Then and Now: Vintage Home Trends That’ll Take You Way Back
We opened The Family Handyman vault to bring you these fantastically tacky vintage home trends of decades past. Plus, see what similar projects look like today!
The ’90s brought us a lot of things, like the loud colors of the outfits and the bright red trim on the closet organizers in this cover from 1992.
Turn of the Century Update
A simple shelf-and-rod system like this one takes the stress off the closet rod and creates zones for clothes. Learn how to build your own closet organizer on the cheap.
In the ’70s, the flannel flowed and we were building vacation spots (aka: a deck!) in the backyard.
We’ve beefed up our deck projects since the ’70s and came up with this elegant multi-level deck. It features cantilevered bays, overhead lattice, custom rails and cascading stairs. Plus: Check out these 14 DIY deck add-ons that are seriously cool.
When we revisited the home bar a few decades later it compares to that of your favorite watering hole. We show you how to build it and how to sell it to the significant other.
We’ve been finishing basements since our beginning, and this one from 1957 transformed a basement into an activity room complete with a bar, television and fireplace.
Activity Room Turns to Man Cave
We asked readers to send use their basement transformations and we got plenty of man cave ideas, like this one from from Brian Gartrell. He added a pool table and Muhammad Ali memorabilia. Getting jealous looking at this man cave? Check out 15 more to perhaps spur you to action.
Groovy Attic Room
Junior finally got his own room where he can listen to The Beach Boys all day. Of course, it’s in the attic but we transformed the space into a groovy room.
Attic Play Space
Over the years people have taken to using the attic as a space for younger kids to spend time in, like this playroom. Be sure to take a look at these 15 amazing toy rooms that don’t require a remodel of the attic.
Fit for a King
Bunk beds or in this case, a lofted bed, have gotten more elaborate for children, like this reader-built project. Your little knight in training can think he’s a king in this castle. You’ll be surprised at the other bunk bed creations readers have come up with.
In 1961 we showed plans on how to build a year-round cottage by doing it in sections during the winter.
Forty years later we showed you a backyard cottage shed that you can build that’ll make it feel like you’re worlds away.
Learning in the Workshop
Passing down workshop skills to the next generation has been a time-honored tradition for DIYers, and we captured the scene on a 1977 cover of father and son working together.
Building a Bookcase
Justin and his son, Jackson, teamed up on a woodworking project together for a story we did a few years back. They built a bookcase together and Jackson got to learn some of the finer points of woodworking.
DIY Kitchen Evolves
As the years rolled on, plastic laminate faded away and gave way to wooden cabinets in kitchens across the country. Explore what you can do with kitchen cabinets after taking a look at these cabinets.
As concern grew about the rising energy costs in the late ’70s and early ’80s, they tried different ideas. this home traced energy consumption down to the last watt. It was estimated then that earth-sheltered homes could reduce heating and cooling costs by 50-85 percent.
As costs came down, geothermal has become more of an affordable option for home heating and cooling. A geothermal heat pump can immediately save you 30-60 percent on heating costs and 20-50 percent on cooling costs. Find out all you need to know about geothermal here.
In 1995 we covered the prep work of exterior painting from pressure washing to caulking areas of your home.
Some years later we showed you how to get the most of your siding by painting the exterior of your home properly.
You can watch the circus comfortably from a leather sofa in a home theater. One of our readers submitted this project and you can get all of the details here.
Finished Basement Game Room
Back in 1958 playing shuffleboard in the basement sounded like a pretty good night. Put on the record hi-fi and settle down for a game of Scrabble later.
Conventional Basement Family Room
Today’s finished basements tend to create more family living space or additional bedrooms. Finishing a basement adds useable living space to a home and can increase a home’s value. We show you what goes into finishing a basement and how to get started doing it.
Stone Fire Pit
We’ve shown readers how to construct fire pits from nearly the beginning of the magazine in 1951. This fire pit appeared in a 1955 issue.
Updated Fire Feature
We got a little outside of the box with a fire table creation some years later. It’s a little less maintenance and looks pretty good on a cool summer evening.
It’s safe to say fireplaces have changed dramatically since the introduction of gas fireplaces.
Flexible Wall Unit
We showed off this flexible wall unit in 1961. Back then it included a hi-fi, desk, a place for records, books and storage.
Showcase Built-In Bookcase
Nearly a half century later we took the concept of the flexible wall unit and turned it into a stunning showcase built-in bookcase at a relatively cheap price.
Garage Bump Out
We didn’t call it a garage bump out in 1954, but that’s what this project did.
Garage Bump Out Now
We classed it up a little more the second time around. A garage bump out can make maneuvering around a little easier.
Fast forward a few years and we put together this garden closet that fits perfectly into place for homes that don’t have the space for a large, freestanding shed. It accommodates the gangly items you need for the yard just fine.
