I have worked on and off as an editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine for many years, and was a reader from the first issue back in 1981. I still contribute to the magazine regularly and I’m ineffably grateful for the opportunity. It changed the course of my life, from where I live to the work I do to the friends I’ve made. When I was a young man struggling to learn the trade, and then to build a home for my family, I found a brotherhood of craft in the pages of the magazine that didn’t exist on the tract-home sites where I worked. As I became a part of Fine Homebuilding and met its editors and writers, it became clear that that community was real.
The magazine has evolved, of course, and I was a part of that. The early issues’ zeitgeist has changed over time. In the day, the stories in the magazine elevated the romantic side of building. There was a sense that building one’s own home, not just by writing checks, but by grit, by sweating, bleeding, and dripping snot, was a high-level expression of being human.
That sense seems largely gone from the magazine, for reasons good and bad. Mainly, I think that the world has moved on from those back-to-the-land hippy days when Fine Homebuilding occasionally published essays about the struggles involved in making your own shelter. To survive, the magazine had to change, to focus on high-end construction, cutting-edge design, and green building.
The early zeitgeist still exists within a certain community, however, if less so in the magazine. I miss that, but again, the world has changed. Home building was simpler In the early 1980s than it is today. A talented, enthusiastic layman could buy a piece of land then and craft a house.
I grew up among people like that. More than a few of us built our own homes. That drive seems rare today.