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on May 8, 2007
It sounds like a great concept: An architecture writer with $100,000 in the house sets out to see what she can buy for that money somewhere in America. And the first chapter, where she goes to "architecture camp" in Vermont sets us up for something promising.

But the promise isn't fulfilled because for a book like this which is as much travelogue as reporting requires that we have a guide that we enjoy spending the trip with, and Jacobs is that most obnoxious sort of New Yorker: No place is good enough because it just isn't New York. The other cities in America, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, are just places to get through on the way to another rural area which will be dismissed because it's just some remote area where there aren't enough hip people (or too many hip people) for it to be comfortably similar to living in Manhattan.

Worse still, in a book about architecture, there is one essential ingredient which is painfully absent. PICTURES. I'm sorry Ms Jacobs, but your prose is not sufficient to convey the feel of the homes you describe without abundant illustration to accompany them. Instead we're treated to one(!) illustration per chapter, which often isn't even the most interesting-sounding building from the chapter.
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on December 3, 2006
I suppose I was expecting a journey along the lines of Tracey Kidder's House, something personal and organic.

I found this book frustrating for two basic reasons:

1. The lack of photographs, especially of the specific houses discussed was frustrating. Akin to discussing the merits of a painting, without a picture of it! I don't know if this oversight was the fault of a cheap publisher's budget, or the author's choice, but the book suffers as a result.

2. The author's voice: seemed bitter or jaded or tired of her journey about two-third's before the road trip was done. Needless to say, it seems that she never found a house that she could actually commit to.

As a result of the above, the reader leaves the book neither caring about the author's quest or any closer to discovering where to find the perfect $100,000 house.

Perhaps the only thing I got from this book was a fleeting desire to subscribe to Dwell magazine.
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on September 15, 2006
A diary of one woman's search for what seems so reasonable on paper--a modern home on a budget--the strength of this book is its many entertaining interviews with people who are both part of the mainstream homebuilding industry and those that are trying to offer an alternative. If you've heard about pre-fab, this is a good way to learn why it's exciting--but why it only addresses part of the problem.

This book is not a "how-to" guide, though it does underscore how much effort it takes if you want something that doesn't have a gabled garage but don't have a giant budget. Ultimately this book reminded me that the perfect house is really about the perfect neighborhood, which is really hard to build from scratch.
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on September 16, 2006
Karrie Jacob's book, The Perfect $100,000 House, tackles a problem I've been wondering about for a long time--why is the majority of housing in America today extraordinarily expensive crap? Do people in this country just have no taste, or is it that they have no choice? Is good design only for those who can afford a custom single family residence of 500K and up?

Ms. Jacobs chronicles her search for answers to these questions with verve and wit, making for entertaining and informative reading. This is one of the most interesting books I've purchased in a long time, and I read quite a lot (usually several books a week).
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on November 18, 2007
She found lots of perfect $100k homes -- too bad they weren't perfect for her!

I enjoyed this book immensely -- read it in two days.

With a warm and friendly writing style, Ms. Jacobs (former editor at Dwell magazine) introduces us to host of talented architects, each with their own take on the $100,000 home, based on local needs, economics & politics and aesthetics. Some are mid-century moderns, some are updated classics, and others defy classification. All are interesting!

Along the way she gives us some insight into what's going on across the spectrum in the world of architecture, from the huge corporate builders to the "one-off" customs.

As others have noted, there aren't enough pictures (just one black & white drawing for each chapter), but the two page index of the architects' Web site URLs make up for that in spades. I spent two hours surfing them and had a ball!

Finally, I'm glad it was her doing the extended road trip and not me -- I surely would not have lasted as long as she did!
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on November 9, 2006
The book was well written however, the content was underwhelming. Sort of a record of the ramblings in the mind of an immature female that thought she knew what she wanted yet could not quite ever commit to the resolution.

My exact feeling upon my completion of the book was "What a waste of my time!"
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on February 3, 2007
I wavered as to how many stars to give this book. I enjoyed the story of the author's attempt to find or create her dream home. But I think many people are going to buy this book in the hopes finding practical advice for their own search and in that respect it falls down.
I wanted to know more about the homes themselves and as good a job as the author does describing them, I wanted pictures and, even more for a book so much about architecture, plans and elevations.
I wonder whether the $100K price tag has become too low a target 3 years later. Perhaps the most telling thing is that by the end of the book the author has not found a house that works for her.
An answer for that perhaps would have been instead to focus more on the story of the homeowners who lived in the homes she passed on and why those homes were the perfect ones for them.
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on September 29, 2015
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on November 1, 2006
I wish I had gotten this book about five years ago. In early 2002 I set out on almost the same voyage. To be sure, we set out with slightly different goals. She was looking for affordable (under $100,000) housing. I was looking for a place to live, and for a house to live in.

Ms. Jacobs seemed to have only one goal, the 'Perfect $100,000 House.' As she discovered, there is no 'Perfect $100,000 House.' In fact I question that there is a 'Perfect House' at any price. Every house I've ever seen has some problems, if nothing else, too big (I'm not big on cleaning).

So, can you get an adequate house for $100,000, absolutely. She is right that you can build something small, dramatic looking, a good place to live for that much. But you have to compromise somewhere. You can't afford a $100,000 lot for instance. And you can't afford even a telephone booth in New York City at that price. And her comment about resale value is right on.

Did I suceed, yes. My list started with:

1. A small town - Check

2. In the desert west - Check

3. Inexpensive House - Check (I paid $37.000 then spent about $7,000 fixing it up)

4. An Hour from a fairly large city - No Two Hours

5. A small, single person house - Check

6. A few other points, but they were minor.

I also found that like her, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about building a really inexpensive house. There's an interesting vacant for sale lot a couple of blocks away. But then again, there's a very interesting piece of ground across town -- I've asked a local realtor to keep me in mind if it ever goes up for sale.
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on January 11, 2007
The book is rather like a long magazine article. You get the idea and the attitude early on, and nothing changes. She's pithy and terse but the situations become redundant, even for a design nut like myself. I didn't miss photographs, allowing Gary Panter's breezy illustrations to stoke my imagination.

Reading the jacket tells you where she lives now, so the ending is no surprise. But it probably wouldn't have been anyway. I have the strong suspicion Ms. Jacobs is really looking for the right woman to settle down with.

For a more involving and satisfying tale, try Kate Whouley's "Cottage for Sale, Must be Moved." I'd call it a minor modern classic.
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