MY FASCINATION WITH houses began when I was a child. We moved, from one coast to another and back, every five to eight years — just enough time to grow the roots of friendships, and then pull them up again. Houses became my roots, and I find that I remember their floor plans better than I remember the friends I made, in those days before Facebook and email made communication easier.
As I grew up, I began to realize that the very layouts of those houses were influencing who I was, and I began to study the psychological impact of architecture more closely. But it was when my husband and I took on a 100-year-old wreck of a house in Port Townsend that all these observations became reality. I wanted my family to live in a house that would encourage honesty and generosity. The American Foursquare we found, with its flowing floor plan and high ceilings, would do just that — once we got past the tons of trash, and the rotten foundation and roof and plumbing and electrical systems. And the rats.
But there is something deeply cathartic about cleaning out a lot of trash, starting over, taking a floor plan and consciously thinking about how your life will fit inside it. I was 42 years old when we found the house, and a reassessment made sense. And so the house became my teacher and, over the years, my roots. The kind that stay.
My new book, “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” is an architectural love story. It is a tale of a house, and a family, and a marriage. And it is a story of how a house can make you feel more alive, if you know what to look for.