Photo of Dyckman Farmhouse by Will Femia.
In the Arsenal building in New York City’s Central Park, where he has an office, Franklin D. Vagnone keeps a pie chart. The chart, with five segments, is called the “Evaluation Matrix,” and it is the culmination of years of Vagnone’s theorizing about what makes an effective historic home.
Each section of the “Evaluation Matrix” has headings. That’s where the businesslike organization ends and Vagnone’s trademark quirkiness and plainspeak take over: subheads include “Transcend the Object,” “Dig Deeper,” “Learn by Doing,” Avoid the Narcissism of Details,” and “Keep it Real.” The chart even suggests that historic houses employ NUDE tour guides—guides that are Non-linear, Unorthodox, Dactylic, and Experimental.