Croatan Cottage: A Sears Kit House in North Carolina

by hookedonhouses on June 1, 2012

Croatan Cottage in Manteo, North Carolina started life as a Sears Roebuck kit house in the early 1900s called “The Vallonia.” At the time it was described as “a prize bungalow home already cut and fitted” that you could buy for just $1,979. Here’s how it looked in the original catalog:

After the house was delivered in kit form by boat to the Manteo waterfront, it was unloaded and assembled here. This is how it looks today:

Be still, my heart. I love everything about it, from the yellow paint (which was the original color) and the big front porch to the picket fence.

A reader named Melody sent me these photos that she took of the house. She says that everyone in their community loves it, and they were excited to see it restored.

The house still has its original light fixtures:

There are 3 bedrooms and 3 baths.

The Sears Roebuck catalogs began to offer house plans in 1895. Between 1908 and 1940, there was a “Modern Homes” division that supplied building plans, materials and kit houses shipped by rail to customers across the country.

Bungalows like this one were among Sears’ best-selling house plans.

Melody tells me, “The board and batten barn is also a beautiful spot and opens up at one end with double doors.”

Local artist Gina Owens paints colorful folk art fish on boards and crab pot floats like these shown on the barn behind the house:

Maybe the best thing about the cottage is that you can rent it for your next vacation. For booking information, visit the The Roanoke Inn. On their website they say the house is just “a short boardwalk stroll from the Inn, and steps away from Roanoke Island Festival Park.”

Thanks to Melody Leckie who took these beautiful photographs and shared them with us. You can see more of them and learn more about the cottage on its Facebook page.

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P.S. Visit my Cottages page to see more of my favorites, including…

Monkey Cottage former schoolhouse Country Living

A Cozy Cottage in the Catskills

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DecorGirl June 1, 2012 at 7:41 am

Oh so charming! Why can’t someone just reissue these “kit houses” for today’s market? They are full of such charming details, not like the boring cookie cutter house we are surrounded with. Charlotte has a few neighborhoods with these great bungalows. Not to small but big enough. Well done.

Sarah @ housecrazy June 1, 2012 at 7:54 am

Amazing house! I love Sear’s Vallonia! I agree, I wish some company (if not Sears) would get into the business of selling these wonderful vintage kit homes again! The owners have restored this one to perfection – the decor is so rich and appropriate. I love everything about it!

Janet June 1, 2012 at 7:56 am

It’s perfect.

Asia from OBX June 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

I feel so special when you feature my hometown!!!! I drive past this house every morning on my way to work. They did a wonderful job! Please look me up if you ever visit the OBX. Keep writing- I can’t get enough of your blog!!!

Jane June 1, 2012 at 8:12 am

Reading about this house and seeing these pictures was a perfect way to start the day! It’s beautiful! Thanks Julia, I love love love your blog!

Black Eyed Susans Kitchen June 1, 2012 at 8:21 am

I am smitten…love the details like the arches and stairwell.

Elvira June 1, 2012 at 8:22 am

I’m swooning here. There’s nothing I’d change. Everything is well proportioned, human size and cosy. The kitchen is sweet and even though it’s small, it looks practical with everything at arm’s reach. They’ve even squeezed in a butler’s pantry in form of that shelving unit leaning against the fridge!
I love the patchwork quilts on the beds and the multiple table lamps. The front porch is wonderful too.

cbean June 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I agree. (:

shabbychick June 1, 2012 at 8:23 am

Swooning!! What a gorgeous place, I love everything! ;)

Bella Michelle June 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

I love it!!!! I think it is probably one of my favorite homes that you have shared with us!

Carrie June 1, 2012 at 8:37 am

Love this post!! And the house!! I have always thought it was so cool that you could order a house from Sears.

Maggy June 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

Ditto, ditto, ditto to everything everyone said! The restoration is marvelous, as are all the furnishings. Wonderful post, Julia, and great photos, Melody!

Heather June 1, 2012 at 9:37 am

That’s the thing about these kit homes, they’ll never be able to be reproduced. Just think, these homes were pre-cut and built with virgin timber, the likes of which we will never see again. The quality of these old homes is unmatchable, so even more important than re-creating them is protecting the ones that already exist so that the future can enjoy them as much as we do. These homes, if well kept, should be able to last forever.

