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Tomorrow, Gil Schafer III’s The Great American House:Tradition for the Way We Live Now will be hitting shelves in bookstores across the nation. And let me tell you, if you have a love for traditional design — you have to go find this book. We at Design Happens received an advance copy weeks ago and this book has been viewed by most everyone — and the resounding response from the team has been “That’s a stunning book!”

The Great American House

Available for purchase Thursday, September 20.

Gil takes the best of traditional architecture — from the detailed craftsmanship to the elegant, balanced proportions — and translates it for the kind of connected spaces that fit today’s family. The book is full of gorgeous photos, alongside personable, informative tips that illustrate the entire process of restoring, renovating, and building classic homes.

The Great American House inspired me to ask designers from across the U.S. to speak on what they consider to be classic elements of traditional design within American homes. Here is what they had to say.

Tobi Fairley of Tobi Fairley Interior Design:
American is by its very nature all-inclusive and about choice, individual taste, and freedom. To me, American interiors are bold. They’re courageous and risk-taking without forsaking tradition — timeless pieces of furniture layered among stunning patterns and striking colors. They’re also versatile and dynamic, affording a family comfort and luxury as well as high-function for daily use. Above all, American interiors are welcoming, hospitable and inviting; guests feel natural yet pampered.

Great American House

The family room features painted paneling, a rustic beamed ceiling and a fireplace surround made from granite.

Lori Dennis and Kelli Ellis of Design Camp:
Interior styles reflect the many cultures that make up “American.” Truly American homes have features we rarely see in the rest of the world, like ensuite bathrooms, enormous kitchens/great rooms, separate rooms for laundry, home offices and attached garages.

The Great American House

In this country kitchen, furniture-like cabinetry conceals most of the major appliances.

Traci Zeller of Traci Zeller Designs:
An all-American home — no matter how elegant or casual the interior design — has a relaxed, easygoing spirit. Traditional style never tries too hard, but stands secure in the comfort of classic design. You may recognize the bell lantern, the English-arm sofa or the wing-back chair, but what really stands out in an American home is the warm feeling of family, friends and shared memories.

The Great American House

The damask wall fabric lightens the mood in this staircase.

Erinn Valencich of Erinn V Design Group:
When I think of American style, I think of white wood siding, east-coast style homes — large white wrap-around porches and hanging baskets with fuchsia flowers pouring over. Inside, I like to see an “updated traditional” — this could be a palette of black and white, darker wood floors, with a predominance of white wood moldings on the walls, fireplace and around the doors. Walls themselves may be a soft gray. I always picture lots of stripes as well! I think people feel comfortable in this traditional style because it reminds us of the images we grew up with, of what was considered chic, and the lifestyle of the families we saw pictured in homes like these. Jackie O by the lake for instance.

The Great American House

Classic traditional home with large windows filling interiors with light

Tyler Wisler of Tyler Wisler Home:
What I think is truly American is the constant evolution of a space. America itself is such a young country, evolving constantly, being influenced by every nation and always striving for what’s new, next and best, all the while never forgetting the ethnic heritage of our family and forefathers. An American interior is one that juxtaposes cultures and styles, but never forgets sensibility, practicality or function. THAT, is All-American to me!

The Great American House

In this New York City apartment, the desk converts to a dining table.

Kate Riley of Centsational Girl:
An American home is less about a particular style of architecture and more about a feeling. Home styles across the country vary by region, and I love a craftsman bungalow just as much as a colonial; but what makes a home truly American is that on the inside it reflects the personality of its residents — from the furniture that serves the lifestyle to the finishes and accessories that showcase the homeowner’s taste. Here in America, we celebrate free expression, and that includes our interiors too!

The Great American House

Windsor chairs at the kitchen island fit well with the home's traditional character.

Susanna Salk of SusannaSalk.com:
It is tempting to typify an American home as being a New England colonial filled with period American furniture surrounded by hundred year old trees, but American homes are as varied as the country itself: from a gleaming midcentury modern in the heart of Los Angeles, to a stately Georgian brick manor house in Washington DC, to an Adirondack lake house on a Minnesota Lake: the commonality is always the hospitality of the American spirit and style.

The Great American House

The antique Sultanabad carpet inspired this room's color scheme.

You’ve heard from the design world, now it’s your turn! Tell us what you think of traditional design and architecture — or your thoughts on the American home. Start NOW!

15 Responses

  1. Kelli Ellis says:

    Love reading the comments, We can't wait to see the book, thanks for including Design Camp.

  2. LRC says:

    Barnes and Noble, here I come!

  3. Kelly Kole says:

    LOVE IT! Great comments from all our peeps. Can't wait to purchase this book!

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Grant DudleyGrant is the editor-in-chief of Design Happens and digital programming manager of HGTV.com. Despite growing up begging his mom not to ever drag him to another antique store, today his...


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