Greene House in Phoenix
2006 Bloggies

book reviews: Rustic Arts & Crafts, part I


One of my favorite publishers, Gibbs Smith, has put out number of books on Arts & Crafts cabins and associated styles of rustic homes in the last few years and I've had a few weeks to read through all of them. They're all by two people, both of whom must be especially attached to this particular style of home, and here in part 1 I'll write a little bit about the two books by Robbin Obomsawin, a general contractor and the construction manager at Beaver Creek Log Homes in Oneida, who has 20+ years of log-joinery experience.

My favorite of the bunch is Robbin Obomsawin's The Arts & Crafts Cabin, which is jam-packed with Roger Wade's photographs of high-style rustic cabins. Unlike so many architecture picturebooks that I've been unhappy with this past year, here most of the photos are cropped to give you the context of a full room or larger space which makes the details pictured make a lot more sense. A lot of these homes really stretch the definition of "cabin" - these are big, beautiful Arts & Crafts homes that happen to be in (mostly) rural areas and make use of lots of rough-hewn exposed wood, earthtones and hammered metal. As the owner of a 1920s California bungalow myself, I tend to look at books like these as idea sources for my own endless remodeling and restoration projects, and just because these homes are more ultimate cabins than classic bungalows, there's still plenty useful here.

The author's attention to cabin-specific features - components like outdoor fireplaces, overhanging eaves, exposed beams, etcetera - will be useful for those building one of these moutain castles. One section on space-saving techniques is slightly laughable, given the immense square footage of most of these places, although I suppose its lessons extend to smaller homes. Overall, I found it an interesting and useful introduction to the style, and it certainly bridges the gap between city bungalow and the rustic aspects of the early Arts & Crafts movement.

Obomsawin also wrote The Adirondack Cabin (with photographs by Nancie Battaglia), which is a gallery of much smaller homes - definitely more in the direction of what you'd imagine a cabin is, and many of which are what a cabin was well over 100 years ago. These modest homes dot the crests and valleys of the Adirondacks; some are lakefront vacation retreats, others simple small-town homes, and a few are true mountain-man retreats, deep in the woods. All have a tremendous amount of character - less evocative of a philosophy or movement, as the homes in the former book did, and more a reminder of the survival needs of the settlers of this beautiful but hard region; Obomsawin pays a lot of attention to this history, though, and much of the book is about the evolution of the Adirondack style (or anti-style) and the common features of these structures.

Battaglia's photography is attractive and there are plenty of shots of exteriors, although i do wish that the author and photographer had included more interior shots. One particularly nice feature are the simple line drawings showing different design motifs - various types of rails; door, window and shutter designs, and types of trusses and rooflines. The author's experience and profession comes out in the clear and well-illustrated section of sample plans and a discussion of building materials and wall construction which rounds out the book.