Monica June 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

That’s my dream house! It is good to see that these bungalows are still around. Sigh!

T. June 1, 2012 at 9:55 am

This is perfect, and what I think of when I hear the word “home.”

There are a few Sears kit homes in my town. My house looks like one, and people often think it is one, but it’s not!

Cathryn @ CARO Interiors June 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

Just GORGEOUS!
I love how careful they were with period colors and scale.
Simply perfect!

Rachel Reeves June 1, 2012 at 10:04 am

Oh, be still my heart!
I rarely like the color yellow on a house, but I simply adore that!

And 2K for a house “kit”? Why can’t life be like that, anymore? My husband and I just had a discussion about the fact that we don’t bat an eye at a home priced at almost half a million, in So Cal. There is just something wrong with that!

Love this post!

Marlene June 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

Very nice.

Laura June 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

Oh! The painted beadboard, the gorgeous woodwork, the arch in the stairwell!! Love it all! I guess they turned a couple of the bedrooms into bathrooms. I like that they kept the kitchen small, and the sunroom-type room is great. I love my farmhouse Victorian, but those Sears houses are my absolute favorite.

Susan @ pinkportugueseroses June 1, 2012 at 10:47 am

There was another commenter who I agree with… Why don’t they take these proven house plans and build them? Why build these awful box houses? What the people really want are these lovely “kit” houses. I didn’t see the square footage on this house but, it looked like it had enough space for all of a families needs. I would take a smaller house with charm over a brand new “box” house anyday…LOL!!!

Thanks for share this lovely home!

margaret June 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

My husband and I are slowly working on a small Sear Catalog home (c. 1935) in Virginia. Our house has the same door! The original owner ran an accounting business out of the walkout basement. We would like to update the basement but are at a disagreement on what style is true to the house. Although the seperate hot and cold faucets in the bathroom can go.

Lisa T. June 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Yeah, I’ve noticed those separate faucet handles are coming back and I don’t know why.

Shelly Joseph June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am

Question,

Would buy the plans if you could still find them. I wonder if asked if Sears would start reproducing them again.. hmmmm

Erin June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am

This house makes me so happy! It’s perfection! Can you imagine paying $1,979 for a home kit? That’s about the price of some of those fancy Lego kits my kids are always wanting! :) This house has definitely stood the test of time, but the more I think about it, I’m pretty sure my husband & I could not put something together (no matter how nice the kit) that anyone would want to live in- or that would even be standing 10 years later. We can’t even hang pictures together! There was some serious skill put into that original build (and the subsequent reno)! Here’s to American ingenuity and craftsmanship!

Becky @ Farmgirl Paints June 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm

the outside is picture perfect!

Jessica June 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm

What a neat post! I loved looking at that old catalog page with the floor plan. Very cute house!

Stephanie June 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Amazing! Love it!!!

Jane George June 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Adorable! That original light fixture is perfection.

anna see June 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

charming! i love to see these “kit” houses restored. i think my love of houses and floor plans came from an old sears reproduction catalog when i was a kid.

Upstate Broad June 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm

It kinda freaked me out when I saw both the outside of and plans for this house, because my husband and I owned one nearly identical to it in Newburgh, NY. The only real difference was that ours had 1 less bedroom and the living room went all the way across the front of the house, but otherwise this was our house. I’d love to know when Sears stopped selling those kits, because we know that our former home was built in 1945.

lara July 31, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Sears stopped selling the ready-cut homes around 1941. However, some of the other kit home manufacturers stayed around longer than that. The house in this post is the Sears Vallonia model and a lot of houses look like it. :)

Sharon Reid June 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Love this little house! I love the cottage/farmhouse/antique look the best!

Janelle Wiens June 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Beautiful home! I LOVE catalog homes, so I was excited to see this post:) They restored it beautifully! And I love all the original details! Wish it was mine:) Enjoy your weekend Julia!

threadbndr June 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/plans/sears/1936sears/36sears-vallonia.htm

Here’s another version with the upstairs reconfigured slightly.

