Part I of the two-part book, aptly titled “The Essentials,” outlines Schafer’s architectural “toolkit”—both the concrete techniques he uses for every project and the more emotional and intuitive elements he takes into consideration, the so-called “lightning in a bottle” that fills his work with soul. Sections that include the delicate balance of modern and traditional aesthetics, the juxtaposition of fancy and simple, and the details that make each project special and livable—from the doors and windows to fireplaces, mouldings, and hardware—are informative and enlightening. Schafer also delves into what he refers to as “the spaces in between,” those often overlooked spaces like closets, mudrooms, and laundry rooms, explaining their underappreciated value in the broader context of a home. Part of Schafer’s skill lies in the way he gives the minutiae of a project as much attention as the grand aesthetic gestures, and ultimately, it’s this combination that brings his homes to life. Part II of the book is the story of seven houses and the places they inhabit (figs. 1–4) each with a different character and soul: a charming cottage completely rebuilt into a casual but gracious house for a young family in bucolic Mill Valley, California; a reconstructed historic 1930s Colonial house and gardens set in lush woodlands in Connecticut; a new, Adirondack-camp-inspired house perched on the edge of Lake Placid with stunning views of nearby Whiteface Mountain; an elegant but family-friendly Fifth Avenue apartment with a panoramic view of Central Park;

Fig.1. Mantel detail, new residence in New Jersey

Fig. 2. Kitchen, Charleston carriage house

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