Fixer Upper

In the last year, ambitious Americans have spent nearly $120 billion remodeling their homes, according to Harvard researchers. (And, yes, they study such things.) But when it comes to renovation inspiration, episodes of "This Old House" can only take you so far. That's where Taunton Press comes in. Last fall it launched a fascinating series of books called "Updating Classic America," and so far they've covered bungalows, capes and colonial houses. An edition on ranches is due out this fall.

Written by architects and filled with lavish photography, the series gives readers a primer on the trademark design elements of each genre, before-and-after looks at dozens of renovation projects and handy definitions (to help you distinguish between, say, a "shed dormer" and a "Nantucket dormer"). The resources page even lists contact info for the architects whose work is featured in each volume. The books cost $29.95 apiece, but beware: just page through one, and within days there'll be a very expensive contractor parked in your driveway.