Along with tiny homes, prefab homes have emerged as an ultratrendy option for those looking for an alternative to expensive and oversized housing.
But the prefab concept certainly isn’t new. In fact, steel “Lustron” homes, built between 1948-1950, were supposed to be the housing of the future. While only about 2,500 of these low-maintenance homes were ever built, many still land on the market. And we found seven available right now!
“I think it was a great example of Mid-Century design, but also compact living that was well organized,” says Megan Wood in a video for the Ohio Historical Society, which has an actual Lustron home on display for its exhibit “1950s: Building the American Dream.” “People were coming into the modern world, and the home really embodies that.”
The homes were the invention of Carl Strandlund, founder of Lustron Corp., and the promise was to quickly assemble affordable homes for returning World War II veterans.
An Ohio factory mass-produced some 3,000 parts per home, including the bathtub, built-in cabinets, and vanities. The parts were loaded on to a truck and delivered to the building site, where they took mere weeks to construct.
Each home consisted of 12 tons of porcelain-coated stainless steel—inside and out—that can be cleaned with a power hose, doesn’t require paint, and that would defy “weather, wear and time,” as the company claimed.
While the homes did live up to their promise, the business didn’t pan out. The company declared bankruptcy in 1950.
Many of the homes that were built still stand. Aside from the standard small size of the two-bedroom and one bath, the prices for these vintage Lustrons are generally still low. They make a viable option as a cool starter home, an easy-to-maintain rental, and a great topic of conversation.
Chuck Mintz, who photographed owners of Lustron homes for his book “Lustron Stories,” says the homes have long-lasting value. “Visiting these homes now, whatever their quirks, you can see that they still serve as effective homes,” he says.
Check out the magnetic appeal of these steel homes on the market…
Lustrous details: The rancher from 1950 has a level entry with no steps, prefab steel panels covered with porcelain enamel and covered with siding. There’s an enclosed Florida room with skylights, a new kitchen and bathroom, and the original steel roof.
Lustrous details: This Surf Blue, “Westchester Deluxe” model has two beds, a remodeled bath, and new carpet. Aside from those upgrades, the original features of this 1949 home are maintained. A spacious living room offers front yard views. The dining room features a china cabinet pass-through to the kitchen, along with a door that leads to a fenced yard and garage.
Lustrous details: This steel-framed Lustron home has an open floor plan, granite counters in the kitchen and bath, and tile flooring. Outside is a covered porch and patio with a fenced backyard, plus a one-car garage.
Lustrous details: The low-maintenance and durable home made of enameled steel is still going strong, with most of the original elements intact. This is the popular Westchester Deluxe model, with pass-through between the dining room and kitchen. The home has a new flow and new carpet, and a one-car garage. Check out that mod light fixture in the dining room! Cool.
Lustrous details: This classic Lustron design offers built-in storage, two decent-sized bedrooms, and one full bath. The home’s metal construction means that it is low maintenance inside and out. All-new carpeting was recently installed.
Lustrous details: Only essential updates have been made, so this home remains as close to the original design as possible. The kitchen, bath, windows, furnace, and AC were all updated five years ago. A large backyard has a privacy fence with landscaping and flowerbeds. The garage is currently used as an art studio, but could be converted back.
Lustrous details: This Lustron has been lovingly restored over the past two years, and offers a welcome alternative to a condo or townhouse. The living room, separate dining room, and master bedroom feature new bamboo floors and fresh paint.
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