Book Review
Title: "The Best Homes from This Old House"
Author: Kevin O’Connor
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011; 228 pages; $35

Whether your normal preferences in reality TV fare run toward something starring a member of that ubiquitous reality show family that shall not be named (hint: starts with K), or "Ice Road Truckers," nature shows or the bizarrely fascinating "Pawn Stars," it’s difficult not to get sucked into "This Old House" if you should come across it channel surfing.

The show is an institution, sure, but it also consistently presents the very best of real estate eye candy.

And while you won’t see any pimped-out mega-Mansions or Versace toilets, what you will see is the best of classic American architecture, lovingly and painstakingly restored.

The show tends to focus on the restoration process itself, versus the finished product, until the credits roll over the top of footage of the amazing results of the crew’s labor.

In coffee table-book format, Kevin O’Connor, Bob Vila’s successor, presents a massive, permanent, colorful set of before-and-after photos and detailed summaries of 10 renovation projects from the "This Old House" TV show.

The care that went into selecting an assortment of homes representing the full spectrum of classic American architecture is clear, and explains the inclusion of properties as diverse as a California Colonial, a New England farmhouse, a Brooklyn brownstone, a Texas bungalow and a Los Angeles stucco-and-wrought iron Spanish Revival, which, in its "after" incarnation, just so happens to be one of the first houses that has taken my breath away in a very long time.

Both the massive scale of these projects and the sometime minute details to which the "This Old House" crews paid intense and loving detail become instantly evident when paging through "The Best Homes from This Old House."

These are homes that were beautiful, but often rotten or simply ripe for attention, before they starred on the show. But, after, they are truly inspired and inspirational — light-filled, customized (one place has floor tracks on which the dining table slides to offer intimate or family-style experiences) family homes tailored to the modern lifestyles of their inhabitants, despite having been completely refreshed, rebuilt, renovated and redecorated in a manner faithful to the property’s origins.

Plaster-covered ceilings, new balconies and raw wood beams receive equal attention as ornate door knobs and hinges, and a decorative wall trim that was applied with a pastry bag.

And the staff, crew and friends of "This Old House," the show, also receive some attention, in the form of interesting one-page profiles throughout the book, which are devoted to various people who have played a role in the show over its history.

The people, places and beautiful things of "This Old House" bask in a long-deserved spotlight in this book. Real estate addicts, do-it-yourselfers and those seeking ideas for remodeling their own old houses will never tire of the pictorials and project descriptions.

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