Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Century of Settings



The Friday Five
What do the following have in common?
·       Graph paper
·       Old houses
·       Magazine pictures
·       Flea markets
·       Used books
Somewhere in memory, I have it my father wanted to be an architect. Perhaps I inherited my love of houses/house plans from him. Unfortunately, I am one of those bumbling wanna-be’s who is living proof of the old saying can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. In elementary school, I dreaded art time because I could never fold and cut a snowflake to resemble anything close to the frosty flakes, and my Valentine hearts always leaned lopsidedly.
Nevertheless, I keep graph paper on the shelf of the study closet and often sketch the small towns in which I set my stories and even the floor plan of a house if it figures prominently in the plot. I find knowing exactly which street something is located on helps with the narrative as it is decidedly inconvenient to write on page 5 that the dry goods store is on Elm Street and on page 56 that it’s on Sixth!
From magazines I clip pictures of a vintage kitchen or a Victorian parlor, a cozy bedroom, or a mysterious passageway and file them away. Fotolia provides pictures I can purchase for direct use.
So my delight in plucking The Vintage House Book: Classic American Homes 1880-1980 by Tad Burness (Krause Publications, 2003) from a shelf in the local library a few years ago has been real and lasting.  The 256-page book is jam-packed with pictures of exteriors and interiors of houses spanning an entire century. A brief introduction to each of the ten chapters gives an overview of the prevailing architectural trends of the particular decade. 

and it's fascinating fine print. . .

  Over 2,500 images and photographs (both black-and-white as well as color), including some floor plans, have notations offering fascinating tidbits about the history and/or construction of a particular house. If you ever wondered about the evolution of the modern kitchen and bathroom, you’ll find it illustrated here.
Imagine my surprise and delight when, on page 166, I found the exact house that my parents built before their marriage in 1940 (they were then married in the living room) and in which I spent the first four years of my life. Pictures of long-forgotten appliances and fixtures brought back a lot of memories!
I wasn’t long in acquiring a used copy of this tome of treasures for myself. You can ‘look inside’ it here if you think it might be useful in your writing. Three more books which caught my eye are these: (I may have to buy the third one, although I think my house is already furnished in Early Attic.)


Of course, while old homes may sell for a song, making them livable and functional for today is an expensive proposition--even if one can do much of the work on her own. So I wander through my dream rooms in the pages of books and magazines. My characters live there even if I never will!

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