Then Again: A 1950s Better Homes and Gardens Idea Home Today

Better Homes and Gardens introduced its Idea Home in 1957. Now, more than 50 years later with new homeowners, the home has a design that's still functional for today's families.


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Vintage Better Homes & Gardens magazine on coffee table
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    "It's a blueprint for your future, a forecast of a way of living best suited to your family," Better Homes and Gardens, September 1957 issue.

    In a 1957 issue of the magazine, Better Homes and Gardens featured its Idea Home, which was built to focus on the future. For this house, its design replicating the Idea Home, the forecast proved correct. The fivedecade old home fits perfectly with the lifestyle of its 21st-centry homeowners, which shows how a well-designed home can stand the test of time.

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Then: Outside Space

    In 1957 Better Homes and Gardens teamed with the acclaimed San Francisco-based architectural firm Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons to design the original Idea Home. The house was intentionally sited to capture breezes and unlight. The design features inside and outside living zones and separate public and private spaces to promote the way families lived.

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Now: Outside Space

    Today, the same design elements of the original Idea Home hold true -- and are still on trend with today's home construction. The house features a no-wasted-space floor plan, family-friendly connections between living areas, and an indoor-outdoor flow that brings in natural light and helps the house seem larger than its 2,100 square feet. Built at a time when architecture was just starting to promote the idea of family time, this house reinforces the idea of the lasting quality in good home design.

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Then: Open Living Area

    The architects created a T-shape floor plan that separated the public and private areas of the house, with the entryway serving as the divider. The open floor plan of the living area in the 1957 Idea Home was designed to make it the central hub of the house and emphasize family-friendly architecture.

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Now: Open Living Area

    The homeowners kept the original architecture of the Idea Home. They use the open layout for a family-friendly space to play games and work on crafts. To emphasis the open floor plan, the homeowners painted all of the walls in the space the same pale shade of gray, then painted the fireplace a darker shade of gray to emphasis that feature and play up the high, vaulted ceilings.

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Then: Open Kitchen Plans

    The kitchen is part of the open floor plan of the living areas of the Idea Home. An informal eating area connected to the kitchen keeps the family close. One unique feature of the home design: outside space used as an extension of the house. This is why the home features many entrances to the outside living spaces.

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Now: Open Kitchen Plans

    The new homeowners did a little updating in the kitchen but stayed within the room's original design. They replaced the old cabinetry with inexpensive freestanding cabinets that can easily be moved. The zero-demolition project helped retain the Idea Home's charm.

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Now: Casual Dining

    The informal eating area, adjoins the kitchen, gets used frequently -- both as a place for meals and as a game and crafts headquarters. Retro-inspired chairs keep in step with the home's past-meets-present mentality.

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Then: Master Bedroom

    When designing the Idea Home, the architects wanted the master bedroom to act as an apartment getaway for parents. The spacious room is located at the end of the private area of the house, separating it from the wide-open living space. It features a master bathroom, big windows, and a door to a private patio.

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Now: Master Bedroom

    The updated master bedroom honors the original intent of the architect's design. Crown molding and Victorian-style brass doorknobs were removed, bringing the room back to simplicity. The master bedroom has almost no wasted space and, as in the original design, has doors that open to the outdoors.

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Then: Child's Room

    The children's rooms of the house were designed to grow as they did from tots to teenagers. Design features in the bedrooms include built-in alcoves that can function as a desk with a bookshelf or a vanity with room for a mirror.

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Now: Child's Room

    To fill modern storage needs, shelves were added to a built-in alcove. A block of pink adds pop and pep to the basic white shelves. Although a minor alteration, it speaks to the enduring design and the thought put into the Idea Home.

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Now: Pink Update

    Balancing girly with mod, a child's room is decked out in multiple shades of pink (including a three-tone striped wall), retro motifs, and clean, contemporary lines. The oak furniture and flooring repeat a finish seen in the living space, to unite both areas.

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Now and Then: Floor Plans

    The T-shape design of the home joins the private areas and the living areas through the entryway. All rooms except the kitchen and bathrooms have access to the outdoors, where there is a covered terrace and a side yard. The most significant change the homeowners made to the house was knocking out a partition between the master bathroom and dressing room. In all, the Idea Home has stood the test of time and is a handsome and practical home that fits the lifestyle of the homeowners today as it did more than five decades ago.

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