Picks and Pans Review: American Houses

updated 08/10/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/10/1987 01:00AM

by Philip Langdon

Many U.S. citizens over the years have created handsome, lavish machines for living, and the author has put together observations about dozens of the most interesting recent ones. The great variety is stressed, from new condo row houses that look like cozy cottages to grand apartments in old waterfront warehouses and abandoned schools. The author, who specializes in writing about architecture and dealt with chain restaurants in another book, includes a bit of everything. Although the most beautiful houses are contemporary in style—mostly imaginative adaptations in wood of familiar motifs—Langdon shows a couple of Victorian-flavored knock-offs too. One serene California house owes a big debt to the Japanese. A Texas residence has a courtyard that echoes Spanish arcades. Some houses are mostly glass, and one has a covering of earth and plants. The Albuquerque home of architect Bart Prince looks like nothing so much as a giant caterpillar. Most of these places look as if the owners had open pocketbooks and the designers enjoyed themselves. The exuberance that we like to think of as typically American is stressed in the brightly colored photos. None of these dwellings looks lived in, but they certainly are fun to look at. And Langdon believes that "however the forms and features of new houses may change, the designers will find ways to connect their new creations to a long history defining how a house should look.... A house still has to look like home." (Stewart Tabori & Chang, $29.95)

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