Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Making of Home by Judith Flanders

book cover
The Making of Home
by Judith Flanders

ISBN-13: 9781250067357
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Released: September 8, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In The Making of Home, Flanders traces changes in the house from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century across northern Europe and America, and shows how the 'homes' we know today bear only a faint resemblance to 'homes' through history. Along the way she investigates the development of ordinary household items - from cutlery, chairs and curtains, to the fitted kitchen, plumbing and windows - while also dismantling many domestic myths.

My Review:
The Making of Home examines how houses and people's attitudes towards them have changed over the last 500 years in northern Europe and the USA. She started by describing what houses used to look like for the majority of people. She examined how ideas and ideals about houses changed as some countries began to value private spaces in homes. House layouts changed and rooms became specialized instead of general purpose. Gender roles and ideals changed as industrialization meant men went to work rather than worked out of their house.

She talked about developments in heating (hearth to stove to central heating), windows (open to glazed and/or screened), lighting (fire to gas to electric), and plumbing and sewer systems. These developments changed house layouts and people's attitudes toward privacy and cleanliness. This desire for privacy and "healthy country living" led to the creation of suburbs as transportation technologies allowed commuting longer distances. She also touched on a multitude of other topics, like how nostalgia and the availability of servants affected building styles.

I've always enjoyed this author's books, and I learned a lot from this one. However, I wonder how many of her conclusions would hold up under a deeper look. For example, she pointed out that London didn't have enough pew space to accommodate London's full population on Sundays. While I agree that not everyone went to church, she apparently assumes each church held only one service, which would be inaccurate. Overall, though, it was a good survey of how changing technologies and attitudes in industrial countries influenced house designs, how they were furnished, and even where they were located.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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