Friday, June 10, 2005

Serendip Beckons

Let's say that a man wants to build a good house for his wife. The most important step toward success will have been to select the right wife.

Let's say that a man wants to write a book about how to build good houses. He has to know what to say. He finds out by making mistakes, recognizing them, living with them, and going on from there. This process is impossible unless his wife will go along too.

Thanks largely to Gordon, but also to Rudy, Mel, Joe, Peter, and Dick, this book got written. I'm afraid there would have been nothing much to say if the inevitable mistakes had caused trouble at home.

Therefore this book will have to be dedicated solely to Caroline.

Last week I meant to continue my post Prime Sources. I pulled my dog-eared copy from the shelf and opened it at an early page to grab a quick quote. I found:

With thought, you can have a house that is distinctively yours. It will be a good house, a fun house, a year-round house, a life-time house. It will be your shelter, your tool for living, and your statement of belief.


Although I will explain to you what you do not need to buy, it is not the purpose of this book to persuade you to spend less money. That would be economic heresy. The purpose of this book is to explain to you how, through thoughtful choice of plan and materials, to get more house for the same money.

This one caught my eye:

If each house consumer can get a better bargain for his money, more houses will be consumed, that is, more people will have houses to live in, more money will have been spent, in total, and the houses themselves will be fit to live in.

Then there was:

... chickens can be persuaded to lay eggs in chicken houses, and cows to give milk in cow houses, but the functions required of houses for humans are more complex.

Or I might use:

The first modern architect was a man who looked at his family, his needs, his location, his available materials, his tools, his strength, his resources, then built accordingly. He lived a long while ago.

All of these were on the second page of the first chapter. By then I was reading the book. Again. Anew I delight in his clarity, thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and common sense. The author makes the modest claim of assisting his reader to build a home that is "warm, dry, light, quiet, clean, useful, spacious, pleasant, and paid for." One of the side effects of seriously reading his text is some good practice in the increasingly rare art of thinking for oneself.

I have yet to build a complete house -- by his methods, or my own -- but I have used several of his ideas in various remodeling projects with excellent results. I heartily recommend Rex Roberts' Your Engineered House for any student of design and anyone who wants to build a home. For that matter, it is a charming diversion to read; a means of moving your mood into a more creative channel. I double dog dare you to not put pencil to paper before too many chapters have been savored. The link above will take you to an online copy, or you can find it through the usual suspects.

-- ml

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