House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live

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9780060538699: House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live

IKEA, Ethan Allen, and HGTV may have plenty to say about making a home look right, but what makes a home feel right? Is it the objects you've collected from your travels, or that armchair by the window that reminds you of your grandmother? Is it the "friendly" feeling of a classic American farmhouse, or the "prestige" of a formal Tudor mansion? These kinds of questions, which have more to do with environmental psychology than mere decorating, can give us a new way to think about the diverse spaces Americans call home.

In House Thinking, noted journalist and cultural critic Winifred Gallagher takes the reader on a psychological tour of the American home. In each room, Gallagher explores many of our deep but often unarticulated intuitions about the power of place. Drawing on the latest research in behavioral science, an overview of cultural history, and interviews with leading architects and designers, she shows us how our homes not only reflect who we are, but also influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Using a variety of examples -- from famous historical homes to experimental rustic pods -- Gallagher examines why traditional dining rooms and living rooms have given way to "great rooms," how the oversize suburban garage threatens civility, how kids' rooms can affect their development, and why Americans increasingly think of their homes as "sanctuaries" and "refuges."

House Thinking's unique perspective raises provocative questions: How does your entryway prime you for experiencing your home? Do you really need a mega-kitchen, or just a microwave? What makes a bedroom a sensual oasis? How can your bathroom exacerbate your worst fears?

It's simply not enough to think of our domestic spaces as design statements or as dumping grounds for our stuff. We need to approach our homes in a new way: as environments that actively affect us and our quality of life. Stressing the home's substance over its style, House Thinking is a surprising look at how we live -- and how we could.

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About the Author:

Winifred Gallagher is the author of House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and Spiritual Genius. She has written for numerous publications, including Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. She lives in Manhattan and Dubois, Wyoming.

From Publishers Weekly:

Tapping into the American consumer's burgeoning interest in home design, cultural critic Gallagher (Pride of Place) takes on the single-family home in her latest cultural inquiry. Chapters are themed by room, beginning with the entry and living room and moving through to the basement, garage and garden; each ends with anecdotes describing how Gallagher's own family has changed its home with her new-found knowledge. Equal parts architecture, history, sociology and psychology, Gallagher's book easily makes academic discussions relevant to the general reader. The text is liberally peppered with pop culture references, though at times these appear humorously off-mark, as when she cites MTV Cribs (a hip-hop version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) as a "popular children's show." Gallagher is not an unbiased observer — she makes a clear argument for her own preference for traditional notions of comfort and craft. Avant-garde architects and designers are often derided for their emphasis on novelty and art over homeyness and practicality. Because of this, Gallagher's text often feels like an etiquette book evoking a romantic nostalgia for propriety. She is at her most engaging when discussing notions of prestige and social hierarchy—issues particularly relevant in an age of proliferating McMansions and Martha Stewart–inspired interest in the hallmarks of good taste. (Feb. 7)
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