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Posts Tagged ‘built-ins’

Permanent Furniture IV: Window Seats

December 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

This is my fourth series on “Permanent Furniture,” a term I’d not heard until Bill Inge lent me his 1927 “Builders’ Woodwork” catalog.

And what a wonderful term it is. It defines the “built-ins” that make early 20th Century American architecture so enchanting and beautiful and practical.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images below appeared in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork catalog.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing these fun old architecture books!!

To read Part I, click here.

Click here to read Part II and Part III.

As always, please leave a comment below!

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perm

"Window seats and bookcases are very often used in combination, adding comfort to convenience."

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window

"These niches are not intended to supplant bookcases..." In other words, we know that you're going to have a *lot* more books than this, because you're a typical intelligent American with an innate desire to learn and grow. Wow. If only they could have known that TV would soon arrive on the scene and turn us into a nation of marginally literate, non-reading, believe-anything-you-see-on-the-tv saps. (But I digress...)

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window seat

Check out the fountain in the backyard. Now *that's* a view! I also love the little writing desk.

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seat

See the item in front of the pen with a rounded bottom? Now, I'm sure most of my highly intelligent, history loving readers already know this, but it was a blotter, and on its underside, it had a piece of absorbent paper or cloth. After signing your documents with a quill pen, the blotter was used to soak up excess ink.

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perman

Since they don't have a fountain in the backyard, they put up some draperies. But they do have a fine-looking Dutch Colonial out back. This is my favorite nook. Can you imagine curling up on this soft cushion, literally surrounded by all your favorite books? That lamp is in the wrong place, though.

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window

Rather plain, but still a quaint idea.

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wsingod

If I still had a house with radiators, I'd install this design in a second. It's a radiator cover, plus window seat, plus book storage, plus drawer space. And it's not recessed (as many are).

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seats

Another pretty one, but still pretty. And good storage underneath that bench seat.

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seats seats

The simplest of designs, and yet there's a lot of storage space in those seats.

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sears

This "permanent furniture" window seat and bookcase appeared in the 1927 Homebuilders' Catalog.

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1571 HB 1923

This, unlike the above, is an actual photo which appeared in the 1923 Harris Brothers (kit homes) catalog. The house shown is Harris Brothers' Modern Home #1571. In addition to the window seat, it has the bookcase colonnades, built-in buffet and gorgeous beamed ceiling.

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house house house

This was the only real-life example of a window seat I could find, and it's a poor example because it's really an "Inglenook" more than a window seat. And yet, it's still mighty pretty. The house shown is a Sears Magnolia, in northern West Virginia.

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To read more about the Sears Magnolia in West Virginia, click here.

Read all about phone niches by clicking here.

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Permanent Furniture: Fireplace Nooks

December 2nd, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

In this continuing series of “Images From The Awesome Old Architecture Books of Awesome Historian Bill Inge,” the next fun topic is “Permanent Furniture.”

While browsing through Bill’s “Builders’ Woodwork” catalog (1927), I was intrigued by this phrase, and found that it was a reference to built-in bookcases, nooks, and fireplace seats.

And my oh my, they are beautiful!

“Permanent Furniture” is also a jarring reminder that, despite our so-called progressive views on recycling, our not-so-distant ancestors did far better in preserving and respecting our country’s resources. I suspect they’d be scandalized if they saw a modern HGTV program, which seems to advocate disposing of anything in a house that’s more than 20 years old.

I shudder to think how much early 20th Century “Permanent Furniture” is sitting in a landfill somewhere, having been tossed into the waste stream for no other reason than the fact that it looked “dated,” or “old-fashioned.” And the modern home improvement shows fuel the fire, encouraging folks to rip out and replace anything that isn’t “up-to-date.” It takes “keeping up with the Joneses’” to a whole new level of insanity (and debt).

But don’t get me stated on HGTV. If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d have that show and its ilk banned from the airwaves.

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Bill loaned me this book on one condition. "Don't drool on the pages," he said with a degree of gravitas, "because trust me, you're going to love these 1920s images."

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"The various items...have been designed for service and simple dignity." I not only loved the photos, I loved the accompanying descriptions, too. Beautifully said.

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Nookie

Looks like a "Hospitality Seat" made it into the living room. I'm not sure how practical this one is, but it sure is lovely to look at. The woodwork is stunning.

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Simple, but dignified, as promised. This set-up was very common in so many early 20th Century houses and it creates such an inviting look. What could possibly be better than streaming sunlight, a warm fire and a good book?

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For those who don't own a lot of books, and like really big pillows...

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Nookie 3

Apparently, Spanish homeowners prefer their guests to stand. Maybe it inspires them to leave faster.

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Room for lots and lots of books! I do love the look of this. The oak wainscoting would be dark, but dignified.

