Tour A Real Sears, Roebuck and Co. Mail-Order Craftsman Home

It’s the year 1930 and Ethel is sitting at the kitchen table of her best friend, Lucy. It’s their morning ritual, they always start their day visiting over a steaming cup of Lucy’s amazing coffee while feasting on a big plate of Ethel’s homemade biscuits.

This morning is different, though. Ethel has some news, some really big news! This news is so big she’s thinking if she doesn’t get it out right now, she’s going to bust!

Lucy, knows something is up, she’s never seen Ethel so fidgety, so talkative. Not able to stand it another minute, she asks, “Ethel, what is going on? You’re hiding something, something big! C’mon! Spill the beans!”

Unable to contain her excitement any longer, Ethel blurts out, “We did it! We ordered our home last night, right from the Sears catalog! We’re getting, The Lexington!”

Sears, Roebuck Mail Order Home, The Lexington

 Source for picture above

 

It wasn’t just the kids pouring over those Sears catalogs back in the day! From 1908 to 1940, you could order a home from Sears, Roebuck and Company through their mail-order Modern Homes program. Sears sold between 70,000-75,000 mail-order homes during that time period.

The Modern Homes designs ranged from fancy three-story versions known as Honor Bilt that were sturdy enough for areas of the country where the winters were snow-covered, to less expensive models (Standard Built) better suited for southern states where the winters weren’t as brutal and where the summers were hot. There was even a 2-room style (Simplex Sectional) that was just right for a cottage at the beach or on the lake.

Sears Modern Homes Catalog

Source

Are you as fascinated over the idea of building a home from a mail-order kit as I am? Is that not just the most amazing thing! I wonder how long it took the average family to save up to buy their Sears, kit-built home?

Today we’re going inside a Sears & Roebuck Craftsman in the Venice area of California. The listing says, “This home–originally a 1923 Sears & Roebuck craftsman–has been completely rehabbed and now combines period detail with contemporary convenience.” (See print screen of real estate listing below)

Listing

Isn’t it an adorable home! Sears mail-order homes can sometimes be a little tricky to recognize because homeowners were encouraged to add their own touches to make them their own. So the homes can be as different as the owner, with extra dormer windows added, a bigger porch, extra trim, etc….

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 02

 

It makes me feel almost teary-eyed to think of the hardworking families who ordered these kits and put their homes together with their own hands, creating a safe haven for their family.

Let’s go inside and take the tour!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 17

 

No entrys back then, you would have walked right into the living room. I wonder if there used to be a wall separating the living area from the dining space. Would love to see the original floor plan for this home.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 19

 

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 06

 

Cute kitchen!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 11

 

The listing says it’s a “period kitchen.” I wonder if these are the original cabinets. Love the flooring!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 10

 

It looks so much bigger inside than I expected!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 04

 

Love how so many of the rooms have access to the beautiful gardens.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 16

 

This Sears Craftsman home has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. It has four sitting porches…love that! We can just see one of the porches through the open door.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 15

 

Huge room…love that it has a fireplace.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 01

 

A sweet nursery or child’s bedroom.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 18

 

Here’s the third bedroom. I hope the windows are original although I’m guessing that would be pretty rare to find.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 03

 

Pretty bathroom with double sinks…the flooring looks original.

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 07

 

Loving the size of the rooms in this house!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 08

 

The second bath. Such great bathrooms!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 05

 

Looks like there’s a cute building out back, too.  Notice the stone/rock patio…really like that!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 12

 

What a great home! Notice how it looks around the roof-line, particularly on the corners. In my research I read that the way the corners were designed is one way to spot a Sear’s Modern mail-order home. Apparently the corners look very different on non-kit houses.

I’d love to learn more about these houses! I just ordered two books on Amazon about them…this idea of mail-ordering a home from a catalog just fascinates me!

Do you know anyone who lives in one of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. Modern Homes sold during the period 1908-1940? Do you live in one? Wonder what it would cost to mail-order a house today! Wonder how many are still standing…I hope a lot!

Sears and Roebuck Modern Craftsman Home 09

 

You’ll find more information about this home in the listing HERE where the pictures in this post were found.




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Comments

  1. There’s a blogger, Carol, who has a Sears home. That’s the name of her blog.

  2. Hi Susan,
    I have wished for a dream home all my life. I look at these homes and imagine them being mine. How nice it is to check in each day and “tour ” them. The decorating ideas are fun to look at too!

