I read "Home: A Short History of an Idea," by Witold Rybczynski, published in 1987. It's a book about the development, in Europe and then the U.S., of the western notion of "home" -- what it should look like, what it should feel like.

I don't have much interest in architecture, but this was a good book for someone like me, who doesn't know one house style from another, because it concentrates on "home," as the title says, as an idea. Along with that idea, Rybczynski talks a lot about "comfort," which goes hand in hand with "home." Hundreds of years ago in Europe, people lived in houses but the houses weren't divided into rooms the way they came to be -- everything happened in one or two big rooms -- and the house wasn't a place just for immediate family. Lots of people -- servants, guests, relatives -- lived there, and often they all slept, bathed and ate in the same big room. It wasn't "homey."

How the modern conception of home developed, with rooms defined for specific uses and the family house as the center of family life and comfort, is the subject of the book. It's not the most fascinating subject (at least not for me), but it is interesting to learn that some of our most basic ways of living and ideas about privacy and comfort are not inherent but traditions that have built up over time.

Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at will@poststar.com and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at

@trafficstatic.

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