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Most of these fireplaces have the lights over the mantel, whereas this has sconces on the side walls. The original caption says that this fireplace "is very artistic with its Tudor Gothic arch."

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Despite the fact that this arrangement may be a little too toasty, I think it's my favorite. I love how the wainscoting blends right in with the seat backs. Looks like there's storage within those benches.

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A classic look for early 20th Century Colonial Revivals.

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Another Colonial-esque mantel with flanking bookcases. The original caption says that the “sliding curtain is very practical.” I guess it’s a good idea for when your illiterate friends visit and you don’t want them to know you’re a bibliophile. The mirror looks like it’s draped with black crepe, but I don’t think that’s what it really is.

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I love how they have a picture of a Spanish mission house over the mantel. Just in case you were wondering which style of mantel this house is designed for...

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This image is from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's the fireplace nook for the Sears Ashmore. Pretty fancy for a "simple little kit house."

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osborne

Last but not least, here's some "permanent furniture" in a Sears Osborne in Illinois.

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To read about built-in phone niches, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

November 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Richard Warren Sears is one of my favorite characters in American history. He truly was a marketing genius, a fascinating entrepreneur and a real family man. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep and profound devotion to his family.

Richard Warren Sears was about 16 years old when his father died. That’s when Richard went to work to support the family.

By the mid-1880s, he’d found gainful employment as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Early in his career, Sears paid a mere $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $5000 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive, people could now travel easily throughout the country, but there was one problem with all this zipping to and fro:  In the early 1880s, our country had 300 time zones.

Many rural communities still relied on sun-time. Travelers headed west we’re expected to subtract one minute for every 12 miles of travel. Travelers headed east did the opposite.

Hope youre good at ciphering!

In November 1883, railway companies lobbied Congress to establish four time zones, to help standardize complicated train schedules. And what need did this new-fangled law breed? Watches.

Suddenly, they were a very hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He advertised in regional newspapers and soon moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Occasionally the watches came back needing repairs, so in 1887, Sears decided it was time to hire a helper. A young watch repairman from Hammond, Indiana responded to Sears help wanted ad and was hired immediately.

And what was the watch repairman’s name?

Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

Richard and Alvah became good friends and eventually partners.

In 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog (52 pages), offering jewelry and watches. By 1893, the little catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. By the following year, the catalog hit 507 pages.

In 1895, Alvah Roebuck decided he wanted out. The 31-year old watch repairman’s health was collapsing under the strain of this new fast-growing business. The enormous burden of debt coupled with Sears wild ways of doing business were too much for mild-mannered, methodical Alvah.

He asked Sears to buy his one-third interest in the company for $25,000.

Of course, Sears didn’t have that kind of cash on hand, so he offered Chicago businessmen Aaron Nusbaum and Julius Rosenwald (Nusbaums brother-in-law) a one-half interest in the company. The price - $75,000, or $37,500 each. Six years later, in 1901, Rosenwald and Sears decided to buy out Nusbaum and offered him $1 million for his share of the business. Nusbaum refused and asked for $1.25 million, which he received.

(Pretty tidy profit for six years!)

Following a nationwide depression in 1907, Rosenwald and Sears were at loggerheads on the best course of action to weather the economic storm. This disagreement really did highlight their radically different concepts about everything.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse, closed-door meeting with Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company.

Sears reason for retiring: He didnt see the work as fun anymore. A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died from kidney disease, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multimillion dollar mail-order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Not too bad for a kid that got his start selling unwanted watches at a little train depot in Redwood Falls.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. Hes shown here in his office in Sears World Headquarters (Chicago).

Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. He's shown here in his office the Sears' Headquarters (Chicago), at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. It's claimed that Mr. Sears had one of the very first telephones in the state of Illinois. He had another telephone installed in his mother's home in Oak Park. Now *that's* a good son! :)

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Look at that telephone!

Look at that telephone! I bet that would fetch a pretty price on eBay! And you may notice that Mr. Sears is holding a Sears catalog in his right hand. He was quite the promoter.

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Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown above).

Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first "Sears Modern Homes" catalog (shown above).

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Did you know that Sears sold cars in the 1950s? You’ll never guess the brand name they gave to their vehicles!  :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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The Glendale: A Good Substantial House of Nice Appearance

November 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

World-famous Realtor and Sears House aficionado Catarina Bannier found this Glendale in the DC area, and sent me a bevy of wonderful photos, showcasing this beautiful Glendale.

Probably built in the early 1910s, this house is in amazingly original condition. And Catarina got some great photos!

The double windows situated at the corners of this foursquare make the Glendale easy to spot. The smaller windows (front and side) with the diamond muntins are also a distinctive feature.

