In his 2003 treatise, Creating a New Old House (The Taunton Press, $39.95), Russell Versaci, AIA, taught readers how architects use precedent to design historical homes. His latest effort, Roots of Home: Our Journey to a New Old House (The Taunton Press, $45), traces the origins of those classic American house styles.

Early settlers, Versaci argues, brought with them house styles from countries such as England, France, and Spain. “They tried to create what they knew,” he explains, “but it wasn't always successful because of the different climates. It was a real trial-and-error process.” Over time, however, they adapted their traditional building methods to local conditions and resources—and thus was born regionalism, according to Versaci. He ties classic American house styles, such as the Spanish Colonial of Alta California, to the regions from which they evolved.

As principal of Middleburg, Va.-based Russell Versaci Architecture, Versaci specializes in high-end custom homes, but he's also on a quest to make traditional design more affordable. Using the successful Sears Home model, he has formed a partnership with Connor Homes in Middlebury, Vt., to design a line of kit houses. “I'm not sure I will be a highly custom architect much longer,” he says, noting that soon the need may not be there. “I saw prefab as a solution for getting better design into the marketplace, a solution for the cost problem, and a way to diversify my practice.”