Editor’s note: This review is part of the RoundTable’s new Book section. It is our effort spearheaded by Book Editors Barbara Goodman and Caryn Weiner to highlight local authors and local publishers. If you have any suggestions of authors or books, please contact the RoundTable by emailing books@EvanstonRoundTable.com.
The luscious coffee table book, At Home in Chicago, A Living History of Domestic Architecture, written by Patrick F. Cannon and photographed by James Caulfield (copyright 2021, CityFiles Press) is a wonderful addition to any library, especially if the prospective reader has an interest in architecture, Chicago architectural styles, Chicago history or interior design.
This is really the way to get in the door to some of the most private residences in Chicago — and yes a few in Evanston.
The book is published by a small publishing house that specializes in beautiful storytelling and rare, striking photography. CityFiles Press’ publisher is the RoundTable’s own Richard Cahan, an Evanston resident who calls CityFiles “a small but mighty media company that believes in the power of words and pictures.”
Cannon and Caufield have combined their talents on five other architecture-related books before, focusing on Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Prairie style and great Chicago buildings in general.
The local homes featured including Frances Willard’s home and Dawes Mansion, now home to the Evanston Historical Society. A prominent local architecture firm, Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker Residential Architects, have at least two homes featured and both are stunning.
It speaks to the breadth of Cohen and Hacker’s range that each home meets the needs of the respective homeowner clients without screaming stylistically that the design came from one particular firm.
The arc of history provides the outline of the book across five sections – Before the Fire, Rebuilding Chicago, New Architecture, Boom Before Bust and A New Century. The text is well-researched and the photographs are stunning. The reader is taken on a whirlwind tour through time starting in 1836 and concluding in 2015.
The photos give a hint to some of the creative ways there are to accommodate modern living in a variety of residential situations and environments.
The 73 homes are located throughout Chicagoland and vary by type and location: freestanding, attached, high-rise condominiums, farms, cabins, historical and new, suburban and urban.
Several are locally famous or designed by well-known architects, such as the Nickerson Mansion (which later became the Driehaus Museum) and Farnsworth House.
Keen observers may know a home’s exact location based on its street view, but few are lucky enough to wander through the rooms inside to get a sense of what it must be like to live there.
The large, detailed color photos are a portal into a fantasy world most of us can only dream about. The variety is large enough that one is bound not to like every single home or style, despite how perfect each one looks in the photos. (That’s what a good stylist and Photoshop can provide.)
If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to go inside some very special homes and learn about the choices that went into the home’s design decisions, this book is for you.