You know, some of these ads are detailed enough for an architect to work off of……

hookedonhouses June 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

That’s great–thanks for the link!

Kim June 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

What a charming home. I love all of the details inside and out.

I’m all for kit homes, but I think if they made them today, they would probably be built with cheap materials and not last for very long.

Rebecca C. June 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Not sure what I love the most about this house. The colors used on the inside and outside, the fact that they still have the original fixtures, the way it’s decorated. I’d love to stay there. Wonderfully done.

mishelle June 2, 2012 at 2:21 am

cute curb appeal!

Christina from Dallas June 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

I wonder what happened once the train came with your house? Were there companies that would build the houses for you? It’s a beautiful house!

hookedonhouses June 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

In this case, the couple hired someone who was in charge of putting it together for them, according to their Facebook page.

Beth A. June 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Oh tha t house. That perfect, perfect house. Spiraling down into the sixth deadly sin.

2inz4me June 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Love.love.love…..oh if only we could do such things now! I must admit, I’m glad they added a couple bathrooms….that’s the one thing I just could never deal with in a small home…one bathroom for a family? I’d go insane. Other than that, the room sizes, the design…..dreamy!

Linzy June 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

I wonder how many sq.ft. it is? You know the outside photo of this home reminds me of some of the larger Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. models… obviously they don’t supply kits for you but I’ve heard that the building plans are quite comprehensive. I would LOVE to see the inside of one of the larger ones all built, like this one, http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/products/b53/
I’m no expert but I think that they are pretty awesome, don’t you?

hookedonhouses June 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

I do love the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses!

appey26 June 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I LOVE kit homes!!!! I’m a bit of a mid-mod junkie so they make me so excited! I’d love to find one of my own.

Regina June 3, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Lovely house! Glad to see it was restored. Just goes to show you. Beautiful things do come in small packages.

Screendoorgirl 3 June 4, 2012 at 12:23 am

These houses amaze me. Do you remember Lynette Jennings? She did a show on these once and it was something. They were really built solid! Imagine ordering a house from Sears? Thanks, Julia.

Melody June 4, 2012 at 8:23 am

Thank you for your wonderful feature on Croatan Cottage! Love your blog and have been following it for sometime now. Never thought a submission of mine would be in it! We were all very excited to see the comments and also the post on facebook. Hope you can come for a visit on day soon! Manteo is a wonderful little town on Roanoke Island.

MissFifi June 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

This is absolutely wonderful. We live in a 1920′s bungalow that is not laid out as well, but this gives a pretty good reference point if and when we make changes. I actually love the kitchen.

Julia Klimek June 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I looooove this house. The original modular homes – I think? Or paved the way for modulars? How beautiful, either way! The light fixtures are way cool!

theSavvySeeker June 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

You literally took the words out of my mouth…BE STILL MY HEART! I have always told my husband that my dream home is a yellow bungalow. I am going to have to bookmark this story, so I can look back, be inspired and drool!!!

Karen June 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I love this–such cozy perfection. Wish they would reissue these kits too. I usually am not drawn to yellow, but I love this shade and it suits the home. Bungalows like these–only ususally brick are the types of homes that they are still scraping off close to my neighborhood to make way for the big McMansions (yes it is still done and allowed). Boo! Just love this and thank you for sharing.

Alison Butler June 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

Oh, this home is soooooo sweet! Like a little doll house! Thanks for posting! :-)

Tara Z June 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I agree…let’s rally to bring back the kit houses like this! I heart this home!!!!

Sheila July 3, 2012 at 12:15 am

I love this house. I had a book on the Sears homes…. maybe it is in storage. It is so fun to see what the prices were, and I love the floorplans, and the options. I love these homes. Only bad thing I think… small closets. But who needs all that stuff anyway? Just found your site today… LOVE IT! Yes I am hooked too! Love the movie houses… Something’s gotta give – OH my, I watch that movie over and over, just to see the house. In fact, I watch many movies over and over for that same reason.

hookedonhouses July 3, 2012 at 7:10 am

Nice to hear from a new reader, Sheila! Welcome to our little club! :-)

Candie K July 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I have a good friend who lives in one of these in Tulsa, OK. Built in the early 1920′s, it was a model home. I’ll have to send her this link!
It has beautiful built-ins in the dining area; the doors have colored, original, hand blown glass.
Thanks for this!

