This article originally appeared on www.VisitFindlay.com where I am a guest blogger. You can see the original article here and many more like it here.
Have you ever had an experience that made you want to scream, pull your hair out and collapse on the floor in a dead-weight tantrum like a toddler at Walmart? If you’re not familiar, then you’ve obviously never gone to IKEA. More specifically, you’ve never gone with a spouse who decides halfway between toilet brushes and bear-skin rugs that it’s time to redecorate your living room, thus requiring a reverse trip through the salmon stream that is the “IKEA Shopping Experience.” The number of happy families you see in Findlay is inversely proportional to the number of miles to the nearest IKEA.
Nothing can test the strength of a marriage like home decoration. It really shouldn’t take three months to decide that taupe and lavender is the absolute perfect color combination for the room with the water heater. What is it about making a home together that creates so much stress? If it’s not decorating, it’s keeping the place clean. And that’s assuming you have a house, thereby successfully navigating the home-buying process. Have you ever listened to a couple touring a house for sale? They’re not kicking the foundation or measuring the distance between studs in the wall. No, they’re bouncing on the carpet, debating whether or not it qualifies as “shag.” Life really doesn’t need to be this difficult.
I think about this every time I pass 720 Beech Ave. Why? Because these homeowners never had home-related spats. This prefabricated house was ordered over the phone, is made of interlocking, coated steel panels and was assembled in about two weeks. “Assembled” is the operative word here because this house is a closer relative of a model kit than property. Welcome to the wonderful world of Lustron homes.
- No need to stress over choices because there are only three.
It’s no exaggeration to say that these little beauties took the stress out of home management. Not only did you purchase the home over the phone, but you only had to pick one of three different models and then how many bedrooms you wanted (two or three).
- No need to decorate because you can’t.
No need to decide decor – the Lustron houses were only available in set colors depending on the model. The interior, just like the exterior, were made of prefabricated panels which had a porcelain enamel finish, perfect for the modern family with no time to paint or repair conventional walls. You couldn’t even use nails to hang up pictures – you have to use magnets.
- No need to repair anything because it’s all coated steel.
And it wasn’t just the walls that were steel – literally every component of the house was made of the same coated material. Windows, roof, doors, closets, cabinets – literally everything was built to last. These were the perfect homes if you didn’t like cleaning. Lustron houses were resistant to fire, decay, rust, mold, and pests. That’s right, rats would never know the luxury of living in a post-war housing unit.
Invented by Carl Strandlund, the Lustron Corporation built a factory in 1947 in Columbus, Ohio, to respond to the housing shortage after the end of World War II. The prefabricated design allowed them to be mass produced on the cheap. Once an order was received, the materials moved from the warehouse and were delivered, literally in stacks, on the property. Contractors would pour a foundation and in two weeks, the house would be ready for move-in.
It turns out that the Lustron home was too good to be true. In their heyday, the houses sold between $8,500 and $9,500 each, but it wasn’t enough. After accounting for production and marketing expenses, the company lost money on each home and eventually declared bankruptcy in 1950. When they shut their doors, they still had outstanding contracts for more than 8,000 units.
Less than 2,000 Lustron homes still exist in the United States, and Findlay is home to three of them. In addition to the one on Beech, you can find one at 349 Fairlawn Place and the other at 130 Woodley Avenue.
I encourage you to check out these fascinating relics from the road to modern real estate. If you’re anything like me, I imagine you’ll look at these homes with a sense of wonder and a touch of melancholy as you picture what life might be like without IKEA.
This article also appears on www.VisitFindlay.com.