The sub-title of “The House You Build” by architect Duo Dickinson says it all: “Making real-world choices to get the home you want.” This is a unique “how to” book for those who want their custom-designed new home to be built within its budget.

The author comes across as somewhat of a “cheapskate” but with excellent taste. He suggests several principles, such as use standard materials creatively, don’t be in a hurry, hire a good architect who designs homes you would want to own, build a custom house on a spec-house budget, hire a general contractor, don’t fight the building site, build in phases, be patient, and have a sense of humor.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

This new book is filled with 19 examples of homes built within the last few years that have special features and designs Dickinson thinks are worthy of sharing. The example homes range from 1,056 to 3,645 square feet. They cost $180,000 to $643,000 to build, excluding land costs.

This new book is filled with beautiful color photos of each of the 19 houses. As a typical reader, I didn’t like every feature of every house. But, if I were in the market to build a new home, I would show my architect the features I like and want in my custom residence.

The styles of architecture in the homes vary wildly. Personally, I had great difficulty relating to most of the homes. Perhaps they were too “far out,” ugly, or unique. Some look like low-income housing. This is definitely not a book of elegant homes.

Many of the pictured homes are downright “cold.” Hardwood floors look great, but a few carpets and area rugs would make virtually all of the homes pictured seem much friendlier and livable. Dickinson obviously loves hardwood floors and hates carpets, even area rugs.

A major problem with this wonderful new book is the location of the homes pictured. Seven homes are in eastern states, only three homes are in southern states, and nine homes are in western states, mostly in Washington State. None of the homes is in Midwest states. The selection of homes shown was highly skewed, for no apparent reason.

All the pictured homes look perfect. There is no clutter anyplace. But I did spot a few refrigerator magnets. The homes don’t look “lived in.” The beautiful photos offer great ideas (which is the book’s purpose), but none of the homes look “cozy” or “comfy.”

Chapter topics include “Finding the Third Way”; “Working Home”; “Cabins in the Woods”; “Light and Line”; “Freestyle”; “View to the Future”; and “The Houses Built for You.” Frankly, the chapter titles aren’t very descriptive.

If you want to build a “warm and fuzzy” home, don’t waste your money on this idea book. Most of the houses look like model homes, which are fun to visit, but I wouldn’t want to own any of them. Only three or four appeal to average home buyers like me. This is more an architect’s book than a homeowner’s book. On my scale of one to 10, this beautiful “coffee table quality” book rates an eight.

“The House You Build,” by Duo Dickinson (The Taunton Press, Newtown, Conn.), 2004, $34.95, 208 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


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