There's lots to learn from these small house plans from the '60s

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credit: CMHC

Every January, as we build up to the big International Builders Show, there are a million stories about model homes and dream house plans, all many thousand square feet and full of many rooms serving so many different functions. The average American house is now over 2600 square feet and growing again.

Fifty years ago, houses were a lot smaller. There was a lot of building going on, so the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (equivalent to the US Freddie Mac) prepared plan books to help Canadians and builders produce efficient, relatively easy-to-build houses. In her Lambert Prize-winning PHD thesis, (PDF here) Ioana Teodorescu notes that these were not ordinary plans.

...the postwar houses in Canada, despite their small size, are a major arena for the expression of modernism defined as it were by ideals of an egalitarian democracy and by scientific rationalism embraced by Canadian leaders at the time and projected unto the Canadian society. The particularities of this specific form of modernism are apparent in CMHC’s approach which combined the seeking of definite solutions to practical house design problems – an aspect explicit to the Modern Movement – with an ‘imaginative experience’ to which social aspects, professionalism and possible regional interpretations brought new dimensions and interpretations.

I have owned a copy of the 1965 Small House Design book for many years, and have always been impressed with the houses. My late mother-in-law lived in one of them, and having grown up downtown in big old houses, I was blown away by what my professors used to call, "Economy of Means, Generosity of Ends."- efficient, clever and immensely livable.

I have been going through and scanning my favorites from the book, and there are so many that I am going to do two slideshows. Since everyone is now building single storey houses for aging boomers, I am going to start with single floor houses and will follow up with splits and two-storeys.

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