October 17, 2017

The Surprising Sears House That Became a Unicorn

The surprising Sears Bryant was sold in 1938 and 1939. This design was revolutionary and dramatically different from any other model Sears sold. The Bryant was the first (and last) International style house that Sears Roebuck ever offered.

The International style is simple and industrial. The Sears Bryant has many characteristics of that style, including:
  • a box shape
  • a flat roof (that screams modern!)
  • an asymmetrical facade
  • unornamented walls (the Bryant has a mostly brick facade, however; most International style houses have smooth exterior walls)
  • large windows in banks
  • cantilevered porch overhangs over the exterior doors

In its Modern Homes catalog, Sears said that a customer had suggested that they put a modern facade on their current offerings of "stepped-up level" houses. (These same designs were later called split-levels, and an unknown architect working for Sears invented this house style around 1932.)  

So the Bryant is a split-level house that came with two bedrooms upstairs and a recreation room downstairs. Customers had the option to add two more bedrooms on a fourth level upstairs, or use the space as storage. The roof deck would be accessible whether the additional bedrooms were added or not.

The house was sold for two years, and yet, one has never been identified. The Bryant is my unicorn, and I hope to find one. International style houses are uncommon today, because the style was accepted by only a small minority of buyers. Perhaps the Bryant did not appeal to middle-class consumer taste, but I will bet there is one out there somewhere!


Cindy Catanzaro said...

And I'll bet it's in Chicagoland!

Eric said...

I really like this one a lot... but despite Sears' assurances that the house was not "too extreme or severe in departure" from conventional design, it must not have resonated with their customers.
I'll be on the lookout now, too!

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