This Old House

by , Aug 24, 2011, 2:00 PM
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This Old House I live in a Greenwich Village apartment. If you have one bedroom, you're considered fortunate; two qualifies as nearly palatial. Old means pre-war. Personally, I'm a fan of cozy, contained spaces. By contrast, whatever falls under the "house" label -- large or small -- particularly if it can trace its lineage from the 18th-to-mid-20th century -- is the province of This Old House.

The Time, Inc. magazine is targeted to DIYers, those who use miter saws and nod knowingly when salvaged corbels become accent pieces. My expertise extends to identifying a hammer and nails; when my A/C installer requested a Phillips screwdriver, I was as clueless as Michele Bachmann on U.S. history.

However, for those in the know, This Old House is a treasure trove of useful information. My mother, a voracious reader, claims to "devour" the magazine. There is the joy of grandchildren and the delights of a freshly minted This Old House. Both light up her life -- but only one turned down Brown.

Per her, the magazine boasts great ideas, beautiful layouts and an "inviting" manner. There are few experts we can trust any more; economists misread the housing bubble and pushed deregulation, while politicians manufactured a debt-ceiling crisis that earned the U.S. an AA rating. On the national scene, confidence builders are in short supply. For DIYers, that assurance rests with TOH. The magazine's experts know their onions.

Here's why: the pub traffics in helpful information, how-to articles about wiring, plumbing, carpentry and landscaping. The goal is to ensure your house is a home, customized to specific tastes. The range of topics -- revamping a kitchen to unusual decorations -- is impressive. Whether turning a tiny attic into a master bath or enlarging a Victorian foursquare kitchen, TOH meets the challenge with easy-to-understand blueprints and hints to highlight each element in a room. It's the homeowner's bible.

The front-of-the-book offers soup-to-nuts "Home Solutions," a regular column that posits an array of nifty stuff, like 10 uses for wax paper. No. 6, make fixtures shine. Yep, you can buff faucets. Or No. 5, free a stuck zipper. Lightly run the wax paper over the teeth -- advice that's handy in a host of situations.

So are the salvage projects. TOH takes reuse and recycle to artistic levels, such as turning an old window into a patio table with the aid of scrap-wood legs. The adventurous can build a desk with a hutch -- guided by step-by-step directions. Also, as Matisse and Monet knew, color matters. Sad wood cabinets can be updated, so can walls and stairs by a splash of color -- be it sea mist, rose or guacamole. A story about a revamped Ocean Grove, N.J., getaway proves the wisdom of embracing color wheels.

In addition, readers are invited to participate in occasional makeovers. Chris Baldwin of Gainesville, Fla., had his messy garage redone -- though the resemblance to an industrial storage unit that harvests organs is pronounced. He's probably thrilled, but I'd love to know how he finds anything. Labeling the ultra-sterile cabinets probably helps.

Still, the magazine's charge is to spiff up and simplify, trim and accessorize. The art direction is clean and friendly, and the writing is the same. If the tax code was this smart, GE would contribute to Uncle Sam, and the rest of us would approach the annual ritual with far less trepidation.

In essence, This Old House's appeal is really about the power of transformation -- restoring a Craftsman bungalow or a neglected homestead to their original beauty. For those who love home renovations, or can afford those in the know, TOH is essential reading. A visible reminder that home is where the art is.


Publisher: This Old House Ventures

Frequency: 10 times/year

Web site:

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