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The 1950s Home


The House That Levitt Built
Seattle Modern
The 1950s At Home
Frank Lloyd Wright On The Web

----- outdoor features
stone facades
redwood exteriors
attached garages
swimming pools
back yards

Click here to see more outdoor views of 1950s homes!

home trends
Before the late 1940s, garages were not very common, and attached garages were even harder to find. In the new postwar subdivisions, tract homes were built on tiny lots, and the attached garage became popular for practical reasons. By 1950, 45 percent of all new homes had an attached garage or carport.

The space-age Googie decor that was becoming popular in restaurants and hotels could also be found in homes. Toned-down Googie influences included upswept roofs, large windows, starburst wall clocks and pastel colors.

home heating

central heating
By the 1950s, over half of all homes had central heating. There were two types of central heating: forced-air systems (furnaces) and radiator systems. Furnaces were becoming the popular choice for new homes. Hot water and steam radiators were used in older homes and apartment buildings.

fuel types
In the old days, most furnaces and boilers were powered by coal. In the 1950s, coal was being replaced by fuel oil and natural gas. The age and location of your home usually determined the type of fuel you used. Gas was used in newer homes, large towns and cities. Fuel oil was used in smaller towns, rural areas and in older homes that were converted from coal-burning systems.

fuel oil
Fuel oil was delivered regularly by DX, Standard Oil, Sinclair, Cities Service, Phillips 66, Mobilgas and Mobiloil trucks. It was kept in a storage tank in the yard or basement.

natural gas
In the 1950s, the number of homes heated by gas was increasing. There were actually two types of natural gas: manufactured coal gas and real natural gas piped directly from the ground. Before the 1950s, most gas-heated homes used manufactured gas. The interstate pipelines were completed during this decade, which allowed real natural gas to be effectively distributed to large areas. From this point on, real natural gas was the dominant fuel.

local heating
Some homes still did not have central heating, especially those in the country. Stoves and oil burners were used for the downstairs living areas, while the upstairs bedrooms were usually unheated.

suburbs & the good life

Each type of suburb is named after the method of transportation that connects it to the city. The 1800s gave us railroad and streetcar suburbs, and the 1920s gave us early automobile suburbs. The postwar climate of the late 1940s and 1950s gave us the fourth type of suburb: the freeway suburb.

In the late 1940s, a housing shortage forced developers to search the open countryside for vacant land. Gradually, farm fields gave way to paved streets, cul-de-sacs, small lawns and sidewalks. Cookie-cutter tract homes, ranch homes and split-level homes were designed with growing families in mind.

These new subdivisions were miles away from downtown, and were connected to the city by the new freeways and expressways.

There were no trees, and all the tract houses looked the same, but no one seemed to mind. The suburbs symbolized everything good that the modern world had to offer.

the subdivisions...
Levittown: An Ideal American Suburb
Long Island History: Levittown At Fifty
Early Years Of Marlton Hills

On Long Island, Levittown was the first major suburb of the postwar era

In the 1950s, society had returned to a peacetime existence...but something was different!

*There were more families, thanks to the baby boom

*The general population was attaining a higher level of education, thanks in part to the G.I. Bill, which made it possible for war veterans to go to college

*The G.I. Bill also insured mortgage lenders against loss, which made it easier for veterans to purchase homes

*The prospering economy allowed people to buy more luxury goods

As a result, young families with an eye to the future started to move out of the crowded cities, and the suburban experience became a way of life.

People weren't sure how to include the television in their interior decorating plans....

....was it an appliance, like the radio or refrigerator?

....or was it furniture, like a table or chair?

To solve this dilemma, many early sets had doors that could be closed when the unit wasn't on, making it both functional and attractive.




in the living room

wood paneling
sofas with spindle legs
big starburst wall clocks
boomerang-shaped coffee tables
console hi-fi systems
flocked wallpaper
wrought-iron accents
Eames furniture

Eames Furniture
Mid-Centurian's Back To The Fifties Room

High-fidelity sound!

Visit my Technology page to
learn more about record players,
radios and TVs in the 1950s!

Click here to see more living rooms and rec-rooms from the 1950s!




in the bedroom

bedside telephones
matching bedroom sets

better living
through electricity

Just like mom!

washers & dryers
refrigerators & freezers
vacuum cleaners
electric ranges

Electric washing machines with wringers had been around in various forms since the 1900s. Beginning in the 1930s, you could buy a separate extracting machine with a spin cycle to replace the wringer. The first fully automatic washers combining wash, rinse and spin cycles came out in the 1940s.

Sales of automatic washers first surpassed wringer washers in 1953. In the 1950s, new models adopted their current appearance and featured timers and push-button controls for different fabrics and colors. The first combination washer-dryer units also came out during this decade.

History Of Washing Machines
Vintage Vacuum Cleaner Museum

Oh honey, is this for me?
--Electrolux vacuum cleaner, 1954

Earl Silas Tupper invented Tupperware in the early 1940s and started selling it in retail stores in 1946. He found that his products sold better when they were demonstrated in the home, so in 1951 he began selling Tupperware exclusively at home-based parties.

Tupperware History
History Of Sunbeam Mixmasters

in the kitchen

Sunbeam Mixmasters
Waring blenders
Oster blenders
Betty Crocker cookbooks
large enameled roasters
Kensington ware

Dutch doors

Melmac dinnerware

Duncan Hines (the man, not the brownies!) became famous in the 1930s when he wrote his first restaurant guidebook for travelers, Adventures In Good Eating. By the 1950s, he was publishing recipe books and lending his name to a line of packaged foods.

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