To learn more about the Sears Homes that Catarina has found in DC, click here.

To learn more about Sears Houses in Illinois, click here.

The Sears Glendale, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Glendale, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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An unhappy Glendale in Mounds, Illinois (just outside of Cairo).

An unhappy Glendale in Mounds, Illinois (just outside of Cairo). This photo was snapped in 2010. Most likely, this house has now been torn down.

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Mounds

"Every bit of space has been used to the best advantage..." And all this for $1,748.

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And heres Catarinas Glendale in the DC area.

And here's Catarina's Glendale in the DC area. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view.

Another view. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Did I mention that this house is in wonderfully original condition?  WOW, look at the details!

Did I mention that this house is in wonderfully original condition? WOW, look at the details! How many hands have brushed past the finial on this newel post in the last 100 years? Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up from the original catalog page.

Close-up of the newel posts from the original catalog page.

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Original windows, too!

Original windows, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Out

The Glendale had two small fixed sashes on the first floor.

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Inside, it looked like this!

Inside, it looks like this! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The newel posts inside are even prettier!

The newel posts inside are even prettier! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And further down the staircase, youll see the distinctive plinth block that is typically found in Sears Homes. The problem of matching up difficult compound joints was solved with this simple block.

And further down the staircase, you'll see the distinctive plinth block that is typically found in Sears Homes. The problem of matching up difficult compound joints was solved with this simple block. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And theres an original light fixture in one of the bedrooms.

And there's an original light fixture in one of the bedrooms. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Built

This massive built-in China hutch retains its original finish. And it's beautiful! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Original hardware, too!

Original hardware, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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original

If you look closely at the floorplan, you'll see the built-in hutch in the dining room. Also, take a look at the lone column in the doorway between the "parlor" and the dining room.

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The second floor shows four tiny bedrooms and a very long hallway.

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A view of those original windows from inside.

A view of those original windows from inside. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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I

Inside, there's a column and small shelf on just ONE side of the living room/dining room entry. This is also shown on the floorplan (above). Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the PERFECT Christmas gift, click here. You’ll be glad you did!  :)

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Breakfast Nooks: Darn Cute

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Built-in breakfast nooks became wildly popular in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have.

Bungalow builders and architects dealt with small houses by making the best use of small spaces, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than dealing with the big fancy wooden table in the dining room.

This is the third of three posts on breakfast nooks at this site. Read more about breakfast nooks (and see many more photos) here and here.

Below are pictures from Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, showing the breakfast nook (with prices) of the early 1920s.

Brea

The 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog shows two breakfast nooks.

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"The Dawn" has a fold-away table.

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When the sun comes out, the table automatically drops down into place! Awesome!

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The Dawn, although it lacks the automatic features of The Sunrise is a much nicer looking table.

"The Dawn" is 2'6" wide and 4' long. Pretty small, but the price is right.

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The Sunrise

The Sunrise is only $32.90. I'll take two!

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awe

"The Sunrise" lacks the automatic features of "The Dawn," but it is a much nicer looking table, and quite a bit larger, too.

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Cover of the 1932 Montgomery Ward Building Material catalog, which featured breakfast nooks.

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A close-up of the built-in breakfast nook featured on the cover of the hardware catalog.

cover nook

The "cozy corner dinette" sold for a mere $14.95. Nice looking, too.

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Nook room

Another room? Well, maybe. Good-looking nookie, though.

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caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!

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The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

And its in color!  From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And it's in color! From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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The Built-in Breakfast Nook: Practical, Easy to Build, and Darn Cute

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify” (and Ralph Waldo Emerson is purported to have responded, “I think one simplify would have been enough”).

Thoreau would have loved the early 20th Century breakfast nook!

Built-in breakfast nooks became wildly popular in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have.

Bungalows were beautiful but a little cramped, especially compared to an Italianate Victorian! Creative builders and architects improvised by creating intimate spaces in small areas, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was  easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than dealing with the big fancy wooden table in the dining room.

Below are pictures from catalogs and magazines of the time, showing the breakfast nook of the early 1920s. At the bottom is a picture from a 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, showing a “convertible” breakfast nook! Table by day, stiff-as-a-tabletop bed by night.

The first is from the February 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal. It appeared in an article titled, “If a Woman Must Work From Home.”

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

caption here

This simple breakfast table was offered with the Sears kit home, The Verona.

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Cover of the 1932 Montgomery Ward Building Material catalog, which featured breakfast nooks.

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A close-up of the built-in breakfast nook featured on the cover of the hardware catalog.

cover nook

cOn page 34 of the catalog, this "cozy corner dinette" was offered for $14.95. Not a bad deal. And it's made of clear western white pine and needed a small space of 5'6" by 3'8". Nice looking, too.

