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Edgar Miller and the Hand-Made Home: Chicago's Forgotten Renaissance Man Hardcover – October 13, 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Edgar Miller (1899–1993) was an innovative master of “dozens of disciplines and multiple styles.” Believing that humankind “should respect and learn from nature,” he created supple animal and plant motifs, as well as human figures, for his intricate bas-reliefs, wood carvings, ceramics, stained-glass windows, murals, and tiles. He decried waste and so used recycled materials and transformed old buildings into exuberantly decorated architectural marvels. Phenomenally gifted and prolific, Miller was renowned, even legendary, and then he was forgotten, except by those who dwell in his wildly original homes. Cahan and Williams, the team who resurrected the life and work of architectural photographer Richard Nickel, vividly recount Miller’s story of genius and audacity, from his Idaho youth to his meteoric rise in Chicago. Architectural photographer AlexanderVertikoff’s sharp and lustrous images elegantly capture the extraordinary details, rich colors, and profound connectivity of Miller’s spectacular creations. Miller’s fecund imagination, virtuosity, and epic energy produced vibrant architecture in which every element from ceiling to floor is alive with arabesque imagery, entwined patterns, and an aura of aspiration. Miller intended for each space to be a “total work of art,” the perfect description for this unique book. --Donna Seaman

Review

On 400 varnished pages, pictures by the architectural photographer Alexander Vertikoff reveal multistory planes of windows with diamond-shaped colored panes, smudgy frescoes of jungles and ziggurat-shaped newel posts. --Eve Kahn, New York Times

This beautiful volume, by the authors of Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City, is a singular, admirable tribute to a brilliant creative talent of the American Arts and Crafts movement who has been forgotten for far too long.  --Library Journal

In a city bursting with pride over its architecture, it may defy logic that such a talent as Edgar Miller could be so overlooked, so absent from the lexicon of Chicago. This glorious book, with 400 color plates, celebrates Miller's imagination.  --Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune

Alexander Vertikoff's beautiful, scrupulous, comprehensive new photographs of those residences--more than 200 pages of them--form the core of Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home. --Tony Adler, Chicago Reader

"A place to live is a place to live. Walls, ceiling, stairway, kitchen, porch—mankind has to have them if he is to continue his ordered habits. Sometimes it makes no difference whether they are beautiful or not. There is a kind of decent comeliness that suffices very well for many homes—the clean cheap rug, the comfortable chairs, the uninspired covering of a wall with loopings or bedraggled flowers. If you feel that a home should be only this, and a springboard to leap lightly toward movie or baseball game, stay away from the Edgar Miller studios on Carl Street and Wells Street. For they will fill you with the haunting surety that you are missing something remarkable and lovely in this world."  —Alice McKinstry, written in 1930
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: CityFiles Press; Second Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978545052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978545055
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.5 x 12.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chicago is a great architectural city know for the some of the most creative and groundbreaking design. It is nice to see a book that delves into the life and work of one of the lesser known. Anyone who has wandered the streets of "Old Town" knows these buildings and has wondered who designed them and what they look like inside. The mystery is solved. The team of Richard Cahan, Micheal Williams, and Alexander Verikoff have created a book that brings these building to life. Not only have they written a compelling snapshot of the life of Edgar Miller and Chicago but they have captured the exterior and interior of the buildings with such passion and detail. I don't know of any other book that gives us a shot of an interior and then gives us another few pages of full-bleed details of the room. The high resolution photos are the best I have seen in years. It is by far the most superior book on architecture/design in 2009.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just delivered today. Saw the review in The New York Times and the review convinced me to buy. AMAZING BOOK. The extent of photos, the thought into what was shot, and the care of printing the book so that the colors lived up to the subject is beyond words! So often with books like this, you look at a photo and see a tiny section of something of interest off to a side and think: WHAT'S THAT!?!?! But the editor has no intention of letting you know. Not here. You see everything.

Or sometimes in other books, there's a photo of a wonderful piece of work, but the picture is only 2 inches square. Not here! Large, perfectly printed to exquisite focus and color, every shot makes you wonder why you haven't seen Miller's work before.

Truly a labor of love and it shows in every page. And SURE to be a collectible book.

My only qualm is that the photo captions don't always tell me what some art is made FROM. Is this piece wood or stone? Is that one canvas or plaster? Miller worked in so MANY mediums, you can't tell.

But that problem is minor compared to the combination of beauty and outright surprise that hits you with each page you turn.

(When you're not reading it, you can use it for weightlifting)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chicago is known for its modern functional elegance, but take a look at Edgar Miller and you will come away with a completely different impression of what Chicago could produce. Miller drew on ideas from other eras, including the medieval period. "Renaissance man" understates Miller's accomplishments and his mastery of some two dozen crafts. The photographs are gorgeous, as they need to be in order to do justice to the color, variety and texture of Miller's work in every medium. Most of the shots are from private homes, so even experts on Chicago buildings will find new material. Scholars will welcome that the book is comprehensive and definitive, but everyone will be astonished by the warmth and variety of Miller's creations. This is a great book for anyone who loves Chicago and anyone who cares about true craftsmanship.
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Format: Hardcover
Edgar Miller and the Handmade House: Chicago's Forgotten Renaissance Man is really something! Page after page and picture after picture took me into Xanadus in Chicago's midst, sites "where Kubla Kahn (real name, Edgar Miller) did a pleasure dome decree."
Miller's ingenious imagination in redecorating a series of houses in Chicago went so far beyond the ordinary that my mind needed to take a journey to get there. His ideas were and are big, interesting and charming, the kind that shape our thinking and ultimately affect who we are.
Authors Richard Cahan and Michael Williams as well as photographer Alexander Vertikoff proved as able in recreating his efforts as he was in making them. The photos throughout the book are every bit as great as the text in expressing the central idea that life becomes transformed when unbounded imagination adorns common settings.
Miller did his extraordinary house decorating and designing during the 1920s and 1930s. Little known even in Chicago architectural and design circles, he transformed any number of homes in the city (the more prominent in the Old Town neighborhood.) Without this book, it would be difficult to conceive how far he was able to stretch the limits of home decoration and room design and how artistic, imaginative and different from any others in the city the Miller-redesigned dwellings remain.
The first response I felt toward this 400-page books varnished with artistic and colorful photos was a sense of enormous jealousy that real live human beings get to live their days in such surroundings.
We bought gift copies and put ours standing up on our living room mantle in the firm belief that if we cannot be part of the magic that is within, the books cover and presence can add some of its extraordinariness to our home.

Kenan Heise
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About 100 pages of biographical text, and several hundred similiarily inspirational pages of photographs. The text follows Miller's life from childhood though his last days. The photographs are stunning. The amzaing quanity of work Miller produced is beyond any limits of reason; the intricate details of each, and variety of mediums seems more the work of ten talented craftsmen instead of one. Miller's stained glass is wonderful and its photographed very well so that the details of the joinery and mountings are always visible. The designs along with the Miller-hand-colored glass's beautiful hues are printed very well. If you enjoy hand craftsmanship, architectural design, stained glass crafting, sculpture you'll enjoy this book as much as I have.
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