These are some of our favorite resources that guided us on our journey. We’ve also gone through a lot of not-so-good design books. If you want to know what we didn’t like like, head over here. And for some okay-but-not-necessarily recommended books, check out these. Now, on to the good stuff.
We looked pretty far and wide for resources when it came to deciding what we wanted in a house. From breezy coffee-table books with glossy photos to required reading for architects and city planners. These were some of our favorites:
A Pattern Language: Probably the book we referred to the most during this process. It breaks down the way people respond to space into “patterns.” They begin with a short discussion of a psychological or physical need (say, a sense of shelter) and then end each one with a concrete recommendation (for example, allow people to have their backs against something solid while looking at a long view). Some of the patterns didn’t really speak to us, but many of them did. Totally worth a read.
House Rules: This is a great book; sort of a heavily-photographed, cliff’s notes version of A Pattern Language. You’ll even see some of the “patterns” from A Pattern Language at work here. It’s nice to have a lot of visual examples of some of the “Rules” that can lead to good design. Meditations on Design is sort of another simplified and illustrated Pattern Language.
The Distinctive Home: A Vision of Timeless Design (American Institute Architects): This feels a little more textbook-ey, with a lot of case studies. Not a bad book, but not one we returned to a lot.
Building Your Home: A Simple Guide to Making Good Decisions: A nice primer on some of the decisions you’ll need to make when building a home with regards to materials etc.
The Family Cabin: Inspiration for Camps, Cottages, and Cabins: I have a soft spot for cabins – my parents had a tiny lake cabin when I was growing up. This is a solid collection of cabins with notes on design ideas. They lean towards midwestern and Adirondack lake cabins, but there are a lot of good little ideas here.
The New Cottage: Though this book focuses on “cottages,” loosely defined, I thought it was a great little resource for architectural ideas generally. Some of it probably has something to do with the format, which isn’t too unlike this blog: case studies involving a discussion of why the owners made the specific design choices they made. I also just have a soft spot for cabins and cottages. But the whole “modern twist on a classic form” is right up my alley. Cabins & Cottages and Other Small Spaces and Small Houses take the same form, with good case studies. And their definition of “small” got pretty big – up to a little over 2,000 sq. ft.
Good House Cheap House: This is a nice resource for those looking for ways to cut costs, particularly when it comes to using inexpensive materials in creative ways. It’s starting to get a little dated, particularly when it comes to price, but overall there are a lot of good ideas in here about getting high-quality designs and finishes for affordable prices.
Some of this overlaps with “home design,” but with a bigger emphasis on the interiors.
Home: The Foundations of Enduring Spaces New York School of Interior Design: A lot of good stuff regarding interior design, which includes a fair amount of what I think of interior architecture. I took a lot of notes out of this one. It has a lot of good “rules” about, say, how far a coffee table should be from a couch, or how much space you’ll need around a kitchen table.
House Rules: An Architect’s Guide to Modern Life: Sort of a lightweight version of “Home,” above. Prettier photos though.
The Interior Design Handbook is another solid resource, and another one that sort of acts like a slimmed-down version of Home. Specific, practical advice about laying out the interior design of a home generally, as well as the more granular stuff like how to dress up a bookshelf or arrange items on a coffee table.
Remodelista: The Organized Home: Simple, Stylish Storage Ideas for All Over the House: Less of an architecture book, but this still had some nice ideas for organizing space, which are easier to implement if you’re starting fresh. Part of a two-book set; here is the second.
Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home: Another variation on the “Rules” theme, with a lot of good interior design bits and pieces. Though it tends to skew more towards what I think of as the “staging” parts of interior design, like how to organize a bookshelf or stuff on end tables. Nice for the later stages of design, but not the earlier stages.
Vern Yip’s Vacation at Home: Design Ideas for Creating Your Everyday Getaway: Some more of the same, focusing on interior design of vacation spaces for your actual living spaces. Oddly, I like a lot of his ideas, but I mostly hate the photos of his personal examples.
Affordable Interior Design: Similar to Yip’s work, a lot of good guidelines for distances between things, how to organize art, etc. It also includes some good advice on balancing an interior design budget and deciding where you want to spend your money.
Your Home Your Style: one of the better interior design books we’ve found so far. It focuses on helping you determine your style for decorating a home and giving general advice to help you within that style (we are self-expressionists and pragmatists, with emphasis on the latter). It doesn’t push a particular style though, and serves as a nice general-purpose workbook.
Get It Together!: Orlando Soria’s writing style isn’t for everyone (Chapter Subheading: “When you design your dream home with your boyfriend and then he dumps you”). But there is quite a bit of good design advice here, and by the time he got to “how to design spaces that dudes feel comfortable in” (hints: minimalism, industrial, wood, mid-century anything, “no color okay maybe some blue”) I never felt so personally attacked by something I agreed with. It’s worth a read.
The Nest Home Design Handbook: This is a nice, fairly light interior design book that goes room-by-room with concrete, actionable advice. It also included some planning advice that I had already found helpful, like sketching rooms out on grid paper and cutting out scale furniture to shuffle around “rooms” without having to redraw everything every time. Kind of like this.
Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease: I liked this book a lot. Sure, it’s not specifically about homebuilding or interior design, but it focuses on advice for entertaining without stressing out, which can inform a lot of design decisions, particularly in your public spaces. Worthwhile.
The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living: This was one of my favorite entries in the “pretty pictures” category. A bunch of case studies of actual homes lived in by actual people, with some blurbs about what they like about their spaces.
Hide and Seek: The Architecture of Cabins and Hide-Outs: A pretty coffee table book with some nice visual ideas. Cabin Porn is in the same vein.
Ray Booth: Evocative Interiors: Super high-end interior photos. Not my style. Mahogany ceilings can look nice but they’re not really in the cards for most people.
Home Body: Sort of a how-to, but for the most part it was more useful for the pretty visuals rather than the hard-advice. Joanna Gaines and a lot of her clients have a similar aesthetic to ours (rustic/modern), so it struck a chord with us.
Cabin Porn: This focuses on small, handbuilt cabins. So not exactly what we’re going for in terms of building plan, but nice inspiration for simple structures in pretty places. They also have an Inside version.
House: This is a great nonfiction narrative of a couple building their home. It covers the ongoing discussions and negotiations between the owners, the architect, and the builders. It certainly isn’t a how-to, but it gives some great insights on what the “flow” of the homebuilding process can look like, including both the hardships and the triumphs.
A Place of my Own: Another narrative of a building process. In this one, the author is building his own writing studio with the help of an architect and a sometimes-handyman. It doesn’t reflect the true homebuilding process like House does, but it’s a good reminder of the dreams-to-reality aspect of building a home.
One of the reasons we created this blog was because it was hard to find much information about the home-building process. Particularly on a nitty-gritty level. And of the blogs and books that talked in detail about the process, few talked specifics when it came to money. Nevertheless, here are some sources we did find helpful:
A House by the Park: The gold-standard in home building blogs, at least from what I’ve been able to find so far. It includes a lot of detail about the building progress, including explicit discussions about some of the financial decisions the owners had to make. Highly recommended.
Life at 9290: Another blog regarding a building project in Summit County, though the family is doing much of the building themselves.
The Meadow House: A pretty good blog about building a prairie modern home outside of Spokane, Washington. Fairly evocative about the ups and downs of a project like this.
Denver Modern: The progress blog of a modern house built in Denver in 2008. A little light on details, but otherwise not a bad read.
Bamasotan: A build blog following a large house in Minnesota. Heavy on photos and light on some of the nitty-gritty, like budget, but I expect their budget was, erm, significant.