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The Elements of Style: An Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail Hardcover – September 8, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books; Revised and expanded edition (September 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554070791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554070794
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.8 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of the most borrowed books in our library... Not sure which light fixtures complement a Craftsman? You'll find out here. (This Old House 2006-04-00)

An outstanding and economical single-volume resource... Summing Up Highly recommended. (R.T. Clement Choice 2006-05-00)

[Recommended title by the staff of Fine Homebuilding, Special Anniversary edition] (Fine Homebuilding 2006-02-00)

Visual feast of domestic architectural styles... It is truly a scholarly work, but also an accessible one that can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates beautiful design or is intrigued by the domestic lives of past generations... extraordinary detail. (Jane Gadd Globe and Mail 2006-01-27)

An indispensable tool for architects, designers, historians, or indeed anyone interested in residential design and the history of domestic architecture... Domestic architectural detail can inspire with beauty and grace. (Western Roofing 2006-01-00)

Teeming with illustrations of representative doors, windows, fireplaces and other structural/decorative elements... capturing each period in lively and penetrating detail... an excellent reference. (David Soltész Library Journal 2005-12-00)

A welcome addition to the coffee tables or libraries of professional designers, architecture buffs and, for that matter, anyone who has even a passing interest in how homes have evolved over the centuries. (Globe and Mail 2005-12-10)

Essentially a reference volume, but a pleasurable one to read... every page is peppered with color photographs, line drawings and black-and-white archival images that bring the architectural elements to life. (Cheryl Cornacchia Montreal Gazette 2005-12-03)

No detail is overlooked... A necessary reference work for those interested in residential architectural history. It's pleasurable eye candy for everyone else. (Peggy Mackenzie Toronto Star 2005-12-01)

Great for someone restoring a period home because it tells what fits a certain style and what doesn't... would give someone planning a home a lot of looks and styles to consider. (Deborah Donovan Arlington Heights Daily Herald 2005-12-04)

A perfect gift for the architecture junkie in your life... color-coded tabs for quick reference to 500 years of architectural details and styles with illustrations and photographs. (Jenn Houlihan Style at Home 2006-01-00)

From the Back Cover


"For a man's house is his castle:, wrote Sir Edward Coke at the beginning of the 17th century. The phrase has become a cornerstone of the way we think and live. Yet, by a stroke of historic irony, the great lawyer's memorable line was penned at the very time when Inigo Jones was building the first modern house in England, the Queen's House at Greenwich -- that precocious expression of polite taste and perfect monument to a new domestic ideal. From this date on people cared for their houses not merely as strongholds of safety and domestic wealth: they loved them for their architecture. Today we are heirs to a legacy of fine building and to a continuing fascination with the details and stylistic elements which give our houses their character. In Britain, and in the United States too, that interest in old houses has become something of a national obsession. The desire to know and understand the history of our homes has never been stronger. We are, perhaps more than ever before,! aware of the crucial importance of our great architectural traditions and the central position they occupy in what we have come to call our heritage.

At the heart of this concept of heritage lies our idealized image of the period house, which, great or small, ostentatious or plain, has come to epitomize so many of our notions of civilization. The study of the architectural evolution of the country house in England and the United States, and of urban and village building, has a long and distinguished history. But in recent years, academic interest in the planning, stylistic development and detailing of historic houses has increasingly become linked with the more passionate and practical enthusiasms of the conservation movement. As a result, the houses we live in have become a major concern -- the subject of both a large body of scholarly and investigative endeavor and often intense public discussion and debate.

One of the foremost defenders of traditional values in design and workmanship, the Prince of Wales, has repeatedly stressed the influential role which fine architecture can play in our everyday existence. As the protagonist of a humane architecture based on human scale and sound techniques and materials, he has championed the idea that good building is not only an index of civilization, but also an important contributory factor in the quality of life which we enjoy.

Today, those who value the best of the old in our heritage are convinced of its relevance to the new. But there is, it has to be said, a great deal that must be learned or re-learned. In recent decades more modern tendencies have prevailed, and we have come perilously close to losing much of the rich vocabulary and even the grammar which gave our architectural language in previous ages its subtlety and fluent charm. What we need now is a return to visual literacy, an understanding of all the elements and details of the house as they have changed through five centuries. To promote such an understanding, which alone can be the only proper basis for conservation, restoration and sensitive design, is one of the main aims of this book.

