Five Ways Homes Have Evolved Over the Past Century

Last modified on January 8th, 2016

Have you ever wondered what our homes will look like in 50 years, 60 years, 100 years? Back in the 1920’s, people who wanted to build their own homes didn’t have to call a local contractor – they could order a self-build kit for a few thousand dollars from Sears & Roebuck.

The typical kits included a full set of building plans, lumber, shingles, windows and doors, hard wood flooring material, molding and even the paint or varnish necessary to raise a ready-to-occupy family home.

Those compact four to six room homes had more in common with today’s new construction homes than you might imagine. You may even find a few still in use, although they’ve probably been through some upgrades and renovations over the years.

Exterior Construction Material

Although many things may change over the course of the next century, many of the homes in your neighborhood will probably still be standing and new homes will most likely look very similar. Builders are still using the same base construction materials – brick and wood – that past generations used. Until scientists develop more eco-friendly, sustainable construction materials that are cost effective and attractive, builders will use materials that have a proven track record.

While exterior appearance and construction techniques haven’t changed much over the past century, interiors and features hidden from the street-view have.

Here are five examples.

Windows and Doors

Today’s windows are more energy-efficient. Home windows do more today than just provide a way to catch of view of the outdoors. Glass is lighter and stronger than it was near the turn of the last century. Specialty tinting and manufacturing technology allow homeowners to control the level of light that comes into a room, manage heat transfer more effectively and reduce UV light transfer that can damage artwork and drapery.


Most homes built in the early 20th century had limited storage space – small closets in particular. Some early American homes didn’t even have closets since most people didn’t have an abundance of extra apparel and shoes to store. The Sears & Roebuck catalogue offered a piece of furniture that served as a combination hanging clothes storage space and chest of drawers for a while – beginning around 1908.

Over the past century, closets have expanded and assumed a multi-function role in the household. Today, you’ll find walk-in closets that have dressing tables and seats in many luxury homes. Other closets have been converted to sewing “rooms” and highly organized storage for sports gears or hobby supplies. It common to find more than one closet in bedrooms than previous generations enjoyed.


One of the most significant changes in the evolution of home design is the incorporation of technology. While it wasn’t uncommon to find many homes without running water or electricity during the early decades of the 20th century, today the vast majority of homes have both. And, you’ll find computer enabled dishwashers, refrigerators, and other smart-home technology in most new homes built today.

Solar Power

More people have at least some solar applications in their homes today. In 2006, roughly 30,000 homes in the United States used roof-top solar panels. Two studies, one from the Department of Energy (2014) and the other from SunSpot Vision (2012) estimate the number of homes with solar panels installed on rooftops could skyrocket to somewhere between 900,000 and 3.8 million by 2020.

Traffic Patterns and Convenience

One of the most significant changes in recent years has been a shift toward efficiency – not energy efficiency, but rather usability and convenience. Homeowners today look for smaller spaces that do more. Think large open spaces that provide opportunities for socializing, cooking and working from home. Pantries often house computer workstations nestles between the can good storage and linens.

Twenty-first century homes may look similar to twentieth century predecessors on the outside, but the inside is a whole different story.


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