Bedroom From a Bare Wall
This 1972 cover billed this bedroom as a dream room for your daughter. It combined a vanity and dresser while creating storage below the bed. We’re not exactly sure how this would fly today though.
A Playhouse Bunk Bed
This adorable bunk bed, shared with us by Facebook fan Nicolas Csonka, doubles as a child’s playhouse or indoor fort, complete with tiny door and window. You’ve got to check out the 14 coolest bunk beds out there today, too.
All Things Outdoors
This June-July issue from 1953 covered a lot of issues related to the yard, but it’s the unusual grill incinerator that caught our eye in particular. F.S. Church submitted his grill incinerator for a “How I Built My Outdoor Grill” contest and took first prize. He received a 20-in. tilting table jig saw made by Shopmaster, Inc.
Brick Barbecue Bar
There was no prize involved with this construction, instead reader John Kubicki submitted his brick barbecue bar to our brag board. Like F.S. Church, Kubicki never laid a brick before taking on this project.
In addition to solving home emergencies, we’ve been pretty good about providing solutions on how to prevent them, like with this “Stop Lurking Leaks” story.
Sometimes it’s better to know someone with a hot tub rather than have your own hot tub. Back in ’79 we showed you how to install one.
Decades later we moved on to swimming pools, like this above-ground swimming pool. If you’re in the mood for a pool, check out these incredible backyard pools.
Underground Sprinkler System
Installing an underground sprinkler system was a little more labor intensive when we wrote about it in our third-ever issue in 1951.
Underground Sprinkler System Now
The plan from 1951 is pretty comparable to a story we did in 2018 on irrigation. Except the men doing the work above are using a vibratory plow to pull polyethylene pipe through the ground. We show you how to get the job done in 11 steps.
Blind-corner cabinets are cabinets on inside corners that are accessible from only one door. If you have a blind-corner cabinet in your kitchen, you know how hard it is to reach anything that gets shoved to the back. Most kitchen designers will try to plan space for a lazy Susan base cabinet instead of a blind corner. These have rotating shelves that provide good access to the contents. But if you’re stuck with a blind-corner cabinet and no lazy Susan, here are a few options worth exploring.
Photo: Courtesy of Knape & Vogt
People have long turned to The Family Handyman for tips and ideas on how to remodel a kitchen. In 1960 we showed readers how to remodel part of a kitchen and buy part of the remodel.
Kitchen Remodeling Now
We’ve still got great ideas on how to remodel a kitchen in our magazine and on our website.
This existing house was a single-story, 1,500-sq.-ft., two-bedroom, one-bath home. It was quaint, but too tight for a growing young family with two kids. The newly remodeled kitchen features a low peninsula countertop, which allows family and friends to sit and be a part of activity in the kitchen while still staying out from underfoot.
Project by Home Front Build.
Photo: Cris Nolasco
Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget
Life gets chaotic, but we’ve always had ways to make your home work and be stylish like this 1983 edition.
We’ve rolled out kitchen cabinet rollout storage systems to make room for everything and clear the clutter. You’ll want to know these nine genius tips for organizing kitchens and clearing the clutter.
Laundry Room Planning
The laundry room always seems to be a catch-all place where clutter builds up but we’ve had an eye toward preventing an eyesore, like we did with this cover story from 1969.
Laundry Room Update
This sleek laundry room organization system can be one fix to a cluttered laundry room. Even if you have a small laundry room, we’ve got a solution for you to make the laundry room work better for you.
Lawn Care Fixes
We’ve kept the tips coming through the years, like watering your lawn in the fall. Check out these 10 tips for smarter watering.
We’ve long had a focus on literature like with this 1994 cover that created a library room in the house.
Bookcases, Bookcases, Bookcases
We’ve got countless bookcase projects, many of which are simple and will make a drastic difference in a room.
Whether it’s the simple home improvement or something for a more advanced DIYer, we’ve had a multitude of projects to choose from to improve your home. We dressed up walls in this 1970 edition and we’ve continued to show more ways to class up walls.
You can add classy wainscoting to your home in a weekend, here’s how.
Later on we showed readers a clever modular bookcase that can be thought of as a collection of boxes.
Old Kitchen Transformed into Family Room
This 1964 issue featured a kitchen that transitioned into a family room.
The Kitchen is Open
Years later we featured a family and their kitchen designer, Kathie Maughan, who found a way to give them everything they wanted. No space was added; the kitchen was simply opened up and reconfigured. She removed the wall that separated the kitchen from the formal dining room, and then designed matching cabinetry to flow through both spaces to help blend them together. This new space became an informal sitting area. The existing informal family room/eating space was spruced up to become a more sophisticated formal dining room. Find out the 10 things you should never do during a kitchen remodel.
Outdoor Living Room
We’ve been coming up with ideas to bring a living room outdoors for years, just like we did with this outdoor living room in 1960.
Outdoor Living Room Now
We got a little more elaborate with a screened-in version of an outdoor living room.
