What did the American dream look like in the late 1940s? You don’t have to search much further than advertisements for Lustron, one of the country’s favorite post-war, prefabricated homes, which arrived in 3,300-part kits—think if IKEA delivered homes—and could be built by Lustron in just two weeks.
Full-page ads showed perfectly coiffed, perma-smiling families lounging in sparkling, compact metal bungalows. Housewives washed dishes, wearing lipstick and heels; kids kicked back on the floor, reading the “funnies.” The descriptions flanking these images promised modern, 1,100-square-foot homes in eight different models, with porcelain-coated steel facades of four different colors—“surf blue,” “maize yellow,” “desert tan,” and “dove gray”—to choose from. They were filled with ultramodern amenities, too, like a machine that washed both dishes and clothes.
The company’s aspirational tagline said it all: “What Lustron offers is a new way of life.”
Around 2,500 Lustron homes had been assembled across the country before the company declared bankruptcy in 1950. Buyers were American families looking to bury memories of World War II and build a new, sunnier, more successful existence. Today, around 1,000 Lustron homes still stand.