  3. pam heine says:

    There were a number of Sears homes in my hometown of Elgin, IL. Several of them were on our Historic House Walk each Fall. I would say from looking at your pictures that this one has had extensive renovation and changes, however, most of the ones I’ve been in are bigger homes. As I remember they had metal kitchen cupboards too. We also had a “Steel” home in our town too. They were mad up of square steel panels. (I think they were actually called Lustron, or something like that.) Very unique houses.

  4. The house next door to me is “kit house” – the plans came from the Better Homes and Gardens magazine; not sure when it was built: 50’s? It’s a cute Cape Cod style – 5 bedrooms, no dining room. Looking at it from the sidewalk, you can’t imagine 5 bedrooms (3 tucked under the eves and 2 on the main floor.) It’s darling.

  5. Charlotte says:

    I came across one as a Real Estate Agent, it is in Covington, LA. It was still fairly original and had wood panel walls, a little cottage. Very cute and sold in just a few days of listing it. I am not sure if there are anymore in the area, now that I know to look at the roof line I might be able to spot others.

  6. There are quite a few of them in a neighbourhood by the University, here. (It was founded in 1905.) They are quite fascinating. They are some of the only homes out here–and certainly some of the first– to feature hardwood as none grow out here on the Prairies.

  7. Thank you for sharing this home as I love a Craftsman home Sears or otherwise.
    Did you see the stats of this home when it was for sale?

    $2,395,000
    Listed at Price
    3
    Beds
    2
    Baths
    2,330 Sq. Ft.
    $1,028 / Sq. Ft.

    • I didn’t even notice the price…Yikes! California is an expensive place to live and I guess Venice is an expensive area. How’s that for appreciation over the years!!! Probably cost $3,000-4,000 as a kit. Of course, there would have been additional expense to build it, but wow…times have changed! I was wondering about the square footage. I’m guessing the 2,330 is for the house and maybe the 1,028 is for the other building in back. Maybe it has rental income potential for the house in back.

      • Marilyn (in Ohio) says:

        The building in the back could possibly be a detached garage, side view. Looks so charming.
        My house was built in 1929. I don’t think it was a kit house, but it does have some of those features, like the fireplace with built-in book shelves on each end. Still have the original woodwork (I think maybe birch wood) & hardwood floors. We are actually only the second owners of this place! We have made many improvements through the years (41), but none to the extent of the one show above.

  8. We live in one built in 1911. Original owner bought a machine to make the blocks from which the house was built. Also has a carriage house now converted to a garage. We are the third owners.

    • Yvonne, that is so awesome! Do you know what model your’s is? I would love to see one of those old catalogs to see all the styles they offered.

  9. Many in the NoVa area, near train tracks. That was one of the conditions, so the parts could be transported by train. Also heard to check in the attic for numbers on the rafters and supports–big clue that it is a kit.

  10. Wow- fascinating- I have never in my life heard of them. This is stunning news to me. Thanks, Susan, enjoyed this post a lot.

  11. Thank you for this tour! It’s a charming bungalow. I am also crushing on “The Lexington”. I love the idea of the dining porch! You are really contributing to my Historic Homes board on Pinterest. Thanks again!

    Big Texas Hugs,
    Susan and Bentley

  12. So interesting! I think it was changed a lot from the original floor plan because the nine room colonial floorplan you show has very small bedrooms and narrow public rooms except for the dining room. That says a lot, as in family meals were the most important part of their lifestyle. In fact it shows two dining rooms and I am guessing the smaller one would be considered a breakfast today. Also all the bedrooms share the upstairs bath, no master en suite then.

  13. crumpety cottage says:

    Susan, there was a house that looked just like, ‘The Lexington’ in my old neighborhood. I always loved the cozy look of it. Now I wonder if it was a kit! That is just too cute, a mail order house. Wonder if any mail order brides ever lived in a mail order house?!

    So many questions though, like what were the standards for putting the kit together? And do home buyers today know they are purchasing a house originally from a kit?

    ou know, I love the floor plan of The Lexington and it could easily fit right in to today’s lifestyles. That high priced house in Venice Beach though — yikes. Love this idea. I hope you can find some old catalogs.

  14. Cute house and very roomy. My in-laws just sold a place that had a Sears Roebuck and Co. mail order house on it. Though I say house it was mainly a shell but very interesting. I believe it must have been used as a hunting cabin or small cottage. It must have been one of the smallest ones that Sears sold. It only had a few rooms and was built on top of a cellar. Would love to have seen it when it was first built.

  15. Carol Neibling says:

    My husband’s family owned one and a few years back my neice restored it and it is just beautiful. They recently bought the house next to them and it is now on the Historical Registary and they have replaced the roof and this winter will start working on it. The kitchens weren’t very nice, but after doing a lot of research she has designed a dream kitchen. They have a rock fireplace with a gas insert that puts out lots of heat. I love sitting on the front porch.

