What People 50 or 100 Years Ago Thought Our Homes Would Look Like Today
See how close people came to predicting how homes would look in the future.
In 1980, our sister publication Family Handyman featured the “Underground Home” a residence in Burnsville, Minnesota. At that time around 3,000 people owned underground homes. Don Mosch took part in pioneering the housing concept perfect for an energy-conscious era. It was one of seven homes built and tested by the Underground Space Center at the University of Minnesota.
It was a three-bedroom, 2,000-square foot home that held a number of temperature sensors and gauges to measure humidity inside and out, as well as calculate energy consumption to the last watt. Knowing how much energy you use is a step in the right direction if you also remember these 13 clever ways to slash your energy bills.
The house faced south and was surrounded by a berm. It reportedly cut heating costs by 50 to 85 percent. The underground homes were nearly hurricane and tornado-proof, as well as fireproof. Because of that, insurance costs dropped 35 percent. The cost to build the home remained on par as conventional homes.
Much of the home was built with concrete, which presented problems of its own. Plus, once the home was built, there was no chance for additions.
Kitchen of Tomorrow
Life magazine opined on “kitchens of tomorrow” as far back as 1943 in a famous spread. A sleek kitchen where equipment disappeared into cabinets and counters was among the biggest innovations. H. Creston Doner designed the kitchen and it was built by the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company in Toledo, Ohio. The color of this kitchen will certainly remind you of grandma’s kitchen, just like these other colors you don’t see in kitchens anymore.
Sixteen years later Look magazine showed off the “miracle kitchen” and introduced the world to a floor-cleaning robot. We’ve now got the Roomba and some 15 other smart home devices that are worth every penny.
The kitchen included a television set for entertainment and a smaller set that allowed people to check who’s at the door or look in on the baby in the nursery. You can check out the console that operated everything in this video.
Elsewhere in the kitchen, beverages dropped down from a cabinet with a wave of the hand and allowed you to pick the type of ice you wanted from an ice maker. The video also touts that you could have piping hot coffee at anytime. The automatic drip coffee maker arrived on the market a couple of decades later in the 1970s. There was even a station where fruits and vegetables got peeled automatically.
Shuffleboard courts popped up all over the place back in the 1950s but the game never really took off. A number of old school gymnasiums, hotel pool areas, and cruise ships still have shuffleboard courts. Tabletop shuffleboard has become en vogue lately as a bar game. Our 1958 cover featured a court in the basement as part of an entertainment space. Tile companies sold the courts, which could be laid fairly easily. Let the games spill out to the backyard with these 12 tremendous games you can play at home.
Futuro House, Frisco, North Carolina
The Futuro House, designed by Matti Suuronen, a Finnish architect, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fewer than 100 are thought to have been built and there are 80 remaining units. Seventeen Futuros have been demolished but those that remain span the globe. They were made with fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic and designed as a ski chalet. It stood 14 feet tall and had a diameter of 26 feet. Eight people could fit inside. The Futuro house was thought to be able to get people into remote locations, kind of like the 14 most remote places on earth.
Futuristic Mobile Home from 1899
More than 100 years ago this illustration provided a concept drawing of future RVs or even mobile homes. As transportation evolved, it got people thinking they could create a house on wheels or in this case, a cafe of sorts. If you’ve ever considered RV living, you’re going to want to know the best states for RV life.
Robot Servants, 1929
The science-fiction play R.U.R by Czech writer Karl Čapek came out in 1921 and in its wake came a lot of machinations about robots. The play begins in a factory that creates robots, but Čapek’s robots were more humanlike than mechanical like the one depicted in this illustration. But as wealth grew prior to the stock market crash of 1929 people started to believe that someday there’d be robots to complete much of the mundane housework they didn’t care for doing. This robot shines a man’s shoes. Robots have invaded the house nearly 100 years later and these 14 robots make a huge difference.
Home Automation, 1929
Prognosticators thought there’d be more convenience at a push of a button back in 1929, like if you needed to get into a tuxedo in a hurry. There’s no push-button laundry service but there are a few military innovations that will change the way we live.
Mechanical Drink Server
Who wouldn’t want a mechanical arm to drop down with a drink in front of them while they sit in a recliner and smoke a cigar? In 1929, this was thought to be the future. You still have to use your feet to grab the drink or pick up a Segway.
By about 1925 around half the homes in the United States had electricity and with it came ample ideas to make life easier at home. In this 1929 illustration, electricity provided people with wild ideas like an electric vacuum, electric iron, and electric kettle. Housework became so easy that this woman could sit down, read the paper and listen to music. Only if that actually came true, right? You can still make your life easier with these genius products that are under $20.