Honor Bilt Home
Sears Modern Homes
‘Argyle’ interior, 1921
Ca. 1900–1940, Sears, Roebuck & Co., among many others (Montgomery Ward, Aladdin, Gordon–Van Tine, Liberty, Keith’s, etc.), sold pre-cut house kits, crated and delivered by railcar.
Today’s homeowners are thrilled to find theirs is “a Sears house,” particularly when the discovery comes after dedicated sleuthing. (See p. 38.) When evidence is in an old Honor Bilt or Modern Homes catalog, it may come with a bonus: interior views! Usually these aren’t photos, but rather artistic interpretations based on popular taste and period conventions (and available Sears furniture). The clientele was largely middle class, but these room illustrations are aspirational—and thus useful today.
You might look for elements gone missing in the years since the house was built. The ‘Argyle’ was tiny, just over 1,000 square feet—yet according to Sears copywriters, it would “make its owners proud…a bungalow whose exterior appearance suggests extra fine interior arrangement…colonnade, the beamed ceiling, the massive brick mantel with the built-in bookcase.” Handsome window casings, a wainscot with plate rail, and leaded glass were part of the package. It’s fun, too, to study furniture size and arrangement, colors, lighting, rugs and curtains. The same illustrations were repeated over a decade or more.