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Nook room

Another room? Well, maybe. Good-looking nookie, though.

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caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!

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Nook

This page features the breakfast table offered in the Sears Magnolia. These seats have backs!

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Breakfast

This "breakfast alcove" came with the Sears home, The Honor.

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The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

And its in color!  From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And it's in color! From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

The image below appeared in the June 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics and provided the ultimate space saver. By day, it was a cute little trestle table with matching benches. By night, it was an extra sleeping space for your overnight guests.

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Easy to make and simple to use, this "convertible" breakfast table provided extra sleeping space for visitors.

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As seen in the 1919 Popular Mechanics, this breakfast nook could be folded out into a bed. Overnight Guests - it's what's for dinner!

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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Coming Out of the Closet: Murphy Beds and Their Practical Uses

March 9th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

How many baby boomers even know what a “Murphy Bed” is? In the early years of the 20th Century, these ingenious space-saving devices were all the rage.  And they were practical, too. What good’s a bed during the middle of the day? When the sun pops up in the morning, it’s time to make the bed, fluff the pillows and tuck the bed back into the closet.

“The Cinderella” (so named because the house was so small it required less work), was a cute and cozy kit home offered by Sears in the early 1920s. This little bungalow made good use of its small spaces by incorporating a murphy bed. Take a look at the pictures below to see how they did things in the 1920s. All images are from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

To learn more about built-ins in the 1920s kit home, click here.

To learn about breakfast nooks, click here.

Bed

This page from the 1921 catalog shows the practical application of a Murphy Bed.

Murphy Bed

Murphy Bed

Folds away in the morning

So easy, even a very large child can do it!

Words

And there's a sink in the corner!

Beddy Bye Bye

Beddy Bye Bye

Wow

Floor plan, showing the Murphy Bed.

 

The Cinderella, as seen in the 1921 catalog

The Cinderella, as seen in the 1921 catalog

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Built-ins and Sears Kit Homes

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Many times, I’ve seen less-than-informed sources report that if your home has built-ins, such as built-in ironing boards and breakfast nooks and telephone niches, it’s probably a kit home.

This is not true.

Built-ins were practical space-saving ideas that became very popular in the early 1900s, which was also the years when Sears kit homes became popular. And, built-ins were big sellers in hardware catalogs, too. In other words, you could add them to your house in later years.

Both Sears and Montgomery Ward offered these built-ins in their mail-order catalogs.

Pictured below are examples of the built-ins offered in the Sears Honor-Bilt Hardware catalog.

1933 Sears Building Materials catalog

1933 Sears Building Materials catalog. Note the Sears Mitchell on this catalog's cover. Note, these aren't just building materials, but HONOR BILT building materials!

Sears Ironing Board

For $5, you could purchase this dandy ironing board that was designed to fit within the studs.

Sears

For an extra $2.25, you could upgrade to an oak telephone cabinet. The phone shown here is a 1910s/20s candlestick phone. The vented panel on the lower portion held the "ringer." Old phones did not have individual ringers, but used a central bell located somewhere in the house.

Sears

For a mere $14.95 you could have this adorable "Colonial Breakfast Alcove" in your bungalow's kitchen.

To read more about breakfast nooks, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About 1920s Breakfast Nooks

November 1st, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Built-in breakfast nooks were a popular item in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have. (As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson is purported to have responded, “I think one simplify would have been enough.”)

Bungalows were a fine idea whose time had come, but there was one problem: space! Creative builders and architects improvised by creating intimate spaces in small areas, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was far easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than frittering away the hours dealing with meal preparation at the formal dining room table.

Below are pictures from catalogs and magazines of the time, showing the breakfast nook of the early 1920s. At the bottom is a picture from a 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, showing a “convertible” breakfast nook!  Table by day, stiff-as-a-tabletop bed by night.

Hopefully, some history loving old-house homeowners will be able to use these vintage photos to restore the breakfast nooks in their own homes.

To read more about breakfast nooks (and see more pictures), click here.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute. This image is from the February 1911 Ladies' Home Journal.

caption here

This simple breakfast table was offered with the Sears kit home, The Verona.

caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!

Nook

This page features the breakfast table offered in the Sears Magnolia. These seats have backs!

Breakfast

This "breakfast alcove" came with the Sears home, The Honor.

nookie

The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

The image below appeared in the June 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics and provided the ultimate space saver. By day, it was a cute little trestle table with matching benches. By night, it was an extra sleeping space for your overnight guests.

nookie ps

Easy to make and simple to use, this "convertible" breakfast table provided extra sleeping space for visitors.

nookie

As seen in the 1919 Popular Mechanics, this breakfast nook could be folded out into a bed. Overnight Guests - it's what's for dinner!

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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