  16. What an adorable home! I love that Lexington home- wish I could have that one!

  17. It’s Carol with the Sears Kit Home blog!
    It turns out, I found out from Rosemary Thornton, and Rachel Shoemaker, EXPERTS in kit houses! Met them in the Sears Kit House FB group.
    My house is actually a Harris J6 kit house. These ladies are sooooo kind and helpful. I will share this post with them!

  18. Yes, I am the one who figured out the Harris J-6. I stumbled on the blog one night. The Sears catalog above is mine, it is from my collection which much of can be seen here. (Someday I will get that page updated.) http://oklahomahousesbymail.wordpress.com/sears/

    This bungalow, however, is unfortunately not from Sears or any kit home company. It is a beautiful craftsman style bungalow. Craftsman is a style and often mistaken for kit homes. The realtor doesn’t know that I guess.

    • Rachel, which one? The catalog picture came from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_Catalog_Home. You’ve got some great catalogs! I bet you can find pretty much any home in there! I’ll have to look for where it mentioned about it being a Sears Kit home. I know they can be hard to recognize after they’ve been changed a lot.

      • Yes, my catalog image was used for Wikipedia, I submitted it when asked 🙂
        I collect catalogs and have all but a couple of the Sears Modern Homes published between 1908 and 1940. And trust me, this is not from Sears or any kit home catalog. It was discussed in the Sears Group on facebook awhile back. The realtor is just unknowledgeable. It is a craftsman style home which is often credited to Sears by those who do not know any better. Happens all the time.

        • Rachel, I’d love to post your pictures of your Sears home…I know my readers would love seeing it! If you would like to share it, just email full size pictures to betweennapsontheporch@gmail.com. I’d love to share these wonderful homes with my readers. I ordered a couple of books on Amazon this evening to learn a bit more about them. Love all the styles Sears offered! They must have been really popular since they made them for so long.

    • Oh, I found where it said it was a Sears home…it was in the listing: https://www.redfin.com/CA/Venice/818-Milwood-Ave-90291/home/8121410

  19. Susan, my neighbor two doors up lives in a Sears kit home, and I believe it’s the Lexington. It looks exactly like the photo you have. I’ll have to see if she will let me so a post on it (she’s quite spunky). I know it’s been on tour previously, but I’ve not seen the interior. Fun history!

  20. I live in a Sears house and can vouch for their wonderful character. But that house is not a Sears house. The house looks nothing like the model that the realtor claims it is and it doesn’t match any of the known models offered by Sears. It’s a wonderful looking Craftsman-style house but not a house from Sears.

    • Andrew, do you think it’s just been changed a lot? I noticed the listing said that it had been “completely rehabbed and now combines period detail with contemporary convenience.” I love the pictures I’m seeing online when I google for Sears Kit homes. They really had some beautiful styles! Wish our subdivisions today were filled with the variety we see in the old neighborhoods.

  21. This is the house that they said it was:

    http://antiquehomestyle.com/plans/sears/1923sears/23sears-silverdale.htm

    As you can see, it looks nothing like that model. Sears had a number of houses that were Craftsman-style but none of them were even close to the design of this house. Now, I’ve seen a few examples of Sears houses remodeled to the point of being almost unrecognizable but I don’t think that’s the case here. What likely happened is that someone got the idea that this is a Sears house even though it’s not and ran with it. This happens all the time. In some cases, the homes are from another kit house manufacturer (Sears in the kit house world is like Kleenex and Xerox). In some cases, the house was built with building materials from Sears but isn’t based on a house model offered by Sears (you could buy almost everything through the Sears catalog). Often times, local legend or misinformation leads to a house being claimed to be a Sears house when it’s not. In any case, no one has been able to provide any evidence that this house is from Sears so until someone is able to show that, we have to assume that the house isn’t a Sears house.

  22. Carre Cederholm says:

    This makes me homesick for the craftsman style house I grew up in. Unfortunately a contractor and his architect (supposedly) son wrecked it several years ago yanking out the cabinets, original heart pine flooring and super-efficient Rumford-style fireplace-and adding a monstrosity that resembles an up-turned kleenex box! Caused such a furror in the neighborhood that additions now have to be approved by a special committee. Too bad that was not in place before my childhood home was desecrated.

