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In the early 70’s, when my husband and I were looking to buy our first home many of the new housing tracts offered things like atrium’s, conversation pits and cottage cheese ceilings (ugh!).  When I was a newlywed I thought I wanted a brand, spanking new house.  Boy, did I figure out quickly that I wasn’t a “new home” kind of gal.

This is my friend Jane's house---the charm comes from years of work on various parts of a home. It makes it livable and cozy.

Our first home had an atrium.  At the time this feature was a relatively new innovation for bringing the outdoors in—a Southern California passion (maybe this is common in the mild-winter states).  We purchased the “model” so our atrium came with a lovely built-in, brick fountain which rarely worked but at least it was a finished space as opposed to the barren ground that the new non-model homes had.  I admit that my current house, built in 1968, has an atrium and I’ve grown to love it.  We enjoy the large outdoor wicker chairs and will often read and relax in this space.

Atrium / Courtyard outdoor living spaces

Even the cat is happy about the atrium.

My friend Jane has an atrium/courtyard that rivals most. This gate is a hint of the welcoming atrium just inside.

Jane often sets the atrium dining table with beverages for a party.

This wall hanging and a fountain on a nearby wall create a room that is as pretty as it is inviting.

Jane's Front Door is as pretty as the atrium it resides in.

Conversation Pit

Just typing the words “conversation pit” cracks me up.  It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite movies, “Father of the Bride” when Steve Martin (playing the father) says, “we could have the wedding in one of our all-time favorite restaurants, Bob’s BBQ Pit” and the young son says, “Ah Dad, I don’t think we want the word ‘pit’ on the invitation”.  Hilarious.

If you've never seen this movie, rent it, you will laugh out loud.

Our second home featured a conversation pit—I wonder what the thinking was behind this design detail.  The pit in our house was a step-down space between the living room and kitchen.  Our ‘pit’ was much smaller than the pictures below (and I’ve never had a contemporary house, maybe that was the problem for me).  There was room for a sofa and we installed shelving to accommodate a television—therein lies the problem, we wanted to watch TV and the design team wanted us to converse.

Our "pit" wasn't nearly this large and our house has never been contemporary.

I don't have pictures of our conversation pit but you get the jest of it from these photographs.

The final trend in the late 60’s and early 70’s (at least for tract houses in and around Southern California) was the acoustical stuff they sprayed on all of the ceilings.  I didn’t like the way this “cottage cheese” texture looked and I am not sure of why they used it but it seemed to be in most newly built homes during that time period.  It was later discovered that a lot of the materials used in the product contained asbestos and we were very happy to have found someone to remove it from the house we are currently in.

What are the trends you find in your region for new home construction in your area?