Archive for May 27th, 2008

When a friend suggested that my house may be a Sears kit home I went searching for the styles offered in 1915.  Nothing I’ve found indicates that my house is one of these, but I rediscovered the simplicity of affordable housing while paging through what I did find.

Most would agree that our lifestyles have changed dramatically since 1915, but certain design principles seem just as relevant today as they were then.  Certain design concepts may even find a renewed place in our post-oil economy.

First and foremost is the front porch.  Indeed a response to the unavailability of air conditioning, the front porch was certainly part of a family’s entertainment. When there wasn’t an affordable way to cross the city or country to see friends and family, the front porch was the place to socialize.  It was a place to connect with neighbors as well as a place to escape the summer’s heat.

Another notable feature of many of these homes was the sleeping porch.  Again in response to comfort, the sleeping porch was a place to escape hot summer nights.  Usually on the second floor, the screened-in area provided comfort, and depending upon how it was furnished, could easily sleep a family of three or four.

Both of these features become logical again as we move towards decreased dependancy on cheap energy.

Most of the homes had small closets and I think its valuable to consider this.  Was there less of a need to store clothing then than there is today?  Unlikely.  Perhaps what was different was that need surpassed the idea of want. Consider too, that shopping was local, cash payment was the only option and consumers carried home what they bought.  Could there be a correlation between closet size and record-setting consumer debt?

One bathroom served the family.  Indoor plumbing, a relatively new feature then, was expensive, but when only one person provided the income for a family, there wasn’t a need for two people to simultaneously prepare for the day.  Affordable square footage was alloted to living areas.  Two bedrooms were the norm even though families were larger.  An unfinished attic offered space for an additional bedroom if needed

Simple square homes and simple roof lines meant greater affordability.  Small homes for small city lots meant shorter trips, on foot, to the market and the kitchen was a place to prepare meals made from local ingredients purchased daily.  Large quantities were not shipped in and could not be refrigerated for long periods.

Our expectations of daily life have grown to such proportions that we’ve created much of the dilemma with which we now find ourselves wrangling.  Our economy is not threatened by what can’t be produced.  It becomes threatened only by outlandish expectations and perhaps the answers to our current challenges are contained on the brittle pages of old Sears catalogs.

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Design Exhibition

OSU’s Department of Design will host the Senior Exhibition at the newly opened OSU Urban Arts Space, located in the former Lazarus building – downtown Columbus.  Over 50 thesis projects from graduating students will be on display Tuesday June 3rd – Friday June 13th.

The show attracts corporate attention from around the US as industry leaders come seeking the best and brightest talent in the areas of industrial, interior and communication design.  The opening reception takes place Wednesday June 4th, 5-8pm.

The event is open to the public and there is no cost for admission.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Ohio State University’s Department of Design.

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