Renovation Work on the White House, ca. 1950

During the War of 1812, British troops stormed Washington destroyed major portions of the city, including the White House. By the time that President Truman took office in 1945, the building was near collapse, and the third floor of the structure was called "an outstanding example of a firetrap." Truman petitioned for a major restoration before Congress, although he reasoned, "It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely. In doing so, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the nation."

Only the exterior remained, while the internal structure was completely gutted. The photographs are are from the U.S. National Archives and detail the exhaustive renovations begun in 1950, and completed in 1952.

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I seem to have inherited a lot of my design sensibilities from stories like A Little Princess, Kiki's Delivery Service, and A Wrinkle in Time. What do those all have in common? Each of the main characters has a room in the attic, and magical things unfold there. Sara Crewe, the little princess, sleeps inside a chalk-drawn circle to stay cozy in the wet, drafty attic, and Kiki discovers a talking cat and her abilities as a witch while renting an attic room. I don't know the exact science of these things, but it just seems like attics invite more witchcraft and life-affirming experiences than other rooms in the house. 

Ever since then, I can't resist an attic. It just seems endlessly mysterious and exciting to me, and the ratio of adventures to attic rooms is just too promising to ignore. This two story attic in Stockholm, Sweden, is bright and spacious, and seems roomy enough for all kinds of adventures.

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Bercy Chen Design Studio is a young architecture firm located in Austin, Texas. Former classmates Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen founded the company in 2001 and have since built private residences, commercial buildings and designed concepts for resorts, museums and entire areas of redevelopment. Their work has won them over twenty awards and clientele from around the world.

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For premieres, for re-runs, for decades, they've been in our homes. I'm not talking about microbes, I'm talking about our beloved characters from TV. They've allowed us into their homes and their worlds during convenient and regular prime time hours and in return, we've seen every nook and cranny of their bedrooms and kitchens. Interior designer and avid TV fan Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde has taken the time to create colorful, hand-drawn floor plans of some of our favorite families homes. There may not be any new adventures for Joey, Kramer or Lorelai but these prints will always be there to make you feel at home.

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The Spiral House is an above-ground coastal dream home designed by architects Joeb Moore + Partners. The house lays on the gentle coast of Lower Fairfield County in Connecticut and features breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The architects took on the challenge of building a structure that complied, and complimented, the local FEMA and flood regulation zone rules. The solid concrete structure keeps the house safe from the occasional storm, while the large windows and cedar panels provide ocean-side views for the calmer nights.

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This comfortable little mountain getaway is a space of only 538 square feet, designed by Igor Sirotov. The barn-wood floors and the fireplace make this miniature holiday retreat look more fun than the mountains themselves. The gentle white decor looks more inviting, and definitely warmer, than snow. While Zhanna House is designed to seem spacious, the small interior makes for a perfect excuse not to invite your annoying co-worker, clingy girlfriend or intrusive bear.

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New York is currently stuck in that seemingly never-ending state of flux between winter and spring, which means being properly dressed for the weather about half the time. During this transition period, we long for the warm breeze and dress ambitiously, thinking that perhaps the weather will follow suit. In that spirit, let me show you this balmy beach resort which is only a hemisphere or two away...

From Australian studio Grose Bradley BNV, in collaboration with LGI Architects, the Alinghi Residence is a beach retreat on the coast of Queensland, Australia. Clean lines, tall ceilings, and lots of glass paneling make this place the perfect space for summer. The bare and straightforward concrete structure offers a beautiful contrast with the rocky, rugged landscape of the Queensland coast.

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Forget what you thought you knew about climate control, and meet the Shadowbox house. Designed by Olson Kundig Architects, this shape-shifting home is made to adapt to the surrounding environment. Like a kinetic sculpture, the entire structure morphs to accomodate its inhabitants, with an elongating porch, and retractable walls and roofs. The goal of the house, according to its architects, is to "purposely confuses the traditional boundaries between a built structure and its surroundings."

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Located in Amsterdam, the Rieteiland House is located on the island of IJburg, and comes with panoramic views of the park and IJ Lake. Designed by Hans van Heeswijk Architects, the boxy abode is specially designed to conserve energy, and comes with solar collectors and solar energy storage. Facing the street, automatic panels slide to reveal windows, while the waterfront side is equipped completely with glass and sliding doors.

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Designed by Hiroyuki Shinozaki Architects for a young couple and their child, this spacious structure in Chiba is the house that the alphabet built. The sparse but sunny House H is built with a series of "Y" beams, which provide the bare-bones interior with a sense of closeness. The coolest part of the design though, is that there are six levels of floorboards in the house. The unusual divisions allow for high ceilings in central parts of the home, along with cozy nooks throughout.

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