Between fiddling with miniatures and working on the puzzle of them, I do like a good read. Lots of novels of various genres and lots history books (usually Medieval through to Restoration) and books about houses, their structure and maintenance and how they are built in the first place. Sometimes the history and the houses come together in one book.
Two by two
Two repair manuals
I have a thing about picture books, in particular ones that break a subject down in detail. Basically I’m a bit of an info freak but enjoy a good illustration.
You may have come across a Haynes manual at one time or another (usually about a car or motor bike and, these days in the Doctors’ Surgery, your health) but have you seen any of the other types? If not then allow me to recommend two house/building ones. I’ve previously mentioned the 1930s House manual which I bought when I started this current miniature build, but this time it’s the turn of the Victorian House manual and the Period Property manual. Between the three of them you can just about cover general appearance, detail of building (usually an area of the building in need of repair of course) and get a real flavour for a time a place and style ranging from late Medieval/Tudor through to the 1950s in the UK, including woodwork, fireplaces and finishes.
They also do manuals for extensions etc but allow me to also mention that they have manuals for a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and a Zombie Survival manual along with quite a few others in a similar sci-fi vein – oh, yes they do.
Back to the houses
It’s all in the detail; how the flashings work on various buildings, different types of timber frame structure, decorations and finishes, styles of guttering and tiled flooring – it’s endless and very well illustrated. I do find that the photos of the inside workings of a house structure problem are so useful in understanding how things work and remain standing.
Two historical and architectural guides
Both of these cover the ‘inter-war’ years, starting with Edwardian and following developments through the Art Deco/Art Moderne periods. As historical/architectural guides, they both have useful illustrations but are more verbally descriptive, covering developments in style and design.
|The Book of the Edwardian and Interwar House, Richard Russell Lawrence, 2009
I bought this book as a pictorial handbook of the styles of the period along with its architectural narrative.It seems to cover the flow of architecture following the more up-market wave of design in domestic housing. It follows a similar table of contents to the Haynes manuals but covers some very grand houses using great photos in the main but does go for these odd almost postage stamp sized sidebar images which, at my age, I feel I should wave a magnifier at. There are many beautiful interiors and objects and, to be fair it does have great descriptions of colours used, examples of wallpapers etc. It is a beautiful book with plenty of information of the current architects, builders and developers of the period.
|Understanding the Edwardian and Inter-War House, Alan Johnson, 2006
Now this one I did buy for the verbal descriptions of design and craftsmanship and not the illustrations. The nearest thing to a learned piece on the period that I would be able to follow. Photos are greyscale and there are line drawings of structural details. It tells the story of developments in what I would call a bouncy manner, carrying you along with the tale. I particularly like the stress on continuity.
Chapter 1 (page 9) covers background:
“At first sight it might be thought strange to couple Edwardian houses with inter-war dwellings and stranger still to link the latter to nineteenth-century housing. Yet today’s older generations will confirm the view that some ‘Victorian values’ in British society endured into the early 1960s and it is certainly the case that the mode of interior decoration in speculatively-built inter-war houses had its roots firmly in mid-Victorian taste.”
There’s none of the sweeping assumption that ‘it’s 1930 and this is what was designed then and therefore all houses had it’ which is a great relief.
I think that in the past general domestic taste took time (and hard saved cash) before picking up on the ‘new’ and then bits of it might be cherished way beyond its supposed use by date. We don’t seem to di that any more. The lively mix and match of different periods of domestic history has disappeared, sadly. Hey ho. Does it tend to make our current surroundings a little sterile do you think?
All in all these are four good books. Each different, they complement each other, giving a varied approach to getting to know buildings.