Best Old House Restoration Books, Gifts & Novelties

The following are the Best books for the Old House Restorer that I personally recommend. Books are grouped by category. Gifts and novelties make a statement and will help preserve our historic buildings.

Old House Restoration

Old House Journal Magazine
I personally recommend the Old House Journal for everyone owning a home built from 1760-1960. If you only subscribe to one magazine, choose Old House Journal.If you live in a town where your local government or code enforcement does not understand historic preservation, I suggest buying a gift subscription for them. By browsing this magazine an interest and respect for old houses may deveolp.
American Bungalow Magazine
A good resource for information focusing on American bungalow homes.
The Vintage House: A Guide to Successful Renovations and Additions
by Mark Alan Hewitt & Gordon Bock
Both authors were teachers of mine at Drew University’s Historic Preservation program. A must-have primer for homeowners and professionals, this impressive book presents the first comprehensive survey of its kind on how to achieve truly compatible, stylistically resonant additions and renovations. From exploring “How Do Houses Grow?” to “Getting the Details Right,” it guides readers through typical projects and issues, such as finding more space within an existing footprint or blending in new windows or dormers without destroying historic character.
Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes
by George Nash
Old houses are different than new houses in many ways. Although modern technology may be good, it is not a fix-all solution. If you do the work yourself or hire someone, it is best to be informed on the proper method. You are the steward responsible for the future of your home so you really need to do it right.
Save America’s Windows – Do It Yourself Window Restoration
by John Leeke
In this book John Leeke covers traditional methods and the latest in modern high-tech materials and techniques.
Bungalow Details : Exterior
by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen
Many bungalow homes are neglected, thinking they rank below Victorian restoration. This book allows one to appreciated their architectural details to properly restore these homes back to what they were meant to be.

Old House Products

1910 Sears Roebuck Home Builder’s Catalogue
This is a reprint of a 1910 Sears Builder’s Catalog. Just because you don’t have a Sears House, doesn’t mean your home didn’t have Sears hardware and products. Books such as these are a great resource for the old house owner. I have the same door knobs and hinges featured in the book throughout my house.
Turn-of-the-Century Doors, Windows and Decorative Millwork: The Mulliner Catalog of 1893
by The Mulliner Box & Planing Co.This is a reprint of a 1893 catalog for the Mulliner Box & Planning Company. Great for dating a house, seeing what styles were available at the time for restorations, and interesting enough for just browsing.
Roberts’ Illustrated Millwork Catalog: A Sourcebook of Turn-of-the-Century Architectural Woodwork
by E.L. Roberts & Co.This is a reprint of a 1903 catalog for Roberts’ Millwork. Great for dating a house, seeing what styles were available at the time for restorations, and interesting enough for just browsing.
The Victorian Design Book: A Complete Guide to Victorian House Trim
by Richard O. ByrneThis is a reprint of a 1903 catalog. Great for dating a house, seeing what styles were available at the time for restorations, and interesting enough for just browsing. Has color photos of stained glass windows that were available.
1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue A great resource to date what you have or find out what you need for your turn of the century home. Need window shades? See what was available in 1897. If it was sold by Sears, you can be sure it was a popular item. I can bet you will look at this catalog from cover to cover. Unfortunately items are not available to order. Please do not submit order form.

Architecture and Design

The Old Way of Seeing (And How to Get It Back)
by Jonathan Hale
As briefly discussed in my Aesthetics page: If you ever wandered why NEW buildings pale in comparison to old buildings, this book will answer your questions. The author promotes rediscovering our aesthetic eye and how simple geometric harmony can create LIFE in a building. This book provides a basic understanding to architectural design.
Traditional Construction Patterns: Design and Detail Rules-of-Thumb
by Stephen Mouzon
The Do’s and Don’ts of design. If only contractors and architects today would follow the Principals and Rules of architecture, today’s buildings would be so much more aesthetically pleasing to look at. This book will train your eyes enabling you to be able to critique architecture.
Get Your House Right
by Marianne Cusato
There are many architectural rules to understand. This book is full of easy to follow illustrations showing the wrong way and the correct way elements of a house should be designed and explains it well.
American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
by Cyril M. Harris
A reference to architectural terms and their use.
A Field Guide to American Houses
by Virginia & Lee McAlester
What style is your house and what features define that style. Great to have when looking at old houses to understand the character defining features of a particular style of architecture. Easy to use. A must have.
Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms : 1600-1945
by John J. G. Blumenson
A companion guide to the above Field Guide to American Houses.
A Concise History Of American Architecture
by Leland RothThis is the book required for my Architectural History class at Drew University.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
by Jane JacobsJane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early sixties, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. This book will help you understand why development we see just does not work.

Exteriors – Painting

Victorian Exterior Decorations:
How to Paint your 19th Century House Historically

by Roger Moss and Gail Winkler
This is a great resource full of pictures and information. There is a lot to know about color placement on a house. An error will upset the entire balance of your house. Roger Moss and his wife Gail Winkler are experts in the field. I have attended many of their talks.

