Image of the cover of "This Used to Be Normal: Pattern Book Homes for 21st Century Michigan

Download the guide: This Used To Be Normal

What’s old is new again—and a beloved chapter in architectural history can be a part of our strategy for tackling Michigan’s shortage of homes. To that end, the League offers This Used to be Normal: Pattern Book Homes for 21st Century Michigan, in partnership with MEDC and East Arbor Architects.

In beloved traditional neighborhoods around the state you can find homes built in the early 1900s from catalogs by companies like Sears and Aladdin. These homes both addressed the housing needs of a booming economy and established a Great Lakes vernacular residential architecture. Built by individual homeowners and small developers working from common plan sets, they brought high-quality design into reach for the middle class. Many of these homes included more than one dwelling, providing flexibility for multi-generational families or rental income.  Some of these same approaches can help keep home construction costs in reach today.

Side by side images: on the left, a scanned vintage catalog page showing the "parkside" model duplex home; on the right a current photograph of a home built from this catalog model.

Historic pattern book or catalog homes can be found throughout Michigan, such as this “Parkside” model duplex home in Berkley, MI.

Our new guide outlines the role these beloved historic pattern book homes have played in our communities, and outlines techniques for building a new generation of them.  This includes two nearly complete construction plan sets—two-home model “the Linden” and four-home model “the Grove”—that may be freely reproduced. Plan sets for additional models will be added to the library in 2023.

These plans offer recognizable Michigan architectural traditions with current building codes and accessibility considerations, and are designed to fit on a 50×100-foot lot in an existing neighborhood context. Additionally, the guide outlines zoning and regulatory updates that communities can make to streamline the use of these plans as part of their local housing and community stability strategies.

A blueprint page shows the first floor plan of the duplex home model and detail of bathroom, windows, and doors.

The provided construction drawings are substantially complete, requiring only localization for site dependent issues like insulation values, or soil conditions.

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This project was funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as part of the Redevelopment Ready Communities program. The Michigan Municipal League provided concept, narrative, and project management.  East Arbor Architects produced the home patterns. Piper & Gold Public Relations provided graphic design and layout of the guide.

For support with using these plans in your community, or to share your experience, contact project lead Melissa Milton-Pung, MHP, EDFP, at mmiltonpung@mml.org, or Richard Murphy, AICP, at rmurphy@mml.org