50 Great American Homes

By Kelly Quigley, REALTOR® Magazine

Celebrating the American Home by Joanne Kellar Bouknight (The Taunton Press, 2005).

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What makes a house extraordinary? This book attempts to answer that question by asking 50 of the country’s top residential architects to show us their all-time favorites. Relying more on photos than words to illustrate what makes each home so inspiring, the architects bring us to all regions of the country and invite us into dwellings that represent a range of architectural styles. From a seaside house in the Northeast to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Ranch home in the Midwest, each house connects to its surroundings and demonstrates classy, yet comfortable, livability. For each of the 50 homes featured, the author provides floor plans, numerous exterior and interior photos, and a history of how the home evolved to what it is today. If you have a love for architecture or interior design, as many in the real estate profession do, this book will keep you engaged for hours—and perhaps spur some ideas for your own home.

Tips From the Book:

  • Don’t overlook transitions. When evaluating a home or planning changes to your house, give special thought to transitions—logical progressions from indoors to outdoors, from work to play, and from season to season. For example, the best-designed homes have attractive mud rooms that serve as practical entryways from the backyard, designated areas for quiet and for entertainment, and well-planned landscaping that provides shade in the summer and blocks wind in the winter.
  • Curb appeal is important, but … The bones and guts of a home are critical to how well the home works, and shouldn’t be overshadowed by the allure of curb appeal. Crown molding with gaping joints, electrical outlets positioned with no forethought, and other aesthetic and functional annoyances can detract from even the fanciest house.
  • The “wow” factor comes in many forms. Whether it’s a cottage or a compound, the greatest houses distinguish themselves with a personality. The distinctiveness that makes you say “wow” might be the way a house fits into its landscape or the unique building materials. It could be a spectacular view of the water or woods or a smart use of lighting. Even the smallest details can add spice, from use of color to elegant or whimsical finishes.