U.S. Home Ushers In the Swinging ’60s in London

Filed in Construction Industry, Design, Housing Trends by on June 25, 2014 0 Comments

London1960_Page_1_sizedJust weeks into the decade that would soon be dubbed “The Swinging Sixties,” a “typical American home” constructed by NAHB took U.S. home design and technology across the Atlantic to the Ideal Home Exhibition in London.

While there’s no evidence that the Brits were so impressed that they sent us the Beatles and “groovy” in gratitude, the London House was definitely a highlight of the exhibition.

Designed for what was then a typical American family – a husband, wife and three children under the age of 18 – the 1,550-square-foot ranch house featured an open plan with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a carport. “The garage is out of fashion in the United States,” the brochure asserted knowingly. “The trend now is towards a carport.”

Another mid-century innovation that appears to have met with the same level of enthusiasm as the carport was the connected bathroom. The master bath and hall bath were connected, presumably so that the adults, whose bathroom included only a shower, could access the tub in the children’s bathroom. For convenience, the washer and dryer were also located in this expansive bathroom area.

A new-fangled amenity with considerably more staying power was also showcased: central air conditioning, which the brochure insisted was common in moderately-priced U.S. homes.

With a kitchen/family room as well as an L-shaped living/dining area, the house had ample space for family activities and entertaining.

London1960_kitchenThe most innovative feature was truly a portent of things to come. The kitchen island with cooktop and grill has since become a staple in American homes. And the pass-through from the kitchen to the dining room clearly anticipated today’s casual kitchen counter dining.

An Associated Press article that year provided additional details, noting that the house had a central radio system, and that some interior walls were plastered while others were wood paneled.

Furnishings included both traditional colonial styles and more contemporary items, and no doubt the pet-loving Brits were pleased by a feature that isn’t evident on the floor plan. There’s a doggy door for the exclusive use of the residents’ canine companion.

The article focuses considerable attention on the home’s many labor-saving appliances and even makes it clear that some people found the connected bathroom/laundry area appealing. “That yummy shower, and that whiz of a washing machine right between the baths where it belongs!” is a typical comment, AP notes.

In a U.S. suburban location, the house would have been priced at about $17,000. According to the Census Bureau, the median new home price in 1963 (the first year it began collecting that data) was $18,000 and the average was $19,300, so the London house had a typical price tag as well.

It was presented by NAHB in cooperation with the National Housing Center, the National Design Center and a number of well-known U.S. manufacturers. Following the show, the house was reportedly relocated to Brighton, England.

Now called the Ideal Home Show, the exposition was founded in 1908 by the Daily Mail and is still going strong. You can read a Toledo Blade story about the house too.

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