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American House Styles: A Concise Guide Paperback – January 23, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From early colonial to "pretentious" postmodern, Baker's guide achieves its goal of defining and clarifying American architectural styles introduced throughout various periods of home construction. Baker considers the changes occurring in house design by elaborating on, and providing links between, general historical incidents, pertinent architectural history, and influential figures who participated in the development of distinctive house styles. Baker creates a basic house plan, then manipulates it to include designated elements of design integral to the various period styles discussed. The finished book--set to contain a glossary, reading list, and 100 elegant black-and-white line drawings--should prove to be an engaging historical account and an attractive, practical resource. Alice Joyce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Colonial", "Victorian", "Neoclassical", "Modern" - what distinguishes one architectural style from another? How and where did these different styles develop? America has an abundance of fascinating and varied house styles, as fascinating and diverse as its people. When we explore our neighborhoods and travel around the country, how do we recognize the kind of architecture we see? Even people interested in houses can rarely identify the style of their own homes with any precision. This unique book will allow readers to recognize the architectural features and style of virtually any house they encounter. To create this guide, architect John Milnes Baker designed a simple, two-story house with four bedrooms. From it he developed the basic plan for each historical style - from the steeply pitched roofs of Early New England Colonial houses to the turrets and grand porches of the Queen Anne style, the austere geometry of the International style, and today's Postmodern multiple eclecticisms. By starting each drawing with the same plan and adding the essential characteristics of each style, Baker ensures that the reader does not become confused by additions and later embellishments to the buildings. Each section of American House Styles begins with a historical overview of the period, followed by a concise commentary on each style. The author then highlights the specific design details that distinguish one style from another. He shows how different styles developed and what influenced their development. His beautifully wrought elevation drawings, each with a floor plan, illustrate the details of style clearly and with precision. Through an understanding of earlier styles, we develop insightsinto the architecture of our own era. Not only is it fun, but the study of architecture also nurtures a critical sense and allows us to make informed judgments about what is being built today. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; unknown edition (July 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323252
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the beginning of this book the author points out that a culture is reflected in its buildings. Then he goes on to identify the events that caused the various styles--the War of 1812 that stopped our imitation of English architecture, the change to stud framing and the effects of industrialization that mark the Victorian era, the nationalistic spirit of the 1876 Centennial that spawned the revival in Colonial archictecture at the end of the 19th century, etc.--in such a professional style of writing you'd never suspect he was also an architect. A history professor maybe. All of which explains the subject better than the usual bare chronological sequence.

What helps in a book like this are the odd bits of information casually thrown out that show mastery of the subject.
Colonial homes were never white; Greek Revival were never anything but. A particular cornice is usually done incorrectly, compared to the true Classical version.

He also make the sensible point that you can only compare styles within limits, that at some point you're really discussing altogether different building types, as in ranches, bungalows, and certainly octagon houses. And early on he boasts he can design a modern four bedroom house in any style. Then he proceeds to do it, providing a front elevation and a repeating ground floor plan (front: LR, center hall, DR. rear: family room, kitchen, mud room) with added porch, tower, fireplace, chimney, as needed. Not so much to explain the architectural features, I think, but to give the prospective homebuilder something that actually could be built today.

Where most authors stop around WWII, he continues up to the present.
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Format: Hardcover
As a layman, the book is easy to read and offers some nice historical facts. However, the one page synopses of various styles seem to be too brief to offer any kind of detailed analysis of what a particular style has to offer. The book probably should have been longer. In addition, we learn much more about what Baker does not like rather than what he likes. The references to classical architecture, including the diagrams, lack clarity. The book may be a good starting point to learn about American residential architecture, but it is by no means a Bible.
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Format: Hardcover
Baker's book covers the basics on the history of the house style in America. It is concise, and easy reading. Those looking for an in-depth and specific guide to the architectural purity and detail of the many individual residential styles have several other excellent books to chose from that would serve that purpose better. Baker is opinionated, but the novel "common plan" he creates to simplify the comparisons is an excellent method to help the novice in understanding the architecture of the house. I'm sure you will have your own opinions of what styles you like and dislike. This book won't answer all of your questions, however, it will give you a jump start on understanding the basics. This book would be helpful for anyone looking to purchase an older home if you are confused by the often misleading real estate agent's description on home styles.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While no one was looking, this book has dug in and become a classic. AMERICAN HOUSE STYLES: A CONCISE GUIDE does not have the number of drawings found in the best-contented architectural guides, but what it has are good, and with the best-contented guides retailing at upwards of $35, this used version (1994) of a book still in print is a reasonable and useful way to add to your visual library of American house styles. Experts will argue about whether expending technology or the cultural effects of historical changes such as war are the more determinative in shaping up our changing historical house styles; this one tends to the latter but it's the descriptions and the accurate drawings that commend this book most to me.
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By A Customer on August 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Baker is perhaps a little too concise and a little too oppinionated in this volume. The one-page descriptions are not always clear, and in the case of some particularly complex and diverse styles, far too brief. Personal notes do not really belong in a general guide of this type, especially at the expense of more detail. Kudos, however, to the clever idea of manipulating the same basic home plan into each of the styles by altering the details and mass relationships. For this reason alone, the book is worth purchasing.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading this book you will look at American housing stock with a new eye, for sure. This is a truly fine book for a number of reasons. First off, it is clean, concise and readable. I like that in a guide book. For, what does one want from a guide but to be guided, no?
The author does this in the form of a survey of American architectural styles up through the years. As it is a concise guide, this is nothing more than a survey which is just fine by me. Anything more would have made my eyes glaze in a very short time.

What the author has done is cover the major American Archi. trends and place them in context. All the while he makes editorial commentary on their relative merits and how one influenced or was influenced by the other. Interspsersed in in the discussion are names and titles so that one may go further in depth if he chooses.

Each of the major styles is given a short synopsis acoompanied by an excellent line drawn illustration. The author presumes some knowledge of the genre as he does use quite a bit of jargon/terms of art. Thankfully there is an excellent Glossary included which one likely will need to consult.

Along with the survey is a bit of editorial commentary which I, for one, thoroughly appreciated. The author obviously has strong opinions on these matters and he doesn't hesitate to share them. This is helpful. As it turns out, I am sympathetic to his views so his essays sensibilities make sense to me.

If i have a criticism is is that the floor plans are way too abstruse for the novice to cipher. I struggled with understanding them at first and then ignored them: They just didn't make sense to em. I'm not sure it matters, but it might.

I walked past a Ranch style home yesterday, it was adorned with a completely inappropriate columned temple form out front, I tipped my hat to Mr. Baker for helping me to identify this while I snickered at the pretension.

Love this book.
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