We have sought to create within the compass of a single volume a practical sourcebook for all those who care about our heritage of domestic architecture in Britain and the United States. The vast body of illustrative material that has been drawn together here includes specially commissioned photographs of houses, reproductions of engraved plates from the key architectural publications of each period, and drawings based on a wide variety of archival material, including old photographs and measured drawings (often of buildings now demolished), rare prints and builders' pattern books. The images used to illustrate each chapter have been selected by the individual authors, each of whom has made a particular study of his or her period. For each chapter the chief aim has been to show the development of standard forms but also to illustrate some of the influential high-points of architectural achievement and something of the variety that has always characterized domestic buildings.

Primarily, The Elements of Style, is intended as a visual and documentary resource for people concerned with the details of houses, whether as owners, conservators, architects, interior decorators or designers. For the student and the interested general reader the book can also be used as a way to trace the history of the British and American house. Between the practical approach and the academic there is no real division of interests: a chief desideratum in each case is sympathy for matters of detail, a belief in the importance of accuracy at the most meticulous level.

The overall plan of this book is a simple chronological one, period by period, style by style. The main chapters deal with what we may define as polite architecture: that is, buildings which aim, with whatever degree of success, at observing the architectural rules and at being fashionable, or in later periods buildings which conform to nationally prevalent types. Houses which fall outside this rather general definition -- modest country dwellings, traditional structural types in use over a long period, and distinct regional variations on standard forms -- are dealt with separately in chapters devoted to vernacular building. British vernacular is treated separately from the end of the Tudor period: before then the two strands have been combined, for the distinctions between vernacular and polite in that era are so blurred as to be misleading, even meaningless. Under American vernacular, the coverage is of rustic and regional features from Colonial times to the mid-l9th century. Inevitably these chapters are highly selective: given the multiplicity of localized styles, this book can do no more than illustrate some of the highlights of vernacular domestic architecture.

Similarly, although Britain and the United States are treated separately in the first half of the book, the chapters on Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, the Twenties and Thirties, and the Modern and Beyond Modern styles combine material from both sides of the Atlantic, in order to emphasize the close connections that exist in an age of international influences. This approach has brought about some interesting juxtapositions, such as the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and the early houses of Frank Lloyd Wright in the United States.

The Elements of Style is nor a book about great architects: although inevitably their names and works appear among these pages, their stories are told elsewhere, and the interested reader will have no difficulty in tracking down more information. Nor is it a study of grand houses to the exclusion of the more modest. We have chosen to place the greatest emphasis on that category which the 18th-century architect and his builder called the "good middling sort of house"; for in such houses we may discern much of the genius of each age and in full measure those qualities which the first architectural writer in English, Sir Henry Wotton, required of all fine building: "Firmness, Commodity and Delight".

Stephen Calloway

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Antiques R4 Me on November 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Great historical reference book detailing period styles of everything from windows to fireplace mantels. Lots of photos - many of them in color. Also includes useful drawings. I found this book to be EXTREMELY helpful, and I reference it often; worth every penny!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jojobean on March 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book contains many beautiful pictures, which are key to defining period style furniture adn architecture. The chapters are clearly defined and arranged in a logical, easy to use manner. It is a must for anyone seeking a career in Historical Preservation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Brooks on June 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is an invaluable resource for restoration work and new construction, where clients want something that 'authentic' to a particular era.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dylan on February 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is amazing. It literally takes you through every single time era since Baroque and breaks down all the design aspects of interior and exterior design. It's an amazing buy if you want to see a lot of pictures and not as much words. They show both a drawn picture of everything and a real picture of everything to show how something might be seen on a blueprint. It's an amazing book for those who are just entering the design world but perhaps also those who have been in the world for a while and want to challenge themselves by recreating the perfect Tutor Arch or Gothic Vaulting. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Ricker on December 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful reference guide that includes everything from architectural elements to interior decor. This is an invaluable reference as it not only has hundreds of high-quality color photos, but has many elements in the form of line drawings.
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