The Cottage Book

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The Cottage Book
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1989
Written and Photographed by Richard Sexton
Introduction by Sally B. Woodbridge
Concluding essay by Donald MacDonald, FAIA
Book design by Thomas Ingalls + Assoc.
Chronicle Books, 1989, 1998
120 pages; over 170 color photographs
ISBN: 0-8118-2232-X (revised edition)
$19.95 retail

Out of Print


The Cottage Book is perhaps Richard Sexton’s most commercial published effort and, fittingly, it has been quite successful in terms of sales and longevity. First published in 1989, the title has gone through multiple softcover printings, and in 1998 Chronicle Books published a new revised edition. Over 75,000 copies of the book, in all editions, were sold before the title finally went out of print in 2010.

The Cottage Book is a photo essay on the tradition of cottage living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nestled within the urban fabric of one of America’s densest cities are a variety of rustic, hillside cottages, many of them on pedestrian alleys and in the rear yards of townhouses and apartment buildings. The terrain and stratospheric housing costs of the Bay Area have spawned considerable creativity and alternative living situations, such as the houseboat community in Sausalito. The Cottage Book was inspired by these compelling urban improvisations. Sexton had purchased a funky hillside cottage in San Francisco in 1983. The experience of renovating this little cottage and the firsthand knowledge of the strikingly different lifestyle that cottage living affords ultimately resulted in The Cottage Book.

Sexton’s photo essay on the cottages of the Bay Area is complemented by an introduction by architectural writer Sally Woodbridge and a concluding essay on the contribution of the cottage to affordable housing, by architect Donald MacDonald.


“An exceedingly charming book of photographs featuring the exterior and interiors of cottages throughout San Francisco’s Bay Area.” – New York Daily News, December 3, 1989

“…this book shows how to style minimal space to create the ideal cottage environment. Through his photographs, Sexton captures the “intimacy, coziness and unabashed goofiness” that makes cottage living so special.” – Southern California Home & Garden

“From primitive refugee shacks built in the wake of the 1906 earthquake to the sophisticated cottages of Bernard Maybeck, this elegant photo-essay is a definitive survey of the Bohemian tradition of cottage living in the San Francisco Bay Area.” – A. Allen Dizik, Designers West, December 1989

“A common feature of all the examples given here is a kind of cheer and sneaking satisfaction at cheating the odds of limited space with ingenuity and crafty solutions.” – Denver Post, April 13, 1990