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The Secret Life of Victorian Houses Hardcover – August, 1993


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About the Author

Elan and Susan Zingman-Leith, authors of Creating Authentic Victorian Rooms, are the proprietors of a restored Victorian bed-and-breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Elliott & Clark Pub; First Edition edition (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880216108
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880216101
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 9.5 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Rosemary Thornton VINE VOICE on September 28, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
But I was disappointed with this book, myself. For a coffee table book with lots of pretty pictures and glossy photos, it's great.
But as a research tool to learn more about the day to day life of Victorian-era homes, it is not what I expected.
First off, the homes that are featured in this book are grandiose and ostentatious examples of Victorian mansions. The rooms pictured are cavernous and the furnishings look like museum pieces. For decorating and interior design hints, this would be a good resource.
I was looking for a book that told the *why* of old house living. WHY does my modest 1904 Builder's Style home have that hole, that niche, that pipe, that THING over there? What did it do and what was its purpose? [Incidentally, after 4 years of searching, I've abandoned hope of finding a book that answers those questions and am in the process of WRITING a book that answers those questions.]
"The Secret Life of Victorian Houses" does not address those type of questions. Nonetheless, it was good enough to be rated a "keeper" in my ever growing library of Old House Information.
There is quite a bit of text with good information and useful knowledge. Just not near enough.
If you want to know what life was like in our SIMPLE homes 100 years ago, I recommend Susan Strasser's "Never Done" and "Victorian America" by Thomas Schlereth and if you want to know everything there is to know about old house heating systems, try "The Quiet Indoor Revolution" by Bud Konzo.
But this book - "secret life" is not really for dig-in-the-dirt types like me. It's more for people who hire other people to make their fantastic old mansions look fancy and fine.
Again, it's focus is solely on interior design, *not* mechanical systems or construction techniques.
Rose Thornton
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I looked foreward to receiving this book and reading about Victorian houses. I was disappointed.
We moved into a fantastic, lovely old Victorian Queen Anne just four years ago. We are looking for assistance as to what these homes looked like and how they functioned in the lives of the people who lived here a hundred years ago.
First of all, the narative in this book focused on how our country was settled by the pioneers. I didn't have much to say about the Victorian house itself. It never did get around to Victorian Queen Anne homes.
Secondly, the pictures were great, but there wasn't enough narative about the pictures and I wondered just exactly how the narative and the pictures fit together.
In this book, I found a picture of a door that I liked and I think that I may use the picture to find that type of door for our house.
I never figured out the big "secret" that was promised in the title. The authors stated that the secret was that those people lived like we do. Please, many old homes don't have a cement floor. I learned why a few years ago - they didn't have refrigeration and their basement was a "root cellar" that was used to store vegetables. The dumb waiter was used to bring these things up to the kitchen. Why wasn't this discussed? Also, why the outside stairwell? Why the door off the dining room and onto the wrap around porch? Why the door between bedrooms? Why the open architecture? Why the large pocket doors? Why was the upstairs built with less money?
I shall continue to look for more information about the daily lives of Victorian people and why they did the things that they did in their wonderful old homes.
Perhaps the other reviewer will write a book and that one will tell me what we want to know.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "monosnail" on July 23, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found this book to be a fascinating read, albeit a quick one. If you really just want info on nuts and bolts then go buy a boring restoration guide and look through antique catalogs, but I liked the secrets that are revealed about the Victorians in this book. There is a problem with the title though because the pictures do indeed seem to allude to a secret life of the home itself, but the text is clearly more focused on the Victorians as people. I think the two work well together, but the secrets aren't about the houses, they are about the people.
The photographs are truly beautiful and a bit mysterious, and I found the text equally compelling. Granted it's a social history lesson in the Victorian era, but through that I've learned much more about how people would have lived in my partially restored Victorian home. For example, if you are looking at pictures of dining rooms, you are reading about the change in eating manners and how food was served. Indeed you learn that the dining room was a new invention altogether. The most striking point the author(s) make is that there is much sharper contrast between the Victorians and the people that preceeded them, than between the Victorians and modern-day families.
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By Designer1 on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love this book! So much educational info on victorian Decor and about the History of Victorian design-gorgeous pictures too!! This book will stay on my coffee Table for guests to also enjoy.--
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By alex yarovoy on October 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book! Interesting information. I love it.
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