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Small Homes Council

University of Illinois, 1951

1951 University of Illinois - Research Designed HomesIn keeping with the huge demand after WWII for affordable housing, The Small Homes Council at the University of Illinois published Contemporary Houses Developed From Room Units. The book ... really a report completed under a research grant from the Lumber Dealers Research Council ... was just 62 pages. This catalog is a scant 40 pages with 28 house plans configured from functional units. It is, in fact, a mix and match approach to home planning.

Flexibility in the arrangement of units was paramount. The units are generally designed on a 4-foot module for stud spacing (either 16" or 24"). The roofs are simple trusses. Because they are so engineered, the plans required close attention to details to maintain the essential modularity of the design.

Effectively, this type of design was an extension of the kit and manufactured housing of the preceding decades with enhanced engineering. Efficiency was an American hallmark during this "can do" period after WWII.

Stylistically, the house plans fell into two camps: minimal ranch and contemporary moderns. All are single story styles but shown with and without a basement option. Roofs are flat, shed, or gabled ... all the better for simplicity and cost control. Eliminating waste and modular design meant that economies of scale could be used to create affordable, but flexible homes that would suit the lifestyles and interests of their owners.

At the time this small booklet was published in 1951, home trends continued to be heavily weighted toward the traditional, but it was easy to see the writing on the wall. By the mid-50s, design and buyer tastes converged in this contemporary style.

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