Restoring a House_Jacket_ Large Hi-resOLD TOWNHOUSES usually come with big ‘buts,’ points out Ingrid Abramovitch in the intro to her new book, Restoring a House in the City: A Comprehensive Owner’s Guide to Renovating Town Houses, Brownstones and Row Houses With Great Style (Artisan). They may have “charmingly anachronistic grace notes, from imposing classical entrances to parlors straight out of Edith Wharton novels,” she writes. But less charmingly, they also tend to have roof leaks, slanty floors, and ominous cracks in the wall.

Never mind. IMO, as readers of this blog know, those are mere annoyances, no contest at all compared to the many pluses of living in a house built in the 19th century, when houses really were built. This book offers abundant proof that antique houses are worth the effort.

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Parlor, Fort Greene

It features 21 exceptional dwellings, from a Boston Brahmin to a double-wide brownstone in Troy, N.Y., a Greek Revival in Charleston, and a San Francisco Edwardian that survived the 1906 earthquake. The projects closest to my heart, of course, are those in Brooklyn, well-represented with six envy-inducing houses.

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Fireplace wall, Fort Greene

Some are restored, some extensively remodeled. Some are furnished with antiques, others done up in a modern mix. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about any of them. A couple are a bit over-the-top for my taste: too much clutter, too much color. But most ooze warmth and livability.

It’s no surprise that the book’s interiors are impeccably styled and photographed. The author, a resident of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is a veteran design journalist and a former editor at House & Garden and Martha Stewart Living.

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Parlor, Park Slope

Luscious as it is, Restoring a House is not just a look book. Along with the inspiration, there’s a hearty dose of practical information on such topics as wood floors, brickwork and ornamental plaster. How can an old-house lover resist?

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Entry hall, Brooklyn Heights

All photos from RESTORING A HOUSE IN THE CITY by Ingrid Abramovitch (Artisan).
Copyright 2009. Brian Park photographer.