The single-family home in America has evolved in one particularly remarkable way: It has gotten bigger, and bigger. New homes built today are about a thousand square feet larger than single-family homes completed just 40 years ago (that’s about the size of an additional modest rowhouse in Washington, D.C.).
All that space is a sign of our times — of the relative wealth to afford it, the government policies that incentivize it, the tastes we now have for third bathrooms and fourth bedrooms (even though the size of the typical American household has actually been shrinking).
In fact, in many ways — most of them more subtle — the American single-family home has changed with time in ways that say much about us and how we live. Vertical town houses built in the 1800s gave way a century later to horizontal homes, 3,000 square feet on a single floor. Compact ways of living that made sense when we got around on foot faded with time in favor of the spacious homes made possible by ubiquitous cars. And the popularity of cars changed the very design of our homes, too, as we created places to park them indoors.
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