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The original Robert A.M. Stern Dream House, as photographed for LIFE magazine in 1994. All images via Robert A.M. Stern Architects.
Location: Kennesaw, Georgia
Considering how freely the term "dream home" gets tossed around (just ask a real estate agent), it's rare to find any dwelling that actually deserves the title. But this bucolic traditional home near Atlanta asking nearly $600,000 can stake a claim to both that title and a starring role in a unique experiment in publishing and homebuilding. Architect Robert A.M. Stern conceived of this wood shingled beauty not for a homeowner, but all homeowners, as part of LIFE magazine's Dream House program. Designed to be suitable for a small family, and affordable (a $200,000 budget, based on 1994 prices), it was the first in a series of high-profile designs the magazine put forward as creative solutions to the dearth of affordable family homes. Stern himself summed up the state of affairs when he told LIFE that "most Americans buy the house they hate the least."
Built in the Legacy Park neighborhood in Kennesaw, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta, this was the true model home for Stern's design, featured in the original photo shoot from the June 1994 issue of LIFE. After seeing the home in print, readers could send away for the plans, which often ran around $600. Stern's contribution to the series was a stately, traditional home with a more flexible, modern interior, a guiding principle honored by all the featured architects (who also included Michael Graves and Hugh Newell Jacobsen). Behind the white picket fence lies a wistful façade comprised of dormers, columns and a long, low-slung porch out back. The interior offers more traditional touches, including a high-ceilinged great room as well as an octagonal bedroom. Stern sold more than 1,000 copies of the plans for this design, which were specific to the point of suggesting patterns for bathroom tile, but this Georgia home was the only finished product his company supervised during construction. Stern discovered that homeowners and homebuilders would take liberty with his sketches, adapting them to fit different sites and adding their own touches. He told The New York Times that these homes were a bit like children: ''You expect them to do their own thing.''
∙ 4050 Palisades Main NW Kennesaw, GA [Realtor.com]
∙ All House of the Day posts [Curbed]
∙ Best-Laid Plans: LIFE Magazine's Dream Homes, DIY for the Common Man [Curbed]