M’s parents made the comment that our new house—well, their new house, our new home—looked like it could have been from a catalog. Something from Sears & Roebuck, maybe. At first I didn’t know what they meant. Sears & Roebuck? Really?
Yes, it turns out. Catalog homes were quite popular in the early to mid-twentieth century. Companies like Sears drew up the plans and sold all the precut and fitted materials. True, these homes were hardly innovative.
Sears was instead a very able follower of popular home designs but with the added advantage of modifying houses and hardware according to buyer tastes. Individuals could even design their own homes and submit the blueprints to Sears, which would then ship off the appropriate precut and fitted materials, putting the home owner in full creative control. Modern Home customers had the freedom to build their own dream houses, and Sears helped realize these dreams through quality custom design and favorable financing.
Apparently, the tastes on our block were pretty similar. Ours is the middle of three houses that are exactly the same: a simple, three-columned front porch, three rooms upstairs, three downstairs, a fireplace, two baths. Some have add-ons—a back room, for instance, outfitted with two French doors and painted a calming light green, where one might hang an embarrassingly large flat-screen and lounge on a futon, wine in hand, watching The Third Man.
This, I tell you, is the life. Now let’s hope it all turns out better than the George & Tammy song.