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Monday, July 22, 2024

Book Reviews

BY TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

That’s it.

You’re not going one more month with this room like it is. You can’t stand the wall color at all anymore. The sofa is frayed, the chairs need love, and if someone would tell you where to get an inexpensive table, they’ll be your new BFF. And when you’re done with this room, you’ll start in another room. First, though, you need help and For the Love of Renovating by Barry Bordelon & Jordan Slocum is where you’ll find it.

Your humble abode is much more than a big box to put your things in. Say Bordelon & Slocum, in fact, “you deserve to create a truly special place to call home.” They know what they’re talking about: together, they bought and remodeled a beautiful old Brooklyn brownstone years ago and when it came to renovations, they noticed a definite lack of direction for doing it right. Blogs helped, as did magazines.

For you, so will this book.Their first advice: spend some time figuring out what you want. Would a fixer make you happy, or is move-in-ready mandatory? There are pros and cons to both. Next, “really start thinking about the B word.” Budgeting is essential and should be top-of-list for anyone who’s thinking about renovating. Educate yourself on financial terminology and know ahead how you’re going to pay for any project, no matter the size. Build a “team” to do the job right – and don’t even think about skimping on your workers.

Dare to dream of design at this point. Think about how you cook, if you’re renovating your kitchen, and learn about the kinds of cabinets and counters. If the bathroom’s first, determine how much space you’ll have and what fixtures you require. And if you’re thinking about a reno that doesn’t involve tear-downs, you might be in luck: furniture you already have may be able to be refurbished. New window treatments can be inexpensive. Do-It- Yourself tips here can help you save money, and spend it instead on nicer floors, upgraded windows, even new doors.

When you tour a new home to buy or rent, you naturally dream about a reading nook, a cozy fireplace, holiday dinners, and movie-night with the family. So how do you make those dreams into a home? How do you get motivated to tackle a reno job? You start with For the Love of Renovating. For sure, it’s going to be work, and authors Barry Bordelon & Jordan Slocum don’t hide that fact here.

Instead, they instruct readers how to make a reno a little less painful, with how-to tips and advice on nearly every home-owning aspect, from finding financing to determining what the outside of your home should look like. Readers will like being forearmed with no-nonsense, no-frills hints. You’ll also relish the many, many full-color photos that drip with inspiration.

This is a book you’ll page through often, whether you just did a reno or are planning another. For the Love of Renovating is a book most homeowners will want to make room for.


 

Book Reviews
Preserved: A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America by Dean G. Lampros. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press. $34.95

Three bedrooms upstairs. That’s a minimum. You need a big kitchen, a large back room would be a bonus, you want lots of bathrooms, and if you can get a corner lot, that’d be great. The thing you need most is a gigantic all-purpose room or maybe a ballroom because you’re planning on a lot of people.
As you’ll see in the new book Preserved by Dean G. Lampros, not all living rooms are for the living.

Not too long ago, shortly after he took a class on historic preservation, Dean Lampros’ husband dragged him on a weekend away to explore a small town in Massachusetts. There, Lampros studied the town’s architecture and it “saddened” him to see Victorian mansions surrounded by commercial buildings. And then he had an epiphany: there was once a time when those old mansions housed funeral homes.

Early twentieth- century owners of residential funeral homes were, in a way, he says, preservationists. Prior to roughly World War II, most funerals were held at home or, if there was a need, at a funeral home, the majority of which were located in a downtown area. That changed in 1923 when a Massachusetts funeral home owner bought a large mansion in a residential area and made a “series of interior renovations” to the building. Within a few years, his idea of putting a funeral home inside a former home had spread across the country and thousands of “stately old mansions in aging residential neighborhoods“ soon held death-industry businesses.

This, says, Lampros, often didn’t go over well with the neighbors, and that resulted in thousands of people upset and lawsuits filed. Some towns then passed ordinances to prohibit such a thing from happening to their citizens. Still, funeral home owners persevered. Moving out of town helped “elevate” the trade, and it allowed Black funeral home operators to get a toehold in formerly- white neighborhoods. And by having a nice – and nice-sized – facility, the operators were finally able to wrest the end-of- life process away from individuals and home- funerals… Here’s a promise: Preserved is not gruesome or gore- for-the-sake-of-gore. It’s not going to keep you up all night or give you nightmares. Nope, while it might be a little stiff, it’s more of a look at architecture and history than anything else. 

From California to New England, author Dean G. Lampros takes readers on a cruise through time and culture to show how “enterprising” business owners revolutionized a category and reached new customers for a once-in-a- deathtime event. Readers who’ve never considered this hidden-in-plain-sight, surprising subject – or, for that matter, the preservation or re-reclamation of those beautiful old homes – are in for a treat here. Despite that the book can lean toward the academic, a good explanatory timeline and information gleaned from historical archives and museums offer a liveliness that you’ll enjoy. This book will delight fans of little-know history, and architecture junkies will drool over its many photographs. Preserved is the book you want because there are other ways to make a house a “home.”

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