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Magazines Offer Tips On Room Design

The protagonists are identified immediately. Television set. Fireplace. Big, glorious windows that are glare-makers, nonetheless. How do you assemble all three in a room, in a comfortable, attractive way? In other words, how do you design a family room that works?

Fine Homebuilding, a magazine that publishes seven times a year and focuses on nuts-and-bolts construction information, introduces a new design column in its January issue. In a month that includes endless football games, it is appropriate that Sarah Susanka, the Minneapolis architect who will be penning this column, chose to demystify the room that houses the almighty TV set.

Establishing herself as a realist (and not a design-snob with a vendetta against the black box), Susanka acknowledges that the tube rules in this room. She talks sensibly about how to position the TV set in a seating arrangement, in conjunction with the fireplace and in avoidance of glare. She offers a number of drawings and includes the possibility of alcoves to expand the room’s function without tacking on a lot of extra square footage.

The column is called “Drawing Board” and if the others are as good as this first installment, it is a must-read for anybody in the process of designing or reworking their house. Coming up: how to deal with the kitchen/family room relationship.

Also of note in the issue: “The Garage as Starter Home,” an interesting idea and a no-nonsense piece written by and about a young Canadian house-builder. He didn’t want to rent, couldn’t afford the expense of rehabbing an old house and certainly could not afford a full-fledged new home of his own design. So he built himself a lovely two-car garage-with a loft space atop.

And, then there’s the feature on the back cover.

What looks like an advertisement is actually a curious little picture story, featuring the Space Age Connecticut residence of architect Richard Foster.

The house looks something like Seattle’s Space Needle and behaves something like a giant Lazy Susan.

It rotates. The circular home (with an interior diameter of 72 feet) sits atop a 14-foot-diameter bearing and is driven by an electric motor and bull gear “similar to the mechanism that drives a battleship’s gun turret,” reads the text.

All of this exists so Foster and his family can chase the sun and the best views. The most astonishing bit of information: This thing is nearly 30 years old.

Metropolitan Home unveils the winners of its annual design competition, which invites readers to submit their own homes for judging, in the January/February issue.

According to Met editors, if there was a single theme to be culled from the mass of entries it is this: Conspicuous consumption is out. Living well in less space, but with better quality and more thoughtful design, is “in.”

All 11 of the winners’ homes are well worth a look and read.

Don’t miss “Lofty Living in the Windy City,” Chicago’s moment to shine. The winners: M.J. and Larry Daitch and their “airy, 2,300-square-foot, totally rehabbed condominium on Chicago’s North Side.” M.J. owns Galleria M, a hip River North furniture store.

Architectural Digest and House Beautiful take readers around the world in their January issues for peeks inside absolutely magnificent homes. Both magazines found gems. AD found the better ones. It’s a must-get issue for those who love to spy inside the walls of rich people with impeccable taste.

Among the AD stops: a very pretty French colonial house, circa 1918, in Hanoi, Vietnam; a house comprising a string of pyramid forms in St. Croix (by and for architect Donald Smith, former chairman of the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill); and a 124-room contemporary palace in Saudi Arabia, with an elaborate “tent room” built in a subterranean space under one of the palace gardens. Patterned after a traditional bedouin tent, with a fantastic ceiling of goat hair, the room is amazing.

And finally, anybody thinking of an all-white color palette should check out “Master Class,” a new House & Garden feature, which is launched in the January issue. The feature examines one subject in depth. This month, it’s white-its many shades, how to use it well and to a certain style end. Color expert Donald Kaufman leads the feature, which includes three very different interiors, all very white.