Here’s a tour of one of these classic 1950s suburban homes — definitely an idealized middle- to upper-middle-class house — although that was the group that seemed to most often build new prefabricated residences out in the suburbs.
If you’re looking for other ’50s home styles, see inside a small house in ’50s San Francisco, or a look at a newly-built luxury-on-a-budget home from the 1950s.
For front views & floor plans of dozens of retro homes, check out Post-war housing: 35 small starter homes from the ’40s & ’50s, and 130 vintage ’50s house plans used to build millions of mid-century homes we still live in today.
What did a typical upper-middle-class 1950s prefab home look like? It could look like this.
Look what’s happening to prefabs! (1958)
By Evan Frances and Joseph B Mason, Family Circle – February 1958
Will you ever forget Baby’s first faltering steps and how excited you became? Well, that’s how it was with house-hungry folks at their first sight of a post-war prefabricated home.
No matter that its various parts had been mass-produced by assembly-line methods, the assembled house meant home — immediately available and low-priced — to thousands of just-married and together-at-last couples who yearned for warm family living after the lonely war years.
And so the postwar prefab, humble and unimaginative as it was, was gobbled up eagerly.
But like Baby who grew steadily into his first manful strides, the prefab grew up… and out… and bigger… and handsomer, until today it can look as individual and as important as the best-designed custom home.
Take, for example, the impressive prefab shown on these pages. Based on an original design scheme of the famous architect Minoru Yamasaki, manufactured by the Modern Homes Corporation of Dearborn, Michigan, and built in Livonia, Michigan, in 60 days by Slavik Builders of Detroit.
It is as far a cry from the die-cut rigid prefab of yesteryear as Baby’s toddling is from his sure-footed sprints for the school bus these days.
Here is a prefab with built-in flexibility in its concept, the purpose of which is to let you help plan your own home to suit your family’s needs and way of living.
Yamasaki’s system recognizes two centers of family life — one for living, the other for sleeping. These units are separate, but positioned for easy interconnection to form a complete core for daytime and nighttime use.
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Upper-middle class retro living: A 1950s prefab home front exterior
Double entry-door and large planter add luxury note to a prefab
See this 1950s prefab home’s floorplan
This floor plan shows upper level with 1,634 square feet of living space. Lower level (right) adds 600 more.
The prefab home was common in the suburbs
In the Yamasaki-designed prefab shown here, there is the “living” unit consisting of upper-level living room, dining area, kitchen, dinette (or under-Mom’s-eyes play area), lower-level family room and laundry and utility-workshop. And then there is the “sleeping” unit consisting of bedrooms and baths.
The prefabricator of this home offers three basic living units and three basic sleeping units in different sizes to choose from and combine to give you any one of nine basic floor plans. These can be flipped left or right or back to front for an infinite variety of plans.
Are there teenagers in your family who want good-size bedrooms for sleep, study, hobbies, and overnight guests? And does your family like to gather for gabfests in the kitchen?
Then you can choose a prefab home with four ample bedrooms in the sleeping unit combined with a minimum living room and maximum kitchen in the living unit.
ALSO SEE: Post-war housing: See 35 small starter homes from the ’40s & ’50s
Does your family do a heap of entertaining? Then you may decide on an arrangement with a maximum living unit coupled with a sleeping unit of minimum bedrooms.
What’s more, you can have the units combined with full- or half-basement, lower living area, carport or garage, and patios… and arranged horizontally or vertically to take best advantage of your site, whether flat, sloping, narrow, or wide.
Add these components — flexibility of floor plan… site plan… size… orientation — and it is easy to see why this kind of planning may be the answer to your prayer for a home-as-you-like-it at a reasonable price!
Kitchen & dinette in a 1950s suburban house
Half of home’s upper “living” unit includes entry, dinette, kitchen, and lavatory. Wall facing these areas (which is other side of living room wall) contains built-in shelves, a desk niche, and a wall oven.
DON’T MISS: Tour the ultimate mid-century modern house: The Scholz Mark 58 Home of the Year
Downstairs family room with mid-century interior decor
The family room makes this prefab truly a home for private lives.
With its acoustical-tile ceiling and its placement in lower level (below “living” and away from “sleeping” unit of house), teenagers like Jackie and Loretta Rhodes (below) could stage a pajama party for the senior class without disturbing their napping little sister or their book-reading parents upstairs.
Rear view of this 1950s suburban house
Upper and lower “living” areas are at the right of brick fireplace wall; sleeping unit is at left. (Lower level is the basement room shown above.)
ALSO SEE: 25 beautiful mid-century entrance halls invite you inside with vintage style
Opposite end of the mid-century modern living room
Mrs James Rhodes and daughter Debra love the open-air look of the room, achieved largely with sparsely-adorned white walls.
Stairs, beyond dining table, lead to the lower-level family room.
The four bedrooms in 1950s prefab home
Sleep-sofa, TV, built-in wardrobe (not shown), and wood folding door (right) make this bedroom/den ideal for teenagers or overnight guests.
Brass-accented walnut pieces, elegant and suggestive of the Oriental, plus a dramatic color combination of fabrics, set off this master bedroom.
MORE: Did married couples really sleep in separate beds back in the ’50s?
Bedroom with modern furniture
Danish-modern furniture, rich in graining and finish and small in scale, lends size and stature to a second bedroom, sparked with colorful accessories.
1950s suburban house – A small furnished bedroom
Coordinated wallpaper and bedspread fabric in gay print are fine foils for uncompromisingly clean-lined dark walnut bedroom pieces.
MORE: 130 vintage ’50s house plans used to build millions of mid-century homes we still live in today
This is not typical – this is an upper middle class home – no one I know lived like this
I wish there were “LIKE” symbols here so I could give one to your comment! I was disappointed when they said this was upper middle class after leading me on with this article being about 1950’s houses in general. Houses in my and my relative’s working class homes built in the 1950’s did not look like these.
This is exactly like most people I knew had. And I would count this as solidly middle class, not upper middle.
I guess we were lower class and I never knew it! We lived nicely but not in such a huge home.
OUR BLACK HOMES DID LOOK LIKE THIS EITHER
I’m a late 80’s baby, I’m in love with how people would dress going into town, how houses looked, these colors are amazing!!!!! People may have not been lucky to experience this. I lived in the ghetto of Detroit growing up. I still enjoy looking at things such as this. I’ve also notice how people sound and words we don’t use as much!! Great photos…
Another comment I wish I could hit a “LIKE” button for! Most whites weren’t upper middle class back then either!
My dad was a school teacher and my mom was a secretary, so we weren’t upper class. I grew up in a prefab three-bedroom smaller house, sort of a cape cod one story. Most of our furniture was maple wood, Early American, and my dad had a Lazy Boy vibrating recliner — his pride and joy lol!
My mom still has her Early American maple wood dining set and I’m about to inherit it. I have no idea what to do with it. It’s so well made but it’s not my style, not even my vintage style. I have noticed a distinct lack of that style in the homes shown on Click Americana, though.