747: House Thinking by Winifred Gallagher

by Gerard

747.019: Gallagher, Winifred. House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. 289 pp. ISBN 0-06-053880-5.

Dewey Construction:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 740: Drawing and decorative arts
  • 747: Interior decoration
  • +019: Psychological principles

Do you make your home what it is, or does it make you who you are? That’s the question that Winifred Gallagher asks in House Thinking. Her investigation into the intersection of the world of interior design and décor and the field of psychology shows that your living quarters have some remarkable affects on your behavior and well-being.

The book divides the house into several generic parts and boils them down to essential principles. Some of the principles include privacy for the bedroom, status for the dining room, nature for the garden, and so on. This principle is then explored by bringing in insights from the world of interior design, architecture, psychology, and sociology. To be fair, I had no idea that there were this many branches of psychology. We hear from ecological psychologists, design psychologists, environmental psychologists, etc.

This book is not a how-to guide for remodeling or home purchase. Instead, it’s more of a “why-do” guide, showing the reader why rooms are (or should be) built a certain way and how that construction and décor serves to shape our daily lives and moods. And since “why” is always more interesting than “what,” House Thinking captured my interest in much the way that Bill Bryson’s At Home did. We should understand the history of our houses in order to get at a deeper understanding of ourselves.

The only thing that bugged me about this book was the lack of illustrations. If you’re going to expound about the grandeur of the great architectural masterpieces of the last 150 years, then there should at least be a picture of what you’re talking about. It’s very hard to visualize some of the spaces if you’re not an architect. All in all, a very intriguing book.