Old houses attract because they have an aura of humanity often missing in modern homes - despite the fact that they may be out-of-plumb, unlevel and out-of-square.

Old houses are loved, according to an article in the current issue of Country Living, even though they have cracked plaster, too few electrical outlets and may be chilly in winter with floors that squeak and kitchens that are primitive by today's standards.Worn floorboards, stair treads and handrails inform that generations have walked through a home. A crooked piece of tile or a grapevine joint in the brickwork reminds that hands, not machines, built this place.

During the 19th century construction technology changed dramatically. The products of the industrial revolution became increasingly available and builders could purchase a multitude of mass-produced building supplies and tools.

Houses built during the 19th and early 20th centuries, however, often are the very dwellings that inspire so much affection today. How have they retained their human element?

Even though many of the materials were mass produced, the houses themselves were custom-built. Every custom-built house is a unique collaboration of the owner, designer and the actual builders. Sometimes the result is an architectural failure, but it is never the lifeless ambience of mass-produced housing.