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A Field Guide to American Houses
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A Field Guide to American Houses

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  845 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
The guide that enables you to identify, and place in their historic and architectural contexts, the houses you see in your neighborhood or in your travels across America. 17th century to the present.
Hardcover, 525 pages
Published June 12th 1984 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 1984)
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Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Someday, I might like to own a house. And if I own a house, I want to be able to say with some certainty what style it is. So with those Very Important Dreams in hand, I purchased my very own copy of A Field Guide to American Houses.

The behemoth that arrived on my doorstep was intimidating: 800-odd pages, black-and-white photographs, and so very many houses. And I read. And I peered at the pictures. And I began to understand the development and evolution of housing in America. How the stately h
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: architecture
I marked this as "read," but this is a book that I enjoy savoring in small bites. I'm so sad I lost my copy :(
May 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reposted from my blog review: http://www.evolvingenglishteacher.blo...

My response to "A Field Guide to American Houses" is that of a lay person. However, the guide is the definitive reference book for architectural students. A lay person such as myself doesn't read the guide with the close reading strategies of an English teacher; rather, I read the book, and will continue reading it, through the lens of "place" and its rhetoric function in American homes and American literature.

The guide is a
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought I was the only house geek.....but now I know I'm not alone. There are others, and look, now we have a book to encourage our obsessions. I have always wondered how my old house would be classified; I now know that I own a gable-front and wing Folk Victorian. This is even better than my Victorian Houses Coloring Book!
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, home
This book is an endlessly fascinating dream (for anyone who is even mildly interested in domestic architecture). I pored over its excellent collection of photographs and line drawings for hours. I kind of want to buy it now. For what purpose, I am not sure, but I feel like I need to own it.
Tom Mackie
One of the best field guides for Human Geography projects. I have often assigned this work to my students or suggested it for projects in historic architecture.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though the section I needed most, Dutch Colonial styles, is shorter than I would like, it still proves useful as a handy everyday reference.
Evie Hutchinson
Jul 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodbooks
awesome architectural reference for house geeks
An incredibly useful, accessible guide to American architecture. Bonus: the book even includes examples from Kansas.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely indispensable for when you want to just walk around and look at some houses and talk about them.
An incredible resource for identifying architectural features of homes.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Virginia and Lee McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses is a very useful tool for understanding (both in describing and dating) common American houses. For many people, houses seem to be so common that they are not worth describing or thinking twice about, but I think when houses are observed with a more critical eye, they can reveal a wealth of information about the people who built, bought, and lived in them. They are documents from which history can be extracted. With similarly held bel ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone interested in architecture, this is an amazing reference book. It covers everything from American Indian huts and teepees to the McMansions of the recent past (and future?). It's all here, every roof style, window type, column variation. Every page holds something new and exciting. There are also brief discussions of neighborhood styles. The only negative comment I would have is that most of the photographic examples were from Lexington, Kentucky or Dallas, Texas. Initially I was impr ...more
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent reference source for tracking changes in architectural styles by region and time. Pictures from across the country document influences and combinations. It is amazing how many of the styles easily transferred from Chicago to Texas to Oklahoma to Pasadena. Each pilaster identified. So glad to have found this. It is a good source to keep going back to until you have the differences between "Gothic" and "Prairie" firmly in mind. Not so useful for 1980 and after, but starts with earliest A ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-grad-school
I read this text for my Intro to American Architectural History class, and I really liked it. It's straightforward, well organized, and has TONS of pictures (including a very useful pictorial glossary and an nifty chart of "If you see THIS feature, it might be THIS style."). I'll definitely be keeping it around for future reference. My main gripe is it's pretty old (1980s), so the info on more recent architectural styles isn't up to date.
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: at-library
I didn't read this book cover-to-cover, but I read a whole lot of it and really enjoyed learning more about the American house styles. I was curious as to how current houses are categorized - Millennium Mansions! There were many examples of all house types that were from Dallas, as the author is from there - but there were many American cities represented. Naperville was there for the Millennium Mansions. Very fun to read and browse if you are interested in residential architecture.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent reference book for 'house watchers' and casual fans of architecture. My only gripes are that many of the terms are ill-defined and not common in everyday speech, and many of the captions are on the pages opposite their corresponding picture which made my eyes buggy and gave me a headache. Gorgeous pictures though. I've been noticing details on neighborhood houses I hadn't before I read this.
Robert Trawick
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book I wish I had written. When driving through the South and elsewhere, I've admired the National Houses, Colonial Houses, and other distinct styles without knowing their origin or names. I knew I beheld a tradition and that there was a time and place when this is what house builders built. This book gives them and many others a background in history and geography. It even includes and has tactful language for the modern mishmash and McMansion styles with their hideous fractal rooflines.
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Field Guide to American Houses continues to serve as a great resource to help me identify, and place in historic and architectural context those houses by which I am captivated. I like it. It's fun.

I only wish that I had a more current version of the book to learn about more current house design movements. I have the 1984 publish version. Great overall.
Juli Anna
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really wonderful reference text. Very thorough, and has a great glossary and reference charts to explain the differences between various architectural details. This should be on the shelf of any American that is remotely interested in architecture. There is a new reprint that is really beautiful, also.
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wish-list
great book for identifying architecture. divided chronologically into stylistic periods with clear drawings of layouts; structural, decorative and design elements; distribution maps and photos of sample houses. fascinating and easy to use, with starting point recommendations using representative features.
A lot of the text was a bit too technical for me, I would have liked more history and explanation, and some of the styles are too similar to my untrained eye for me to really be able to tell some of them apart, but I appreciated the illustrations, examples, and finding out the official names of some aspects of architecture.
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Educational. Informational. I learned so much. I'll want to remember everything I learned when looking at houses of various styles. Just checking this book out garnered ooohs and ahhhs from those in close proximity.
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thorough guide to residential architecture styles, going back to Native American dwellings. Many details about which elements are common to each style. (I wish my house had a more exciting name than Minimal Traditional.)
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just got the updated 2014 version of this book, and it's the most fascinating thing I've read all year. I didn't even know I cared about architecture until I read this book! And I loved all of the pictures.
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Logically arranged. Detailed drawings show house construction methods. This is packed with information and I will come back to it later. I spent quite a bit of time studying the examples so even though I stopped on page 47 I have already learned new information.
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After house hunting last year, I was excited to learn more about the architectural styles of all the houses we toured. This book is great to read or just to flip through and day dream. It even includes many photos of loal Kansas City homes.
Isa Braunstein
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea who this book was intended for or who uses it, but personally, I found it a wonderful vault full of useful details. It should be a mandatory read for anyone renovating an older house.
Nov 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unparalleled resource for anyone interested in American domestic architecture. I used this book countless times while enrolled in the University of Georgia Masters of Historic Preservation program.
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
House spotting for the Masses

A true "field guide" to American Houses. Updated classic and a massive achievement in providing a valuable resource for easily identifying modern American house-type.
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