Monday, April 7, 2014

How Homes Have Evolved

Today we will have a short history lesson. I have always been interested in architecture, and how it’s changed over the years. Actually, I was quite the child prodigy, with the things I observed about building in general. My father was a carpenter and brick mason, I don’t know if that had anything to do with it or not, but I was always fascinated with how things were built, the styles that have evolved over the last 55 years of my life, and how they reflect life.

Within the context of this blog, it is no profound statement to say that we are building bigger and better. Our children today do not share bedrooms (we don’t have as many children either). Kitchens have evolved. Bathrooms have evolved. A cursory reading of the real estate ads espouses the glamour of the “open concept” living spaces.

My son (Coach) and DIL RN are building a house as I write this. We used the same builder and I do recommend them. This home has four bedrooms, two and one half bathrooms, and living room, dining room and kitchen, plus a family room. It is going to be absolutely gorgeous!

The first house I lived in was built by my father in 1955. It had three bedrooms and one bathroom, and in reality the living area was “open concept.” My mother wanted the kitchen to look over the front yard (to keep track of us) so she had a galley kitchen and dinette in front and the back of the house was a pretty good sized living room. There was no family room, although we had a full basement to play in. My mother’s washer and dryer was down there—and I vaguely remember a wringer washer—and my dad had a home office tucked into a corner of the basement. It was pretty basic but there was a phone down there.

When I think of how homes have evolved over the years, the first thing I think of is how much stuff we have today vs. then. The second thing I think of is how families interact with each other. Certainly, this is different at different stages of life, and depends on the size of the family. My husband and I have always had two living spaces (living room and family room) but one was a MAIN area and the other auxiliary. Today, as retirees, my husband and I like our space too. For us, it’s very healthy. I can’t imagine being my great-grandparents sitting in one room of an evening listening to one radio program. But again, how many choices were there in those days? Today we have 200 channels and I don't have to watch sports!

One type of home that has always fascinated me is the Sears home. These were catalog homes that you could order and have the kit delivered to your lot and you either built it yourself or you sub-contracted. Or both (think digging a basement). These homes were available from 1908 until 1940. They are in every town in the Midwestern state that I live in. I did some research on them and quite a few were very close to homes my grandparents and my aunt and uncle lived in. The one I am going to use as an example is VERY close to the home my aunt and uncle lived in from the time I was 0-3. When I was an adult, we were talking about this house, and I drew this floor plan on a napkin and my aunt was astounded—that I could remember this much from less than three years old. As I said, I was different.

You can Google “Sears homes” and find lots of examples and a quick look will remind you of homes that you have seen if you live in the Midwest.

Well, back in the day we didn't have as much stuff. The closets were small and there weren't as many rooms. My aunt and uncle lived in a kit home. The house I am talking about (by the time they moved) had two boys 6 and 9 and a girl 2 living in it. I know I spent time there when my brother was born and I was only 2. Sears homes cannot be illustrated without permission, but I surely am allowed to share a LINK!

I do remember this: the living room jutted out and the porch was only a half-porch. I believe that the one bathroom was between the bedrooms on the left side of the plan, not the back of the house. There was no second floor, although I assume there was a basement that I never went down into. I wonder what my aunt and uncle paid for it in pre-1953 days?

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