What Realtors Need to Know About 1970s Housing Styles
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American housing styles have changed and continue to change across the country and as homeowner tastes and lifestyles have evolved. As the country has undergone industrial and economic changes, both good and not so good, housing styles have adapted out of necessity.
In this new series, I’ll walk you through the predominant housing styles of the past 12 decades, starting in 1900. A basic understanding of each architectural style that defines a decade will position you as a knowledgeable agent with your clients and facilitate finding a home with your buyers easier for everyone.
Common knowledge would argue that the 1970s aren’t far enough in the distant past to become desirable as a retro housing trend. Indeed, it will likely be some time before homebuyers actively seek out homes built during this era with design elements intact.
While 1970s fashion and interior design elements have enjoyed a resurgence, housing styles have yet to experience their second moment in the sun.
The 1970s were considered the “forgotten decade of taste” by more than one architect and historian. Design elements from the 1960s, such as single-story hikers and ranch houses, continued to be popular over the next decade. The reason for this lack of enthusiastic design innovation is attributed to multiple recessions, high unemployment, and political corruption.
Sharing this information with homebuyers may not be uplifting, but it will help the knowledgeable real estate agent understand the reason behind so many brown interiors with shag carpeting, brown paneling and wood trim. imposing stone fireplaces.
Despite the lack of innovation in distinctive design, the value of homes doubled in the 1970s. Uninventive post-and-beam construction characterizes homes of this period. Much of the construction was a study in contradictions, as the homes ranged from nature-loving structures to futuristic high-tech ones.
Simultaneously, embellishment and experimentation have been observed in certain housing styles. These elements were a reaction to the sleek modernist ‘space age’ style of the 1950s and to some extent a holdover from the 1960s pop art scene. is seen universally.
Terracotta floor tiles, previously seen only in commercial kitchens, and natural exposed ceiling beams were in demand. Massive stone and brick fireplaces had raised hearths with natural wood beams as mantels. Some of these fireplaces were “transparent”, allowing the flames to be seen from both sides, which was a design innovation that had nothing to do with heating.
A few highlights were a “back to nature” movement and a renewed interest in environmentalism. Floor-to-ceiling windows brought the outside in, and atriums or indoor garden rooms were in fashion. The house had plants everywhere, in the obligatory macrame hanging planter. Skylights began to appear as design elements due to modern engineering and an added desire to bring the outdoors in.
Open floor plans were introduced in the 1970s, with public living spaces that blend easily into one another. Double-height spaces also made an appearance in the 70s home, along with grand entryways and foyers. Sunken parlors and “conversation pits” were introduced at this time, sometimes with a fireplace as the focal point.
Home offices and studies first appeared in the home, no longer called libraries. Kitchens now featured islands and breakfast nooks, providing spots for a quick meal or counter-height snack, where the family gathered at bar stools.
Black-roofed driveways were the common approach to homes in the 1970s, with a concrete patio outside in the yard. The interior woodwork and beams inside the house reflected a Scandinavian influence, even though IKEA didn’t come to the United States until the 1980s.
While modern and international design elements began to appear throughout the house, asbestos, aluminum wiring, and lead paint were still commonly used in construction. Sprayed popcorn ceilings, another source of asbestos, are commonly found in 1970s construction. Today’s knowledgeable realtor will encourage, if not insist, testing the materials in homes from that period. and to remove or dispose of toxic materials by professionals.
The “main” or main bathroom was now a standard issue in new homes. Galvanized steel water pipes, with a standard lifespan of 20 to 50 years, were the only plumbing used at that time. Savvy real estate agents encourage homeowners to test and replace plumbing, as cracks and rot are typical problems. The inside of steel pipes can rust, and metal flakes can be found in the water coming from faucets in these homes.
When driving through a neighborhood of older homes, a quick test to determine if the housing stock is from the 1970s includes whether the homes are single-story, rectangular, or L-shaped. If a garage is attached and the home has a ranch, Mediterranean, or contemporary style with large windows, chances are the homes were built in the 70s.
Of course, almost every period, including the 1970s, has its share of two-story, central-hall colonial houses, a style that Americans have embraced for decades and never seem to lose interest in, whether out of patriotism or ease of understanding the floor plan and lifestyle.
Real estate veterans and newcomers alike will see all ages and all types of homes throughout their day. Housing styles will be as varied as the customer agents encountered in each. Some houses will be purely of one style and period, and some will be a pastiche of styles and additions, defying a clear period.
No matter what style or age of home the real estate agent is dealing with, if you can accurately discuss the pros and cons of design and function, your clients will appreciate your wisdom and advice.