  23. I love it! what a great layout and the feel of the home is amazing. Not crazy about the pink but I love the rest!

    Thanks for sharing, these mail order homes have always fascinated me.

    xox

  24. Charlotte says:

    Beautiful homes. JFYI, however, Lucy & Ethel were in their kitchen(s) in the 1950’s, not the 1930’s. 🙂

  25. I’ve always loved the Sears homes….there are quite a few of them in our city. In school, I took a course on design, and my mom dug out the old catalogs so I could study house plans. There was no other source for plans at that time……am I dating myself?? Any way, the kitchens were always dysfunctional, so I imagine that was the first room to be remodeled later on. But they had other wonderful features….one of which is the pantry!!!

  26. I love those old catalog homes too! I ordered several of those old books when we were designing our new house. I loved getting the chance to see inside one, because I always imagined they would be tiny and cramped feeling. They have very nice proportions though!

  27. Charlotte says:

    You’re forgiven. 😉

  28. That’s a darling little house, but Andrew is right. It’s most definitely NOT a kit house from Sears.

    Rosemary Thornton
    author, The Houses That Sears Built

  29. Sabrina says:

    My fiancé’s family owns a catalog home on the lake near Ocala, Fl and the neighbors also have one that is on stilts.

    • Sabrina, that is so neat…I get so nostalgic when I think of the families who ordered those and built their dream home. I got to go inside one on a home tour this past Christmas and loved it!

  30. Lola Montez says:

    The original Sears homes were for modest, ordinary families to be able to achieve home ownership. The designs and methods of creating the plans, kits, shipping them, instructions, etc. (MILLIONS of tiny little separate pieces, pre-cut wood, etc.!) were incredible.

    Those brilliant people and original owners would be ROLLING IN THEIR GRAVES if they knew such a modest home originally intended for a family now costs $2.3 MILLION putting it out of reach for all but the very, very richest people in the world. Get a grasp on that number folks! No surprise this was renovated to the max; it is a home for millionaires or movie stars.

    The real takeaway should be that in a society where a modest 100 year old bungalow costs $2.3 million….what hope is there for decent, attractive, affordable housing for the other 99.999% of us?

    • Shari D. says:

      The Sears and other kit home company homes may have started out that way, being intended for the middle class home owners to establish home ownership, but if you look through the vintage catalogs ~ and http://www.archive.com has many to look at for free that have been scanned in ~ you’ll find a wider variety of home styles and budgets than you think. For instance, and this is just one of many “for instances” check out the Sears Magnolia model – with complete separate ensuite for the MAID upstairs! Yep – separate bedroom and private bathroom. Definitely no “middle class” home ownership bring established by those who purchased that kit home! The larger and more elegant models were purchased by doctors, lawyers, bankers, and other higher class customers. Of course, they weren’t erected bythe homeowners – that was hired out to contractors and carpenters and other such professional people. Many were purchased BY contractors and errected on what we call ‘on spec’ now, without a specific purchaser in mind, but most all were sold before they were even finished.
      There is also a wonderful resource for these homes at http://www.antiquehomestyles.com. This site contains massive amounts of information about kit homes, and many, many plan book homes, which was another popular source of house plans of the time. They were catalogs of house plans, where you could order blueprints, materials lists and other documents needed to build a home, but the purchase of the actual materials was done locally, and you hired your own builder to do the work. These were extremely popular, and many homes were built this way. Catalogs were frequently distributed by building materials dealers, banks and other sources of financing, and frequently were imprinted with the name and contact information for the supplier, with the intent of keeping their name in front of the customer when it came time to order building materials, and even ordering the blueprints directly through them as well. The customer could also order them directly if they wished. So, kit home books and catalogs were not the only sources of houseplans. In fact, plan books themselves came out just after the Civil War, during the period of massive growth as the country expanded, and home building was a very big business.
      Many of those plan books are also available on archive.com as well. They have a special section, called the Building Technology Heritage Library, which is the home for all these catalogs, kit home and plan books alike. Its an amazing place, one you could get lost in for days! Likewise with the antiquehomestyles website! Many, many documents to feed your houseplan desires!
      As for the 99.99% of us seeking more financially reachable homes, I guess the best answer to that is we don’t live in Venice, California! The enormous area between the two high priced coasts can be a source of much more affordable dwellings.

    • Apologies to all for my link inaccuracies. The really good link to the Building Technology Heritage Library is this one: https://archive.org/details/buildingtechnologyheritagelibrary . It’s just http://www.archive.org for the main site page – not “.com” as I had listed.
      And I always stick an extra “s” in the http://www.antiquehomestyle.com link for some reason! I guess because there are so many antique home styles on their website! So, if you tried the links in my first reply, and got noplace, my profound apologies! I hope these will be more helpful!

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