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A brilliant carpenter shares meditations on work, creativity, and design, revealing powerful lessons on building a meaningful life based on his experience constructing some of New York’s most iconic spaces.
Over the past forty years, Mark Ellison has worked on some of the most beautiful homes you've never seen, specializing in the most rarefied, lavish, and challenging of projects with the most demanding of clients. He built a staircase that the famed architect Santiago Calatrava called a masterpiece. He worked on the iconic Sky House, which Interior Design named the best apartment of the decade. He’s even worked on the homes of David Bowie, Robin Williams, and others whose names he cannot reveal. He is regarded by many as the best carpenter in New York.
But before he was any of that, Ellison was just "a serial dropout" who spent his young adult years living in a string of cockroachy apartments, taking work where he found it, and sleeping on couches between gigs, feeding himself by making cabinets and apprenticing with contractors on dusty work sites.
In Building: A Carpenter’s Notes on Life & the Art of Good Work, Ellison tells the story of his unconventional education in the world of architecture and design, and how he learned the satisfaction and mastery that comes from doing something well for a long time. He takes us on a tour through the lofts, penthouses, and townhomes of New York’s elite that he has transformed over the years—before they’re camera-ready—and in a singular voice offers a window onto what he’s learned about living meaningfully along the way. From staircases that would be deadly if built as designed, algae-eating snails boiled to escargot in a penthouse pond, and the deceptive complexity of "minimalist" interior design to the overrun budgets, scrapped blueprints, and last-minute demands that characterize life in the high-stakes world of luxury construction, Building exposes the messy wiring behind the pristine walls that grace the glossy pages of Architectural Digest.
Blending his musings on work and creativity with immersive storytelling and original sketches, photos, and illustrations, Building is an insider’s guide to what really goes on in the rarefied air of high-end New York real estate, a meditation on building a life worth living, a delightful philosophical engagement with problems and solutions, and a social anthropology of the facades that we all live within and behind.
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