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NONFICTION : AMERICAN HOUSES, text by Philip Langdon (Stewart, Tabori & Chang: $29.95; 256 pp., color photographs).

July 26, 1987

Dwellings in all their rich diversity spread across the continent are the subject of Philip Langdon's "American Houses." Expanding on an article he wrote for The Atlantic magazine several years ago, journalist Langdon takes the reader on a pictorial and personal survey of the shifting styles of preferred residences, from exquisitely detailed condominiums on the coast of South Carolina and a nicely restored Connecticut farmhouse, to a singular suburban structure in Albuquerque, N.M., and an evocative addition in Los Altos, Calif.

The view is decidedly privileged, with the informed text slanted more to the architect and building industry than to the public. Langdon does have a nice writing style, though it is offset somewhat by the mostly color photographs. Many are oddly sterile, presenting the array of houses as sort of set pieces in a slick sales brochure. Nice for browsing and dreaming the American dream of a home of one's own, distinctly designed, sited with sensitivity, and constantly appreciating in value.--Sam Hall Kaplan

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