Rock And Roll And Little Pink Houses
John Mellencamp is not only a great rock and roller but he is also a great storyteller who once wrote a song called “ Pink Houses “. Mellencamp described how this song came to be and what he thought it represented. “I was driving through Indianapolis on Interstate 65 and I saw a black man holding either a cat or a dog. He was sitting on his front lawn in front of a pink house in one of those shitty, cheap lawn chairs. I thought, “Wow, is this what life can lead to? Watching the **ckin’ cars go by on the interstate? Then I imagined he wasn’t isolated, but he was happy. So I went with that positive route when I wrote this song.” It’s interesting to see how much homes have changed over the last 300 years due to construction materials, changes in indoor plumbing and heating, architecture and technology, but also on family size. North American homes years ago were based on a European building style and the structures had less than 450 ft.² Eventually, many of these homes were added on to in order to accommodate the larger families.
In the 19th century, row housing became popular, which were very narrow homes at 15 to 20 feet wide but extended deeper to 30 to 40 feet. Even then, there was mounting pressure for effective land utilization and row housing often was for more privileged families. In the 20th century, lots began to get larger and in the early 20th century, bungalows were one story or two stories and were typically between 600 and 800 ft.². In this era the sizes were small to compensate for increased expenses of the new plumbing, heating, and other technological improvements.
By the 1940’s and 50’s, houses were being built on larger lots and the size of homes started to grow, even though the size of the family started to shrink. Out of this came suburbia, as there was an abundance of cheap land in the country and housing began to spread out due to the increased ability for people to have vehicles and travel a little further. Homes have evolved from one bedroom to having many bedrooms as well as more TVs and bathrooms. The size of homes have also grown in relation to people’s ability to afford larger houses, but with that has also come the cost of maintaining and paying for a large home. Interestingly, family sizes have decreased approximately 25% over the last 30 years, while at the same time new house sizes have increased about 50%.
Which brings us to today. The interesting thing now is that we have smaller families, larger houses and the lowest interest rates in history, but along with that we have the highest prices in history. Today, we have shifted to constructing smaller spaces with all of the amenities, but less maintenance. Much of this is most probably driven by the high prices today, but I believe that people don’t want to spend their time looking after a home as past generations had done. Today, people are busy and consumed with other things so looking after a home is less of a priority. It’s interesting to see that we started with small houses, and although things have changed through history, there is the beginning of a movement back to smaller residences (albeit for different reasons than before).
If you had to look into the future to plan the type of home you would want to live in, what do you think it would be and what would be the most important things about that home?