By Nancy R. Hiller
Indiana University Press; $29.95
Gorgeous is the first reaction to this book, with photographs inviting you into the act of being part of each project. Reading the accounts of 18 women who have reclaimed a structure to make it a life-giving place takes us beyond the visual into the visceral.
Reclamation here is more than physical repair, it’s equally restoring a place to its historical and cultural significance in a neighborhood and community. The act of finding suitable items of material culture for exterior and interior use connects a new owner with the feel of the past.
As readers we become part of the process, which translates to keying us into a closer association with our own place of residence. Whether it’s living simply or attaining a more elegant approach, a reclaimed house is both an extension of personality and circumstance. A lot hands-on work and personal conviction goes into every project, creating an investment beyond money.
The goal is for a happily-ever-after ending—and when it’s not, the wrenching separation inflicts a hurting-ever-after. Perhaps the most poignant episode is the story of Catherine Stafford, whose life-long passion for a particular old house was thwarted, rewarded and ultimately tested through daunting twists and turns.