One man's lounge chair is another man's bed of nails, as McGill University architecture professor Rybczynski demonstrates in this elegant, witty study of how ideas about comfort in the home have evolved--or decayed, some might say--over the centuries. Rybczynski began his exploration of comfort when he discovered ""the fundamental poverty of modern architectural ideas"" while attempting to design his own home. Looking back over the centuries, he found that in the Middle Ages ""people didn't so much live in their houses as camp in them""; the idea of comfort was unknown. In northern Europe in the 17th century arose the concept of stimmung, a ""sense of intimacy that is created by a room and its furnishings."" This led to the development in Holland of the house as a snug, private enclave. The French then learned to differentiate rooms by function, and to adapt furniture to the human form. Comfort in the home reached its apex in Georgian England, with house interiors that were both sensible and beautiful. Unable to leave well enough alone, however, modernism spurned comfort in favor of minimalist austerity, a movement culminating in the celebrated--but acutely uncomfortable--Wassily chair. Rybczynski blasts modernism's ""shallow enthusiasms,"" its ""rupture in the evolution of domestic comfort,"" calling for a return to houses with more intimacy and privacy. This will appeal to everyone who has thrown out those dreadful butterfly chairs and tubular sofas in favor of good old lumpy couches. A warm, erudite book aglow with common sense.