Coleen October 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm

That is a fantastic design. The interior is brilliant. I totally love it.

Tracy October 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Nobody asked about the teak outdoor patio set, which I love. Where did it come from? THX.

Trina Veber April 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I am a Realtor in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay. I have a passion for Sears and other kit homes. We have several in our town. We have 2 on the market now. Do you have a suggestion for advertising to Sears Kit Followers. It is amazing what great condition they are in. Our area is a historical district.

Thank you,
Trina Veber

Shari D. May 13, 2013 at 3:06 am

Being a passionate and long-time seeker/follower of Craftsman and Arts and Crafts bungalows, kit homes (and especially kit home bungalows!), I have a raft of books in my bookcase, and many dozens of websites marked and stored for reference. This is a gorgeous example of one of my very favorite styles of all! Ii love it, and I am enjoying your blog in general a great deal! Thanks so much for taking the time and putting the effort into sharing this with everyone!
That being said, I have some comments based on some of the previous posts I have been reading about Sears Kit homes. One of the things that people need to keep in mind is that the cost of these homes were very relative to the current economy of the times. People didn’t make $10 an hour doing ANYTHING back then. Using an Inflation Calculator available on the Internet, it tells me that making $400 today has the buying power of $30.88 today! Consider that a weekly salary, and then put all your other obligations into similar perspective. And, with the exception of a certain short period of time where Sears actually offered short-term mortgages on their kits, these homes were bought with CASH. Out of your pocket. Or saved up over time, or financed by your local Building and Loan Association. And since $2000 in say 1925 is actually equal to $25,908, can you imagine coming up with that much cash out of your pocket to hand over for the basic materials to build your home?
Another part is that these homes did NOT include wiring, electric fixtures, plumbing fixtures, storm and screen doors and windows, heating plant of whatever type you decided your home needed (see the fine print under “Options” at the bottom of that Sears catalog page) the land to build it on, the materials for establishing the foundation, the brick or stone work if there was any to go with the house in the way of fireplaces, chimneys, which were needed with or without a fireplace in order to vent your furnace and your cook stove if it was not gas or electric (just coming into reach of the average consumer in the ’20s) and porch construction. Most of these first items were not included because even at that time, many homes were not being constructed in areas where municipal utilities such as electricity, water and sewage were supplied, and you did without them. There were also different qualities and styles (read that “PRICES”) of plumbing and lighting fixtures, and you could pick your own based on how much you wanted to spend and what you wanted them to look like. (You could, however, still purchase outhouses and kerosene lanterns if you needed them instead!)
The masonry materials, such as brick, concrete blocks, stone, and the cement and mortar needed to lay them were not included because the shipping weight was prohibitive, and would have added a great deal to the shipping cost of your home by rail, and taken up a good bit more space. Those materials were, and still are, created locally to just about every area where people build homes, and they are much cheaper and easier to acquire locally. Sears could not provide or produce them and then ship them to you cheaper. Besides, your basement walls and floor and foundation footers and such needed to be in place before the house parts arrived a few weeks after they got your order and your money, so you could start building with the wood parts for the foundation of the home above grade, The plans and instructions, and materials list, for constructing the specific size and shape of foundations and the basement and location of the basement windows if provided for were sent to you before the home parts actually arrived, so you could get those done beforehand.
The labor of course was a whole different story. If you were not capable of putting up your home yourself, maybe with the help of a few relatives and/or neighbors, which was common about half the time, using the instruction manual provided with the house, and the ones provided with the additional features you chose to add, like installing your own furnace, indoor plumbing, wiring and electrical fixtures, then you needed to hire a carpenter, or builder, and perhaps painters and plasterers, to put your home up for you, and that also added to the cost of your home, again to come out of your pocket!
So, while the under-$2000 price tag looks inviting, you have to put it into its proper economic perspective, and consider all the things that price did not cover before deciding it would be such a great price break over homes of today! Sears frequently noted with their plans, that their calculations considering all those factors, would make the completed price of the home usually about double their actual catalog list price, and they would quote you their calculation, so the potential buyer would actually have a grip on what might be the total cost of their home before they could move in the door.
And yes, you can have homes designed after these styles constructed today, with the contemporary features that we require in the 21st century. There are quite a few builders and house plan providers that are providing the plans and the homes that people have been finding out recently are so much more affordable, sensible, sustainable, useful and livable than the outrageously sized, style-less, and poorly designed “McMansions” of today. There are small developments of Bungalow neighborhoods being built in many areas of the country as we speak, in answer to the changing lifestyles and financial requirements of today’s society. I have links galore that I found through “Googling” things like “bungalow house plans” and similar search terms over the last couple of years. They can vary a great deal though, from current house plans being “dressed up” with some gables and a porch out front they call “bungalows,” and then there are true bungalow styles inside and out, with Craftsman and Arts and Crafts detailing, woodwork styles, built-ins, with room arrangements being updated to suit current living styles and cutting down on square footage, energy needs, housecleaning labor (which we can all get on board with!) and the need for space we simply do not use in the pared-down life styles that many people are choosing to live. Kit homes are harder to come by, and generally fall under the very-small-footprint category of home plans, The contemporary requirements for building regulations, building permits, rules and local and regional requirements make it much more difficult to design such things these days. Besides, who but the most experienced contractors, licensed electricians and plumbers, and other home building professionals can actually put them up anyway? You’d end up spending the same, if not more, than having a home built with the plans you can find online, or the designs you have done by an architect anyway. Unfortunately, the days of the “Jack of all trades” living in your home, or next door or in your family, are pretty much over with, and have gone the way of the shade-tree mechanic.
And don’t forget, while Sears is the provider of kit homes that always seems to come to mind when the subject comes up, they were neither the largest, the oldest, nor the longest lasting supplier of kit homes. There were actually six or seven “Big Players” in the kit home field, and were in different parts of the country, serving different areas. Some time spent at http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/index.htm and/or http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/plans will be quite educational and show you a whole world of kit homes and home plan providers you never knew existed! Don’t forget to check through ALL the links they provide, especially on the Interior link for tons of information on how the interiors of homes changed over they years. Other links are provided at the top of the page, and the site is growing larger and larger as time goes by. It is my favorite to be sure, but it’s not “mine” and I get no remuneration for recommending it to anyone. It’s just a great source of information on the whole world of home building and architectural styles from the Victorian age to the Mid-Century Modern age (in a separate section.) There is a whole new section as well on small home living, which is growing also and has great potential.

