by Ty Pennington
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Once the domain of Bob Vila, home improvement shows have taken on a new face, in a large part because of the cult show "Trading Spaces" on TLC. In 2003, TLC began parlaying the show into a series of DVDs and home improvement books and now one of the show's two carpenters, Ty Pennington, has published an home improvement book of his own, Ty's Tricks.
Although most of the furniture Pennington builds on the television show is done on the cheap, the designers have a total budget of $1,000/room, including all the carpentry, in Ty's Tricks, he points out that many of the techniques he uses can be used for much larger building projects without skimping on the quality of the renovation.
Pennington takes the reader through the complete renovation process, from purchasing equipment and supplies and evaluating the space to be redecorated to applying the finishing touches. Along the way, he provides examples based on the work he has done, discusses when a person should do the work himself and when he should contract out the job, and assorted other hints which allow the do-it-yourselfer to learn to complete the projects they wish to do.
The book is written in a casual, even chatty, style, with a variety of photographs of projects, tools and Ty. In addition, it is liberally illustrated with diagrams which demonstrate how to perform the functions Pennington's text is describing. Rather than being a step-by-step "how-to" book, Ty's Tricks is more about the general principals involved in redesigning a room and building the furniture and structures which will make the room a success.
Frequently, Ty spends the time to explain the basics of a project, such as how to use grout or the best methods for painting, rather than specifics. Instead, he provides the foundation and then offers some suggestions of where the home-owner should go in order to achieve a look and feel which is specific to that particular homeowner.
Just as "Trading Spaces" is less about specific projects and more about innovative ways to think about design, Ty's Tricks is not so much about building the perfect bookshelf or bed, but rather about the fundamentals of home improvement and a primer on ways to expand those basics until the desired effect is achieved. Pennington succeeds in part because of his engaging style, which comes across as well on the page as it does on television.
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