Sears Modern Home – House Kits from 1908 to 1940

A long long time ago in what seems like a country far far away… Sears, Roebuck and Co. had a popular kit house mail order program and sold between 70,000 and 75,000 kit homes. Over 447 different designs from simple to grand were included in their catalog. They even did custom kits if you gave them plans. I just ran across the old archive of designs. Not all 447 are represented but there is a nice collection on the Sears Archives website.

If the homes look familiar don’t be too surprised; Sears didn’t innovate new styles but instead leveraged the popular styles of the day. The kits were easy to build and used balloon framing which made it easier for unskilled home owners to build the kits. Balloon framing is similar to modern framing except that there were no separations between floors in the walls creating a serious fire hazard. Balloon framing is now banned. Other innovations in these homes were the use of drywall, asphalt shingles, central heating, electricity, and plumbing. But their most valuable feature was that they were easy to build and inexpensive.

Today one could argue that it was inexpensive housing like this that lead to urban sprawl and other negative cultural impacts, but you could also take the point of view that these home kits empowered people to own their own homes. In any event the existance of the Sears Online Archive today is a very valuable resource for those looking for inspiration. Phtoto credit Sears Archives.

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