Interior Decoration

Victorian Interior Decorations:
American Interiors: 1830-1900

by Roger Moss and Gail Winkler
This is the best resource I have found so far. There is a wealth of information in a great format.
The Tasteful Interlude
American Interiors through the Camera’s Eye, 1860-1917

by William Seale
A collection of photos from 1860 through 1917 of real rooms in average homes that a person can relate to (not everyone wants to decorate a Newport Mansion). What better way to understand period decorating styles than by examples. Once you have gained the knowledge of decorating styles by reading Victorian Interior Decoration listed above, and combine it with the examples in this book, you will be ready to put what you learned to use to decorate your home. That’s what I did.
Photographs of New York Interiors
At The Turn of The Century

by Joseph Byron
Similar to the book listed above – “The Tasteful Interlude”, this book also included some public buildings. I recommend purchasing both books.
The House Beautiful: An Unabridged Reprint of the Classic Victorian Stylebook
by Clarence Cook
For homes built in the 1870′s or 80′s or even later. This book provides information on furnishing your home tastefully and affordably. Decorate the right way – Victorian “inspired” decor is boring.
Hints on Household Taste: The Classic Handbook of Victorian Interior Decoration
by Charles L. Eastlake
If your home was built in the period before or after 1878, and the original owners were considered to be “fashionable” for their day, this is your guide.
Aladdin “Built in a Day” House Catalog, 1917This is a catalogue for kit houses. However, this book and many like this are great for interior decoration. There are pictures and layout of rooms – excellent for decorating a 1917 period home. Notice there are no coffee tables
Small Houses of the Twenties: The Sears, Roebuck 1926 House Catalog This is a catalogue for kit houses. However, this book and many like this are great for interior decoration. There are pictures and layout of rooms – excellent for decorating a 1926 period home. Notice there are no coffee tables.

Wood Refinishing & Decorative Effects

The Weekend Refinisher: How to Make the Most of Your Furniture -A Step-By-Step Guide
by Bruce Johnson
IF YOU ONLY BUY ONE BOOK ON Furniture Refinishing, this is the one. It will save you a lot of unnecessary work and PREVENT YOU FROM DESTROYING AN ANTIQUE. You will learn the most valuable lessons NEVER mentioned in any other book.
The Furniture Doctor
by George Grotz
A great how-to book that shows you how to deal with particular problems with furniture and refinishing.
Understanding Wood Finishing : How to Select and Apply the Right Finish
by Bob FlexnerThis book has excellent reviews on Amazon. The images would be better if they were in color or more clear.
The Practical Guide To Decorative Antique Effects
by Annie Sloan
This book will show you a variety of simple techniques to create an antique effect on furniture etc. Crakle-glazing, graining, using waxes etc. are featured for creating an antique appearance. Caution: First read the Weekend Refinisher before you mess with an antique. (you may think there is no hope for the existing finish, but in most cases you will be wrong – read it first, then thank me!)
The Art of Faux: The Complete Sourcebook of Decorative Painted Finishes
by Pierre Finkelstein
This book will show you a variety of simple techniques to create an antique effect on furniture etc. Crakle-glazing, graining, using waxes etc. are featured for creating an antique appearance. Caution: First read the Weekend Refinisher before you mess with an antique. (you may think there is no hope for the existing finish, but in most cases you will be wrong – read it first, then thank me!)
Professional Painted Finishes
by Ina Marx
This book contains the most information on Graining Techniques. Personally I do not like the way it reads, however it will give you all the information you will ever need. When I purchased this book it was $40.50 and I was hesitant about recommending it. Now it is half the price new. (If I had only waited). This is a good book for someone really serious about this stuff. THE PRACTICAL GUIDE TO DECORATIVE ANTIQUE EFFECTS listed above, gives you a good overview which is sufficient for most.

Other Books

Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy
by Martin Lindstrom
If we could only advertise to promote the restoration of windows etc. as manufacturers promote their plastic products! Here is a book showing how we get brain-washed.
Convert Your Refrigerator Into an Antique Icebox
by Ken Roginski of Old House Guy LLC
An old house with a modern kitchen does not work. The secret is to maintain the flow as you move throughout the house. These E-book provides instructions on how to convert your modern refrigerator into an antique icebox.

Gifts that Make a Statement

Pacifiers
Advocacy for preservation of old houses starts early. Babies don’t need to talk because this special pacifier says it all. Text can be modified with babies name. This is the perfect gift for a baby – get them started promoting preservation with this pacifier. Studies are pending to show that extended use will make your child into a famous historic preservation architect.
Refrigerator and Icebox Magnets
A refrigerator magnet will help make your point when gifted to someone that is considring replacing their windows. A great gift for your Code Enforcement officer or the window replacement guy down the street.
Doggie T-Shirts
Let your doggie be your spokesperson. Historic house remuddlers will be bitten! Woof!
Mugs
Bring this mug to work and pretend to accidentally forget it on your co-workers desk. Eventually they will get the idea. If they don’t, just refer them to OldHouseGuy.com website.
Lawn Signs
Do the people across the street have a sign on their lawn advertising their new replacement windows? Fight back with this 2-sided lawn sign and show them.
Bumper Stickers
Imagine the surprise on customers faces when they go to Home Depot and see these stickers on their window displays. Imagine the surprise on the window salesmans face too. They just need to read OldHouseGuy.com and they will be using these stickers too.
Save Our Old Homes or Save Our Old Windows shirts
Be a walking billboard for preservation! You can save history!
Choose Save Our Old Homes or Windows
This shirt is 2 sided. It comes in long sleeve, hoodie, etc. in many colors including distressed.
Click image for important detailed instructions for wearing.