American Beauty: Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat by Thom Filicia takes you through his process of finding, renovating, and enjoying the house he bought and completely renovated in Skaneateles, New York (with a forward by Tina Fey). Born nearby in Syracuse, New York, Thom has always been tied to the area, particularly in the summertime where he has fond memories of the Finger Lakes. He wound up back there in a house that was advised to be torn down -- instead, he gave it a huge overhaul himself.
This book is fantastic. Thom takes you through his entire creative process of redoing the house, but it doubles as a guidebook for anyone trying to accomplish the same feat. It advises you on the entire process -- from picking an architect and contractor to establishing eessential elements that ground the house (Thom chose five-plank wooden doors, a stone fireplace, and paneled walls) to choosing the defining details of your home. He recommends really doing your research: find out about the time your house was built, look around at other buildings in the area and scour the Internet to gather ideas. Thom breathed new life into his old house while preserving its traditionally all-American nature.
Thom is the first one to acknowledge that re-doing a house is not only an enormous project, but that you don't have to do it with a limitless budget. You can make financial accommodations (like using unusual door handles instead of matching ones if the matching ones are too expensive or a simpler way to treat a window). Little details like this stand out and give the house more character. Towards the end of the book, he goes room by room and walks you through the decor decisions he made with exceptionally beautiful imagery. It's not shocking that the end result was spectacular. I'm so glad Thom now has a place of refuge where he has such wonderful memories.