Sheetrock & Shellac: A Thinking Person's Guide to the Art and Science of Home Improvement

David Owen, Author . Simon & Schuster $24.95 (303p) ISBN 978-0-7432-5119-8

Owen, a New Yorker staff writer, takes the middle road here, offering neither a brass-tacks guide to renovation nor an acute introspective account of the endless remodeling of his home. Instead, he ping-pongs between describing the incomplete minutiae of many projects in his rambling 200-year-old Connecticut house, walking staccato-step through the building of a cabin some 10 miles away and diving into the history of such things as kitchen surfaces, window glazes and shellac. He presumes readers have followed his various projects as he's written about them over the years. Those who haven't can indeed still follow, though they might feel they are eavesdropping on someone else's conversation. Owen writes that home improvement is "an ongoing relationship between a dwelling and its dwellers, and when it's done right it doesn't end." When he finishes something he sees only what he did wrong, so prefers to "leave a few ends dangling," which provides only limited insight into the nature of human domesticity or creativity. Owen will not connect with the many home renovators who, no matter how pleasurable the process nor satisfying the outcome, want to finish something they started. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/08/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
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