Suburban Homes

September 25, 1987

Report Outline
Special Focus


“It has a library, a greenhouse lounging area, a wine cellar, a wet bar, three wood-burning fireplaces, a media center, formal and casual dining areas, a whirlpool, a private exercise space, a skylit dressing room and cedar-lined walk-in closets. Not to mention three bedrooms, tow-and-a-half baths, a two-car garage, a screened porch, and much, much more. All of this in 2,500 square feet. All of this without the house feeling the least bit cramped or overstuffed. In fact, the reigning impression is one of relaxed openness and abundant flowing space.”

Welcome to the “postmodern” home. The description comes from a promotional brochure written by Armstrong World Industries Inc., a manufacturer of floor tile for homes. Armstrong constructed this model “Idea House” in Lancaster, Pa., based on surveys of consumer desires. Because the postmodern house features decorative elements borrowed from building styles of the past, it may differ little on the outside from the dwellings that have filled the suburban landscape since the end of World War II. But on the inside, a new home of the late 1980s shows a clear departure from older designs. Gone are the separate formal living and dining rooms that greeted visitors in houses of the past. Open living areas without walls separating the public areas of the house are now the norm.

“Houses tend to be more airy today, with lots of light,” says Patricia Oxley, a realtor in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington. D.C. “They have higher ceilings, an open foyer and often feature a balcony on the upper floor looking out over the living area below.” Kitchens are bigger, and often provide an eating space and a place for relaxed conversation. Master bedrooms, too, are bigger, as are adjacent bathrooms that often contain whirlpool baths and his-and-her sinks.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Suburban Life
Sep. 25, 1987  Suburban Homes
Nov. 14, 1986  Downtown Suburbia
Aug. 17, 1979  America's Changing Suburbs
Jul. 20, 1960  Suburban Migration
Land Resources and Property Rights
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Sentencing and Corrections