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Home; a Short History of an Idea by Witold…

Home; a Short History of an Idea (1986)

by Witold Rybczynski

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book of the month club selection ( )
  mahallett | Aug 19, 2018 |
Most interesting: 1. family (kids of paupers in service of strangers); 2. evolution of the term 'home' from 'public', uncomfortable, multipurpose to 'private', cosy, homey. 3. servants .. we want privacy more than free time
  MatkaBoska | Jul 23, 2017 |
This could have been a very interesting book, and there's some very good stuff in the last four chapters or so, but Rybczynski's over-enthusiastic pitch to his publisher seems to have trapped him into writing several chapters about the early history of domesticity that he didn't really have enough material for when it came down to it. As for the opening chapter, an obviously-recycled magazine article about Ralph Lauren that has little to do with the rest of the book, the less said the better...

Where it starts getting interesting is when Rybczynski gets to the 19th century and discusses how style, technology and user requirements competed to influence people's expectations of how homes should be designed and built. Architects and designers don't come out of this story very well, and Rybczynski's real heroes this time seem to be the pioneers of "domestic engineering" (later called "home economics"), people like Catherine Beecher and Christine Frederick, who encouraged American women to take control of their own workplaces and insist that houses be arranged in practical, efficient ways. That was something completely new to me, which looks as though it might be interesting to follow up further.

Rybczynski argues quite forcefully that "comfort" is the element that is most important in measuring the success of any environment designed for people, and condemns "style" as a harmful influence that leads us to overlook important usability questions. Austere modernism comes out of the equation worse than retro-styles, interestingly: he argues that 18th-century furniture designers were better at ergonomics than their modern counterparts because they worked by gradual improvement of established designs, whilst 20th-century fashions force the designer to produce something ground-breakingly different every time. He also comes out strongly against de-cluttered interiors - a kitchen is a workshop where tools should be within reach; a bathroom without anywhere to leave your soap is just silly - so it's pretty obvious that no-one has paid much attention to this book in the last thirty years... ( )
1 vote thorold | Jul 9, 2016 |
A wonderful explanation of why your house looks the way it does. ( )
  zguba | Apr 25, 2014 |
One of those books I know I read right when it came out, and liked, and probably thought I'd noted on Goodreads, but apparently did not. I enjoy Rybczynski and should probably see what he's written since the last time I looked. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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To my parents, Anna and Witold
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We've all seen this comfortable man; his face looks out from the advertising pages of magazines.
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In this illuminating book, Witold Rybczynski walks us through five centuries of homes both great and small, from the smoke-filled manor halls of the Middle Ages to the Ralph Lauren-designed environments of today. On a house tour like no other-one that delightfully explicates the very idea of "home"-you'll see how social and cultural changes influenced styles of decoration and furnishing, learn the connection between wall-hung religious tapestries and wall-to-wall carpeting, discover how some of our most welcome luxuries were born of architectural necessity, and much more.… (more)

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