Richard Olsen looks back at the long-standing practice of building new houses with reclaimed elements and old architectural parts in Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design. Olsen is the former architecture editor at Architectural Digest and the great-grandson of a Norwegian carpenter, so he approaches the book with a thorough understanding of both the craft and design involved. In addition to detailed project descriptions and homeowner interviews, Olsen tells the origins and history of this practice and explains the enduring popularity of designing and building a handmade house. He also notes how it generated the current trends of using salvaged building materials or incorporating an industrial aesthetic in a custom house.
The book’s introduction relates the popularity surge of hand-crafted home building at a certain time and in specific parts of the world where culture and climate supported the tradition. Olsen follows with stories and examples of architects and other designers or craftspeople whose work inspired the handmade house movement. The projects he selected as examples are then presented in two sections—houses designed and crafted by non-architect owners and those created by architects for clients or themselves, including the home designed and built by renowned environmentalist and architect Sim Van der Ryn for himself. Throughout his narrative, Olsen weaves the tale of how this once niche practice worked its way into our everyday design culture.
Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design, by Richard Olsen with photography by Lucy Goodhart and Kodiak Greenwood, is published by Rizzoli and available for the list price of $45.