Home renovation tips for improving what you've got

Renovation and preservation are big topics these days. Does one fix up and improve, or find a new place with promise and potential and move? Plenty of good books have come along recently which will aid and abet both moving and improving. One such book is Metropolitan Home: Renovation Style, by Joanna L. Krotz (Villard Books Division of Random House, $40). It's a comprehensive guide to home transformation that covers everything from new plumbing fixtures to a total makeover. The book was begun back in 1981 when Metropolitan Home readers, through surveys, told the editors that they weren't so interested in buying the conventional American dream of a new house in the suburbs. They said they preferred an old house with character - such as old Victorians and waterfront lofts - to the usual ``builder blandness.'' A new generation of home buyers claimed it wanted style, fine workmanship, and charm, and was willing to roll up its sleeves to help accomplish the renovation process.

At first, editors thought this was a passing Yuppie preference that might soon change. Yet investing in good, old houses has become a mainline idea and one that appeals to many age and economic groups.

In 1985, according to the National Association of Home Builders, Americans spent more than $80 billion on residential renovation, a record level. This figure compares to only $75 billion spent on new construction. The 1986 renovation figure will be still higher. The renovation trend has now become ``the renovation movement,'' and this substantive volume serves as both workbook and source book. It is full of specific examples that tell both how-to and how much. It provides architectural and decorating ideas, and numerous design strategies for changing and using space in new ways. Some of the tips and cost estimates were culled from actual renovations which were featured in the pages of Metropolitan Home magazine.

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