The Inspector

By NPI, Inc.



7 Interesting Things Found in Old Homes

 May 10, 2021 |  Home Decor, Just for Fun |  entertaining, organization

Older homes are full of one-of-a-kind features you won’t find in today’s new builds. Maybe your home’s retro elements are even why you chose to purchase it in the first place! Below are a few of our favorites, some rarer than others. Do you still have any of them around your house?

1. Conversation Pits
Gaining popularity in the 1950s and holding strong until the 1970s, the conversation pit is easy to recognize. Often found in the living room, pits were intended to get people talking--perhaps inexplicably, in a sunken nook a few steps below the regular floor. While it seemed like a cozy idea, conversation pits faced harsh criticism, mainly for the fact that they’re a falling hazard. Yet, some modern designers are reviving pits for the current homeowner.

2. Phone Nooks
Back when phones didn’t fit in your pocket, you’d need a central, out-of-the-way place to put them. Enter the phone nook or “niche,” as it’s sometimes called. This little cutout in the wall served as a hideaway for that otherwise bulky landline. If you don’t want that awkward blank opening, try converting it instead of covering it up. A few plants, some photos, or your favorite books can make it the perfect display shelf!

3. Boot Scrapers
What’s that weird tiny iron sculpture on the front stoop? The answer is a boot scraper! More useful during the days of unpaved roads and sidewalks, boot scrapers were meant to clean your shoes and keep the muck out of your home. As finished roads became more widespread, the need for iron scrapers slowly died out. Time and the elements have worn down the vast majority of scrapers by now. If you still have one, we recommend preserving this little piece of your home’s history!

4. Transom Windows
Not just for looks, those decorative windows around your front door serve a purpose. Transom windows allowed natural light to into the home before the invention of electric lighting. They also opened to let in fresh air and cool your house off. Transom windows are still a popular design choice, but they aren’t designed to open and close as often thanks to modern day air conditioning.

5. Laundry Chutes
This is one feature that definitely made your weekly chores easier! Laundry chutes came in handy in multi-story homes where the laundry room was usually on the lowest level. Instead of having to lug baskets and hampers down several flights of stairs, you could simply throw your dirty clothes down the chute. As houses began to shrink in size and laundry rooms could be placed anywhere in the home, the need for chutes declined and eventually faded out.

6. The Butler’s Pantry
While butler’s pantries are an older invention, they’re still found in newer builds. A private space for the house staff to prepare meals and drinks, a butler’s pantry is perfect for entertaining. They can also be used to store your fine cutlery out of the way to keep it safe. Modern pantries are more upscale than the dingy ones of the past, but it’s a testament to how functionality can persevere through the years.

7. Bathroom Wall Heaters
There’s nothing better than a nice warm shower to start your day . . . except when you have to get out and feel that bone-chilling cold air. That’s where the bathroom wall heater comes in. Most of these heaters date back to the 1950s and ran on a gas connection. All you had to do was flip a switch, and soon your bathroom would be nice and toasty. Some later models transitioned to electricity, but they still weren’t the safest appliance to have next to your tub. You can have bathroom wall heaters safely turned off by a professional. Some homeowners have even opted to turn their defunct heater into a holder for bathroom reading material!


At NPI, we inspect homes and commercial properties of all ages. Visit our website to find an inspector near you today!

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