase decision. A home can be
a place where you will spend much of your time. This book will
assist in ascertaining whether or not the site provides the
comfort and atmosphere most people require in a home setting.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Eric D. Austrew on August 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I found the basic concept of this book to be fascinating. The author takes on the task of walking us through each room in the traditional American house and analyzing not the furniture and decor, but the life and psychology of each. The result should be a series of insights into how we can design our living spaces to support and even create behaviors that are beneficial to us. And in some cases, this is what we get. But all too often - indeed, for the majority of the book - Gallagher seems to veer off course and talk about the history and sociology associated with each room. While this is an interesting topic in and of itself, the lack of a consistent method from room to room can be both confusing and distracting. As an example, here are the approaches taken for two rooms: For the section on the living room, the author describes the psychology of refuge and prospect in a way that is potentially useful for anyone trying to figure out why their house does not seem to offer them the feeling of comfort and belonging they would like. For the section on the kitchen, we are treated to the historical background of women's literal place in the home, and the way the kitchen has evolved with and contributed to the feminist movement. Both sections are well written and interesting, but only the first supported my goal of learning how to create a comfortable home.

This lack of of focus cripples what could have been both a very readable and very useful book. As it is, while "House Thinking" is still well worth reading, it will not be a book that earns a place of honor in your library. Or your living room. Or bedroom.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Allain on February 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was pleased to discover this book from a review in the Orlando Sentinel. It explains why certain spaces in a home may be beautifully decorated, yet not feel right. The author says, "feeling at home isn't about spending money." Our bedrooms should reflect our private self and the living room our best self.

This book makes you rethink the spaces in your home and tells you why some area work for you and others just don't have the feel you want.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sloane Tanen on February 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
House Thinking is a thoughtful, carefully argued book written with a lot of love and passion. Like Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space, Gallagher's book explores the fascinating relationship between domestic space and psychology. It's also a must read for ANYONE interested in the arts, architecture, interior design or renovation. Unlike so much of the garbage out there, this is a book that makes you really think about how the way we live shapes our lives. Highly recommended!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By lxsinmarin on April 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I work with architects & interior designers every day to design commerical space, so I'm familiar with the ideas the author was trying to communicate. The concept of how we live in our homes and how design has evolved in America and throughout the world is fascinating. The author has done a tremendous amount of research. At the end of the book I was left feeling like I'd read a draft of someone's doctoral dissertation, with a lot of editing still to be done. As others have mentioned, the lack of pictures and illustrations is a huge oversight. Even for those of us familiar with design concepts & nomenclature, it is nearly impossible to wade through the descriptions given--I felt like I was being tested to translate her observations into a vision that reconciled to her conclusions. Furthermore, I think the organization of the book, a room-by-room analysis of how design has evolved, although logical in approach--did not mesh well with what the author was trying to communicate. She would often go off on a tangent siting research, trends throughout history and psychological implications that may have applied to the "room" in question, but were often as relevant or irrelevant to any other room, yard or community she might have chosen to elaborate on.

This might be a good book to introduce the evolution of design to someone with little prior knowledge (which is why I'm generous in providing 2 stars); especially at the current bargain prices on Amazon. Otherwise, I'd recommend passing this one by.
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