Old Home Features Then and Now

Many home features of the past have fizzled out with time… boot scrapers, intercom systems and phone nooks are no longer useful for most of us in the 21st century. But some other features have stood the test of time. Let’s take a look at how some home details have evolved over time and how/why they are still used in today’s homes.

  • Dutch DoorsTHEN: The Dutch door became known in the 17th century in the Netherlands, and many believe they were created on farmhouse doors.  They kept the animals outside and the children inside by opening the top half of the door and closing the bottom half. This also kept the dirt out while allowing a breeze in. They first appeared in America in New York and New Jersey, which were settled by the Dutch. NOW: Can be used as a gate alternative for the front door or sometimes the laundry room. They add instant curb appeal and character that today’s new home builds sometimes lack.
  • Butlers PantryTHEN: This room historically sat between the kitchen and dining room and was used as a place to store, count and polish china and family heirlooms. NOW: More commonly used for food storage and also prep space while entertaining. Some use the extra space for a coffee bar complete with a espresso machine or french press and/or wine storage with room for glasses, wine bottles and a wine fridge.
  • Transom WindowsTHEN: Historically, transom windows were used for air flow and to let light in between rooms even when doors were shut. Operable transoms had sashes that could be opened or closed to help regulate the temperature in the room. NOW: Because of modern heating and a/c, most transoms now are fixed and cannot be opened but are still great for providing light to otherwise dark spaces.
  • Laundry ChuteTHEN: Guessed to be invented sometime in the 19th century, they have somewhat of a dark past, but when used properly they are great for getting dirty clothes to the proper wash room. NOW: Not used as much due to fire safety regulations, but when installed correctly, they are still a great way to drop clothes from an upper level to a lower level laundry room.
  • ShuttersTHEN: Shutters date back to the 15th century and are said to have originated in Greece. Before windows they simply had holes in the wall for ventilation, so the shutters would cover the hole to protect from the elements. Shutters were brought to America when the south was colonized by the Spanish. NOW: Shutters are still loved for their ability to open and close easily to allow in more/less light or air, but they are also sought after for aesthetic reasons.
  • Murphy BedTHEN: According to Smithsonian Mag, the Murphy Bed was originally invented around 1900 in San Francisco, when William Lawrence Murphy “was falling for a young opera singer and courting customs at that time would not permit a lady to enter a gentleman’s bedroom. His invention allowed him to stow his bed in his closet, transforming his one-room apartment from a bedroom into a parlor.” Bed historian Robyn Einhorn of the Smithsonian in Washington says owning a Murphy Bed became a status symbol—”People would move into these hotels in New York and they would have a suite which would include a Murphy bed, so they could pick up the bed and have a parlor.NOW: Still used for their space savings purposes, oftentimes found in studio apartments or home offices.

Which of these features do you have or would you like to have in your home and which would you be happy to see go forever?