Shari D. May 18, 2013 at 12:50 am

Oooops – this doesn’t make much sense – “it tells me that making $400 today has the buying power of $30.88 today!” What I was trying to say really is that back in the 20′s, if you had $30,88, it was like making $400 today. Sounds kind of out of kilter, but that’s the information I got! Sorry about any confusion!

Trina Veber May 13, 2013 at 11:44 am

I enjoyed your information. I am the keeper of the records for Cape Charles Virginia where we have several kit homes. I am a Realtor which enables me to check out as much as I can to identify the homes. We have identified some copycats. I guess this help cut some costs. Folks would share their plans and then build their own. Some ordered their lumber etc from Sears because of the catalog. I always enjoy visits with our senior citizens who still remember the homes being built. I asked one sweet lady if her home was a Sears Kit Home and she replied “O no, my Daddy built it. I watched him make all the blocks for the foundation.” The blocks where made from a Sears mold. Keep up the great information.

hookedonhouses May 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Interesting! Thanks, Trina.

Holly @HollyPop Designs June 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

The outside of this house looks so much like the house that I grew up in. I wish they still made houses like these!

Maggie July 19, 2013 at 11:08 pm

I love these preserved beauties! I so want to restore one myself, to the point of picking out the hardware and lighting I’ll use. http://www.lookintheattic.com is my favorite dream site for reproduction hardware!

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