I have a fascination – nay, obsession – with structures that were built for different (usually commercial) uses, that have now been converted into residential spaces. (As evident in my Friday blog series: Rezoned and Repurposed).
So when I found a book called “Converted Into Houses” on amazon.com, I had to purchase it. Nevermind that it was published a year before I was born (1976!) and is, understandably, dated.
I actually go out of my way to read old books, books that have been forgotten long ago, back-listed, and lost in library storage rooms. This is probably a result of my own two published books being so quickly tossed by the wayside after the initial month of hype. Not that I’m bitter about it – that’s the nature of the publishing business. There are thousands of books being published EACH DAY, especially now that e-books have been invented. Most books go quietly to the old-book graveyard… where few people visit since there are so many trendy new books clamouring for our attention.
When I saw this old book about house conversions, I felt an obligation to give it some proper respect. I paid all of $6.00 for a used copy in good condition.
Written by Charles A. Fracchia and photographed by Jeremiah O. Bragstad, Converted Into Houses features 95 pages of color photographs and brief descriptions of structures around the world which have been converted into residential living space. The author/photographer team profiled such varied places as a chicken coop (Sebastopol, California), a firehouse (San Francisco, California), a power house (Taconic, Connecticut), a butterscotch factory (London, England), a Pullman car (Reno, Nevada) and an icehouse (Canaan, Connecticut) among others.
The remarkable thing about this book is that I found the photos to be far less outdated than the actual text. Yes, the photos all have that 1970’s grainy, unsaturated orange haze to them, but the decor of the actual interiors (with few exceptions) could have been from a house built this year. Or 100 years ago. They were just so timeless.
Some were decorated with period antiques (which never go out of style) but others were sparse and contemporary, classic and tasteful, seemingly ahead of their time. The only hints I got that this book was produced in the 1970’s was the outdated appliances, occasional shag carpeting and a record player with accompanying vinyl collection.
The avant-guard nature of these places (and their utter creativity) probably had a lot to do with the fact that almost all of the owner/converters were some type of artist. Be it visual, fiber arts, architecture, wood, metal, printmaking, etc., all of these wonderful homes had the undeniable touch of an artistic soul.
Converted Into Houses was a quick read ( I knocked it out in 2 nights, and I’m a very slow reader) but is a book that I will keep for my personal library. Probably not for the narratives – which reflected the formal vernacular of the times – but for the glimpse we get inside of some of the most unorthodox and nostalgic homes in the western world.
You can find the book Converted Into Houses here.