Painting has always been one of those projects that can turn into a mess if you’re not careful, but we’ve always had great tips on how to paint without making a mess.
From complex projects to just a simple terrace idea, we’ve ran the gamut. This terrace design comes from 1954.
Stone Path and Steps
We showed how to build a stone path and steps for a more intensive patio project later on.
Simple Terrace Upgrade
The plans haven’t always been so complex that a first-time DIYer couldn’t attempt, as was the case with this terrace plan from 1967.
Perfect Patio Combo
After the turn of the century we employed unique sandwich construction to build this stunning sheltered patio.
We haven’t shied away from trying new designs, and did it in the early days like with this pergola from 1961.
We’ve vacillated between the creative and the classic and opted for a traditional look with this pergola construction. Sometimes understated can have just as much of an impact aesthetically.
As The Family Handyman, the “family” portion of our name has remained central to the projects we showcase. This play shelter turned out to be a good place for the kids to swing rain or shine.
Rebuilt Play Set
Reader Ben Hoyle wanted to build a swing set in the backyard of his house for his daughters. So he found a used swing set that someone was giving away and decided to rebuild it. We love the opportunity to repurpose old items, like using these 80 items perfect for repurposing.
Updated Barbecue Cart
Fifty years later we had another take on the barbecue wagon. We removed the actual barbecue part but kept the wagon part to make cooking easier. Check out another crazy barbecue contraption—a barbecue and smoker locomotive you won’t believe.
This 1957 project showed how to create a private patio and billed it as patio glamour. It certainly has the look as a perfect getaway spot at home.
We took elements of patio glamour to create a living wall for more scenery in that getaway spot. Enjoy the sweet smells that a living wall can provide.
In 1955 we came up with a room divider that almost looks like it leads to a secret room. These hidden rooms will have you asking how they did it.
Room Divider Simplified
A room divider doesn’t have to be as complicated as the one from 1955 but it can be perfect to create a little privacy or an essential element for a studio apartment. See how we built this room divider.
Double-Duty Pub Shed
After a while the standard shed became a bit mundane and we turned toward creating a shed that could double as a gathering place with this pub shed.
In 1983 we opted for an environmentally friendly shed that used solar power.
In 1974 we found homeowners some more storage space with a storage wall in their homes.
This wall-hung bookshelf is one of the easiest we’ve ever built. If you can stack blocks, you can build it. And installing the cable doesn’t require any more skill than drilling a hole. Things will go a lot quicker if you own a table saw, a miter saw and a pneumatic nailer, but you could easily build this project with just basic hand tools and a circular saw. We used a router to bevel the shelf edges, but this is optional. If you’re dead-set on finishing this project in a weekend, here’s how. Skip the Friday night movie and cut out the parts and get one coat of finish on. Then get up early on Saturday and apply another coat or two of finish and you’ll be ready to assemble and install the shelves on Sunday. We spent a little under $200 for the materials, including the oak boards, cables and other hardware.
These days, wall papers has started to see a resurgence, like in this bedroom. Check out the other color trends you should know for modern times.
Our workshop tips have kept readers’ shops tidy for more than six decades and this issue from 1964 showed readers an all-in-one workshop and storage wall.
On-a-Roll Pegboard Doors
Maximize hand tool storage in a tool cabinet with this slick tip. The key to this project is a 4-ft.-long by-pass sliding door hardware set (about $15 at a home center).You mount 1/4-in. pegboard onto it, making sure to provide enough room (2 in.) to hang tools on the pegboard and still allow it to slide by the door in front.
The trick is to insert 1/2-in. plywood spacers in the roller hardware as shown. You can use the floor bracket that comes with the slider hardware to maintain the same 2-in. clearance at the bottom of the cabinet. For door handles, simply drill a couple of 1-1/4-in. holes in the pegboard with a spade bit. Now pop in the pegs and hang up your tools.
Shed building has been a hallmark of The Family Handyman since our beginning and this yard shed from 1991 showcases how valuable a good shed can be.
This shed has a large sliding door on one end to access the 8 x 16-ft. storage area, three windows for lots of light and a front entry door for extra convenience. But the best feature is the large covered porch where you can work on projects or just hang out in the shade with friends. The front half of the roof is supported by 6×6 posts and 2×10 beams. We continued the post-and-beam look on the rest of the shed, using the 2×10 beams to support the wide roof overhangs. We used inexpensive standard framing lumber for the beams and corner boards, and coated it with a super-durable finish to give it a rich, rustic appearance. The windows are aluminum storm windows. The front door is a steel entry door purchased at a home center.
We revisited the subject some years later but with an alternative take. Instead of coloring the concrete we opted to stain it for a fantastic look. See how we stained the concrete.
We’ve provided life-changing garage organization ideas for decades like this setup from 1965.
The Ultimate Wall Storage System
Years later we found French cleats provide an awesome answer for garage storage like this ultimate wall storage system we came up with after Y2K.